Keynote Remarks by Foreign Secretary Ms. Sewa Lamsal at the Conference on Shaping Nepal’s Future: Prospect and Roadmap for Feminist Foreign Policy 7 May 2024


Keynote Remarks by Foreign Secretary Ms. Sewa Lamsal at the Conference on Shaping Nepal’s Future: Prospect and Roadmap for Feminist Foreign Policy
7 May 2024, Mariott Hotel, Kathmandu


Dear Ambassador Vijay Kanta Karna, Chairperson of CESIF
Hon. Dr. Anjan Shakya, Member of National Assembly
Prominent Nepali Leaders
Representatives of the UN and Other Organizations
Eminent Panelists and Academicians
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my profound pleasure and distinct honour to be amongst you this morning, at the inaugural session of this conference on a very important theme, Shaping Nepal’s Future: Prospect and Roadmap for Feminist Foreign Policy in Nepal. I am thankful to Ambassador Vijay Kanta Karna, Chairperson of CESIF, for initiating dialogue and discussion on this concept which is relatively new in our context and giving me this opportunity to say a few words.

Feminism is not a new concept in Nepal. More than a word, it is a concept, a movement, a principle that advocates for women’s social, political, legal, and economic rights.

It is also important to note that this theoretical perspective now does not only revolve around women, but also about creating an inclusive platform for marginalized voices as well.

The idea of a feminist foreign policy opens avenues for such broad and innovative thinking, both within countries and across systems of global governance and norms. I thank the distinguished panelists for their comprehensive presentations and setting the stage for discussion.

In Nepal, we have witnessed the historical and progressive transformation. We are gradually advancing in terms of the representation and participation of women in governance and policymaking as well as other sectors after the continuous advocacy for women’s equal rights by the activists and leaders.

The constitution of Nepal exclusively outlines women’s rights as Fundamental Rights. This right requires the State to provide women with special opportunities in the state mechanisms through affirmative actions as well as principles of inclusion and proportional representation.

The Constitution guarantees at least one-third of women’s representation in the federal parliament and provincial assemblies and forty percent in the local governments. With the mandatory constitutional and legal provisions and affirmative actions in place, representation of women has continued to rise in the executive, judicial and the parliament and in the civil service, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  

The Ministry currently possesses nearly 25 percent female officers, a visible rise in a relatively short span of time. I am standing here before you all today as the first female foreign secretary of Nepal. We are in the path of inducting the ‘gender perspective’ of our domestic policies in our foreign policy as well.

As you know, Nepal pledged for more gender equality and the empowerment of women since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.

Nepal is a state party to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and ratified it without any reservation.

The Government of Nepal has also been implementing the National Plan of Action II on Implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820.

Our development plans, policies and programmes are gender sensitive. All these efforts have contributed to women’s representation in decision-making positions of all three branches – executive, legislative and judiciary. And most importantly, the number has been increasing significantly.

Nonetheless, we still have a long way to go to attain gender parity and win this battle against all forms of discrimination, gender-based violence, prejudices, and stereotypes.

Distinguished dignitaries,

I understand that the concept of feminist foreign policy envisions to reinforce the three ‘R’s: rights, representation, and resources regarding women. It entails, then, safeguarding the rights of women, promoting their representation, and ensuring their access to resources.

I prefer to add one more R: reflex. For me, feminine reflex is what adds value to the conventional foreign policy paradigm. Women are by nature believed to possess empathy rather than aggression, to harbor compromise rather than arrogance, to nourish and nurture rather than destroy. Therefore, involvement of more women in foreign policy formulation and execution is, therefore, crucial.

All of us here agree that gender is gradually being accepted as an integral component of governance that not only impacts the lives of women but also has far reaching impacts on institutions, structures, and values. We should, hence, be able to foster a more peaceful, harmonized, and cooperative policy using gender perspective as a logic and a lens, particularly in today’s raising conflicts and geopolitical rivalry. 

In line with this spirit, we have continued to increase the proportion of women peacekeepers in UN Peacekeeping operations. At present our female peacekeepers comprise more than 10 percent of our contribution. We are currently not only the top troops contributing country for UN Peacekeeping, but also top female troop contributing country as well.

Distinguished dignitaries,

I would like to conclude my remarks at this august gathering by quoting UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammad who has said, and I quote, “We must all do everything possible to ensure women are at the table, our voices heard, and our contributions valued” unquote.

I am confident that today’s presentations, panels, and deliberations will contribute to a deeper introspection of our progress hereto forth and will lead to a better understanding of the future course of action.

Thank you for your kind attention.