Implementation of Law More Challenging Than Law-making

There are 79 local levels in Karnali province consisting of 54 rural municipalities and 25 municipalities. Within Birendranagar Municipality, located in Surkhet, the capital of Karnali Province, there are offices of the Chief Minister, Provincial Assembly, and other provincial-level offices. Out of the nine local levels in Surkhet, five are municipalities and four are rural municipalities. Among the nine local levels, Birendranagar Municipality is the only one with a woman Mayor, Mohanmaya Dhakal. She was the Deputy Mayor of this municipality in the previous term. Here is an excerpt of the conversation between INSEC representative Prabha Rawat and Chief Mohanmaya Dhakal of Birendranagar Municipality:

How many human rights-friendly laws has Birendranagar Municipality promulgated so far? What is the state of law enforcement?

We have ensured all laws are human rights friendly. Additionally, we have taken steps that ensure the laws include multidimensional narratives and the rights of citizens under the Constitution of Nepal. We have created laws based on the actions implemented at the local level. We also collaborated with Human Rights Commission and INSEC to publish a review book documenting the human rights situation in our Municipality.

What are the challenges in lawmaking?

There are no special challenges to law-making. Laws making require study and research. However, implementation of the laws is definitely a challenge. In the context of long-term social values, social environment, and societal development, it is difficult to ensure access to basic human rights. Therefore, we need to understand the works of the state regarding social customs, traditions, and social values and analyze if the policy programs, budgets, and plans are human rights friendly or focused on specific areas that will have an impact. As easy as it is to talk about this human right, it is necessary to work hard to implement it. We may think that we are doing a good job when we are working with a single service delivery agency or the local level, but we need to understand how the stakeholders perceive such actions.

What programs has the municipality conducted to bring women, children, minorities, senior citizens, disabled people, and citizens of the Dalit community into the mainstream of the state? In addition, what is the next plan?

We have taken action of  Municipality forward as a Women Center Municipality, under the slogans ‘City of Pride for Daughters’, ‘One House, One Female Self-Employment’, ‘Birendranagar for  Development and Prosperity’. In the case of women, we believe in increasing the capacity and competence of women. Every woman must be self-reliant and employed. The municipality has prioritized that we need to connect with production sectors to ensure the independence of women. We believe that every girl child should be able to live in a respectable or safe environment. They should have a comfortable environment to do what they think.

We have emphasized promoting reading, writing, and personality development of young girls and women. Similarly, we have been organizing programs and allocating budgets to provide services to senior citizens, women, underprivileged communities, Dalit communities, indigenous communities, and marginalized groups. We have emphasized language, art, income generation, etc. Legally, untouchability has ended but in some places, this is still a practical problem. This is an act against the law. Untouchability has been made punishable by law. We are focusing on the activities of the municipality to put them into practice and raise awareness.

Some time ago, a human rights group formed by INSEC submitted a memorandum to the municipality asking for the prevention of tobacco products. What is the status of its implementation?

Birendranagar municipality has made a health act. We have also decided not to sell tobacco products in public places, especially around school areas. We have taken forward the activities to implement it. Laws issued by the Federal Government of Nepal also envision this. Our local level also aligns with federal law. Now that we promulgated the law, we strictly enforce it.

How is the plan selected in the municipality? Is there direct participation of ordinary citizens in this or not? 

The municipality includes the suggestions of the relevant beneficiaries during the planning process. When the municipality chooses a plan, it also discusses it with the local development committees, organizes meetings, and determines the priority plans in the wards. The Municipal Executive and I hold discussions at various stages when the plan is presented to the assembly, and we take suggestions from the public. We interact with stakeholders as much as we can regarding the details of the plans to ensure the impactful development of Birendranagar.