Samina Hussain’s long-standing political ambitions have finally borne fruit with her nomination to the House of Representatives in the recent elections, a position she is keen to use to bring positive change in the lives of women in her constituency in Rautahat
It was in 1997 that local-level elections had last been held in Nepal. Coming after almost two decades, then, the 2017 elections inspired great enthusiasm among Nepalis throughout the country, candidates and voters alike. The successful carrying out of the local, provincial and federal levels proved a milestone on Nepal’s path to a stable democracy, characterized by the decentralization of power from the capital, Kathmandu.
Among the many who had triumphed at the polls was Samina Hussain from Rautahat, nominated a member of the House or Representatives in the Proportional Representation (PR) list from the Communist Party of Nepal—Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML)
Samina, born and raised in Dumarbar in Bara, had grown up in something of a fragile political environment—the country was still under monarchical rule, and there were constraints aplenty on various freedoms. Her father had been a staunch supporter of the UML, and his ideologies, coupled with the stories he had told her of Lenin and Marx, had made a deep impression on the young Samina.
“I remember accompanying my mother as she took my father’s lunch to him when he was attending meetings at the party office,” she says. “And I would sit there, listening to them discuss people’s welfare and plans to protect their rights.” These sessions served to strengthen her conviction that it was only through the promotion of democratic practices that the prosperity of one’s constituency and the country at large could be achieved. And to do this, she believed, she would have to enter politics herself.
It was a long journey to that end for Samina, starting with joining a youth club and participating in various leadership trainings while still in school, all with the intention of prepping herself for a career in politics. One formative moment was when UML’s Madhav Kumar Nepal had visited Bara and eager to make a good impression, Samina had picked a lotus and presented it to him.
Her family had always been supportive of her ambitions, “but it was difficult to move up the path as a woman. Seniority still rules to this day, and women empowerment is still lacking,” according to her. Still she persevered. The constitutional quotas for women, and persons from Dalit and other marginalized communities were a welcome development, though she lashes out at the election expenses that candidates were expected to cough up for campaigning. “There’s only so much you can spend on a campaign from your own pockets,” she says. “In any case, if you are a good leader, I don’t think you need to organize parties to lure voters,” she adds, referring to a common malpractice during the elections.
Samina says that in the coming future, more efforts are needed to support local-level structures and build their capacity for improved functioning—one such example, according to her, are the Collaborative Leadership and Dialogue and Electoral Violence Prevention workshops organized by UNDP’s Conflict Prevention Programme (CPP) and Social Cohesion and Democratic Participation (SCDP) Programme, in which she herself had taken part.
Now that she has landed her dream job, Samina is keen to use her position and influence to bring positive change to the lives of women in her constituency. “Women are capable of doing so much more but we simply don’t have access to the opportunities and resources,” she says. “I’m looking forward to changing that.”