During my years with the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy, I was responsible for the programme in Nepal, and I came to know the members of the Steering Committee of the platform called JOMPOPS. The platform consists of the six major political parties of Nepal. Many of the Steering Committee members are candidates in the elections presently taking place for the seven provincial parliaments. In some provinces, the election has already taken place.

Asta Laxmi Shakya [most people just call her ‘Asta’] from the communist party UML ran as a candidate in Province 3, which covers Kathmandu, the capital of the country. Asta has been a devoted member of JOMPOPS since the start in 2011, pushing the ‘women in politics’ agenda in particular. On the photo at the top, you will see Asta at the forefront [with glasses], standing with the present Danish Minister for Development Cooperation, Ulla Tørnæs, to the left. The photo was taken in 2013, when the Minister participated in several events to strengthen the participation of women in politics in Nepal. Asta invited the Minister to speak in her own constituency.

Following her victory in Province 3, I asked Asta – through my good friend Shrishti Rana, the DIPD Representative in Nepal – to explain some of the key issues she would like to address in the position she will be appointed to.

Asta reading the congratulatory letter I sent her following her victory, asking her some questions.

The province no 3 from where I recently got elected is seen as an important province because it’s the central part of the country where the capital city is also located.

There are 13 districts in this province. The speciality of this province is that it’s rich in hydropower. This province also has a lot of cultural and historical sites that can be developed for tourism. The province is also rich in minerals and herbs.

My main priority is to ensure the development of this province as an exemplary province. I want to focus on development with social justice. If there’s no social justice, then development is meaningless. I hear that even in the United States, women are subjected to violence. What’s the use of such kind of economic prosperity if women still have to go through violence? So, my main theme is Development with Social Justice.

Given that this is a very resource rich province, my main focus is to develop infrastructure. Right now, our infrastructure is very weak. I will focus on better connectivity within as well as outside the province. I also plan to modernize our agriculture so that productivity is increased.

My main focus is on generating employment for youths so that at least youths of this province don’t have to go the Gulf countries for the low-paid jobs where they have to work in harsh conditions. I will also focus on women’s empowerment.

Immediately after winning, today, I conducted an orientation program for women of my province to encourage them to be entrepreneurs. When I was the Industry Minister, I had set up a fund from where women could take loans without any security in minimum interest. Many women still do not know about it. That’s why I gathered some successful women entrepreneurs to encourage women of my province towards entrepreneurship.

Given that this province is resource rich, I will work towards making this province self-reliant. I feel that it’s very important to be self-reliant.

On most of these issues, I will work in collaboration with other parties. Immediately after winning, I said that during elections, parties have to compete with each other. However, for development all parties have to come together. That’s why I have emphasized that all parties have to come together for the development of all.

Overall, I would sum up that my main focus is to make my province most exemplary in development with social justice and good governance.

Editorial comment by Bjørn Førde: Asta is the Vice President of her party UML, and she is the most senior woman leader. She is also the main reason that UML was able to win a simple majority in Province 3. She is therefore a natural and strong candidate for the position of chief minister, i.e. executive head of the province. As I see it, no other contender for the position of chief minister in her party has experience and contribution like her. Also, she’s the only possible female chief minister out of all the seven provinces. However, if this will be the final result remains to be seen. Like in other countries, appointments like this also depend on how the different groupings within the party assess the situation.