October 28, 2015
Today, Bidhya Devi Bhandari became the first woman president in Nepal’s history.
Bidhya is Vice-president of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) – UML. She is 54.
Her childhood was spent in Bhojpur District in eastern Nepal, the daughter of Ram Bahadur Pande and Mithila Pande. In her early adulthood she became an active female cadre of the UML.
In August 1982. Bidhya married Madan Kumar Bhandari, the general secretary of the UML.
Life dramatically changed for her when, on 16 May 1993, her husband died (along with another UML leader, Jeev Raj Ashrit) in a still unexplained car accident. Many believed at the time that the two men were not victims of an accident, but rather were murdered –assassinated by political opponents. The government formed a probe committee and deemed the accident as non-suspicious. However, ten years later, the suspicion of a possible conspiracy again gained popularity, when the driver and only survivor of the crash was murdered in Kirtipur.
In the bi-election that followed Madan Kumar Bhandari’s death, his widow was fielded as a candidate by the UML and won. Bidhya’s detractors dismissed her victory as a result of the sympathy factor, but this was dispelled when she went on to win in the two following elections of 1994 and 1999.
In the following years, Bidhya became a major voice for women’s rights.
In 2006, she was pivotal in a proposal submitted to the House of Representatives that would end all forms of discrimination against women.
In 2012, Bidhya was elected the chairperson of the UML’s sister wing All Nepal Women Association (ANWA). Founded in 1950, ANWA is Nepal’s largest national women’s organization.
In July of 2015, Bidhya – as spokesperson for ANWA – praised the draft for paving the way for equal participation of women in all areas of the government. The charter was promulgated on 20 September. It demands that 1) one-third of the members in parliament have to be women and 2) either the president or the vice president must be a woman.
Bidhya replaces Nepal’s first president, Ram Baran Yadav, who was elected in 2008 after a decade-long Maoist insurgency that ultimately resulted in the abolishment of Nepal’s 240-year-old monarchy.
It should be added that lawmakers from the four Madhesi parties, who are currently protesting the new constitution, abstained from participating in today’s election.