As part of a traditional family growing up in Nepal and as a woman, I was not allowed to dance and sing. It was very strict. Women were not allowed to act in movies or plays. Later I lived in India, where I joined classes in dancing and singing.
It was a great effort for my father to send me to New Delhi to study culture, literature and journalism. I joined a local classical dance group there and became a good dancer. In high school I won a prestigious award for my performance in a national level drama. After that performance, my grandparents didn't want to allow me out of the house, but luckily my father disagreed.
Now I realize that in order to develop our talents and become empowered, we Nepali women need to advance our culture, which reflects our development and growth. We need the freedom to express ourselves, and the secure environment in which to do so.
In Asia, dance is the main area where women can display their talent. Nowadays, Nepali women love to sing and dance when they have the chance. Many young women have been greatly influenced by the culture of dance.
On special occasions like the festivals, we women, of all different ethnic groups, love to dance in the streets. These festivals generally last five days. Nepali culture and social customs emphasize the importance of harmony, as do those in India, and our dances express our love of harmony.
Culture is not fixed and unchanging. It is dynamic. It changes with each generation. These beliefs are largely passed from women to children.
Many young Nepali women these days are interested in Western culture, especially American culture. However, the majority are not comfortable with the openness of American society and practices such as sexual relationships before marriage, which are considered immoral in our culture. But Nepali women have respect and love for American culture.
On the other hand, we cannot accept Maoist culture. Maoists, in fact, do not believe in culture. They have destroyed our temples, killed many priests, and burned religious books. Maoists also deny our ancient cultural values. But I believe maintaining our culture and developing our country should go together. This will empower us as a people.
Under Maoism religion is officially outlawed. Many traditional Nepali arts and crafts have been destroyed by Maoists. Many handicraft businesses, in which women excel, have been brought down by violence.
Nepali women understand and trust the power of our culture; we cherish the belief that one day we will find our lost happiness in its revival and in its development. Time will reawaken our love of the beautiful Himalayan Mountains, of our native birds and animals, which we have lost in the midst of the violence and terrorism that have plagued our country.
Sadly, in recent years Nepali women have experienced the horrors of war, violence and terrorism, and fear has been a daily part of their lives. Many have experienced the depths of despair, frustration, pain and suffering. Yet the dream of a new era of peace for our country gives them hope and sustains them.
These days it has been raining heavily in Kathmandu, as the monsoon season has arrived. It is a dreary time in the city. However, the rains will pass; the pains will also pass. One day the festivals will come and the women will prepare wonderful feasts and the children will laugh.
And one day I will dance again, in Nepal.*************
This article was originally published by United Press International, Asia.Nepali journalist Kamala Sarup associates and writes for mediaforfreedom.com. She is specializes in in-depth reporting and writing on peace, anti-war, women, terrorism, democracy, and development. Some of her publications are: Women's Empowerment in South Asia, Nepal (booklets); Prevention of Trafficking in Women Through Media, (book); Efforts to Prevent Trafficking in for Media Activism (media research). She has also written two collections of stories. Sarup's interests include international conflict resolution, cross-cultural communication, philosophy, feminism, political, socio-economic and literature. Her current plans are to move on to humanitarian work in conflict areas in the near future. She also is experienced in organizational and community development.