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Meet Nepal’s Groundbreaking New President

Just six years after ending their centuries-long monarchy, Nepal elects a woman to the presidency.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Nepal has been a democratic republic for only six years, and still managed to elect a woman into presidential office faster than the United States. Bidhya Devi Bhandari, a 54-year old campaigner for human rights and democracy, steps into a position that’s voted on by the Nepalese parliament and considered ceremonial.

Bhandari is an old hat in political circles, a member of the dominant Communist Party of Nepal and a friend to Nepal’s prime minister. She’s only the second person ever to occupy the role, following the tenure of President Ram Baran Yadav, who took it on in 2008 after Nepal abolished its 240-year old monarchy.

“I have been elected as the first female president as per the inclusive and proportional principles, and we implemented the constitution,” she said, according to The Kathmandu Post.

Bhandari, in fact, took part in the pro-democracy protests that sacked King Gyanendra back in 2006. She then went on to take a position as defense minister within the new republic, and has since fashioned herself as a defender of women’s rights and a staunch fighter for equality. The country’s new constitution, which she helped write, includes a one-third quota of women for the parliament and requires that either the president or vice president be a woman. Looks like the quota is working: At least 30 percent of parliamentary seats are now held by women.

But not all is rosy. Many people have questioned Bhandari’s commitment to women’s rights, citing her support of citizenship laws which necessitate that citizenship rights be passed on from the father, not the mother.

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