On Wednesday, Nepal's parliament announced that it had elected a new president — and with that, marked a new page in its history books. For the first time, Nepal has a female president, Bidhya Devi Bhandari, a communist leader who has long championed women's rights in the Himalayan nation.
Parliament Speaker Onsari Gharti announced to a delighted parliament that Bhandari, of the Nepal Unified Marxist-Leninist party, beat her opponent by more than 100 votes to become president. She was instrumental in the campaign for women's rights to be included in Nepal's new constitution. It now requires a third of the members in parliament to be women, and that the president or vice president has to be a woman, the Associated Press reported. (She has, however, been criticized for justifying patriarchal discrimination.)
Bhandari was involved in politics as a teenager, but left after her marriage to communist leader Madan Bhandari. She later emerged as a leading political figure in Nepal after her husband's death in a car accident in 1993. According to the AP, she orchestrated many demonstrations for Nepal's then-monarch, King Gyanendra, to end his rule and make the country a republic.
The former defense minister is only the second person to become the president of Nepal, a ceremonial head of state. The recently elected Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli is leader of the nation and also of the Communist Party. The two of them are faced with the daunting task of uniting and rebuilding the nation after the disastrous earthquake in April.
Nepal adopted its long-awaited constitution just last month after seven years of preparation and negotiations between political parties.
Cover image via iStock / sagarmanis