A General Surgeon by profession, Dr Toshima Karki is a social activist and a change maker. Previously associated with the Patan Academy of Health Sciences, Dr Toshima has been a voice for medical students, doctors and the entire medical fraternity since the very start of her career. She is known for “Save Medical Fraternity Movement” which ran for seven years, a campaign that met with success in bringing about changes in the Nepal Health Professional Protection Act.
In conversation with WOW, Dr Toshima Karki talks about her independent candidacy in the upcoming elections, her agenda for women, and her past advocacies. Excerpts from the interview:
You have chosen to be a voice for the medical fraternity for many years. What are the issues that are important to you?
When I was a medical intern, I raised my voice against the admission fees of medical students and interns. The campaign concentrated on corruption in medical studies for about 12 days. Then as I graduated as a medical doctor, I fought against violence towards medical doctors. For example, in different regions of Nepal, there were many cases of assaults and violence against physicians and health workers, and hospitals were vandalised due to overcrowding. Even when a patient dies in hospitals, the doctors are blamed and beaten up by the crowd. To address this, I started a campaign called ‘Save Medical Fraternity Movement’ which ran for seven years. At various stages and series, we even did nationwide strikes. Finally, after all the struggles of seven years, we were able to create a law that speaks for the protection of health personnel.
It’s the youth that has to be active and take the first step to develop the state. This has been my sole reason to join politics. Corruption and immoral political activities are taking place right in front of us, and even if we are aware of it, we are still merely protesting and striking outside and nothing is achieved. How long should we just keep protesting? I concluded that instead of protesting on the streets, we would rather enter the parliament, raise our voices there, and influence the policy.
With the rise of candidacy of Nepali youths in politics, there’s a heated comparison between new generation vs old. How do you view this?
I believe that this is inaccurate and preconceived perception of ours. According to some, the decline of the nation is a result of the youth not participating in politics in the past. People with intellect just avoid politics. And today, when young people like us do anything, we don’t sit outside the field and whine; instead, we go and intervene and share everything we have learnt about building our nation. Rather than dividing, this has been a uniting movement.
Those who previously claimed that politics is dirty are interested today. The people who were split yesterday are making an effort to reunite. Furthermore, as young people are entering politics, positive improvements are being noticed. The old political parties are starting to attract new youths. The established parties are now aware of the constant requirement to recruit capable youth. Everyone now recognises that society needs youth participation and we are gradually growing stronger and more unified.
You have been standing with Dr Govinda KC’s ‘Satyagraha’ for medical reformation in Nepal. While there have been many protests and activism for an appropriate healthcare system in the country, the sector is still undermined by the government. Your thoughts.
Dr Govinda KC, an elderly doctor plans to stage ‘Satyagraha’ up to 20 times, and each time the government signs on agreements the dilemma is that it does not put it into action.
Honesty is lacking in our political parties. The leader must be dedicated to the promises made and the contracts signed.
Are designing proper policies the real solution?
We have a great constitution with various laws and policies. But the implementation is poor. All of the policies are only applicable to specific individuals and certain groups.
Public should be able to claim ownership of those policies and feel comfortable in doing so. If you take a closer look, good policies have been made about the rights of the people, education, etc but effective management, leadership and coordination are lacking immensely.
How do you view women’s leadership in politics in the country?
A lot of men and women have been advocating for gender equity. These topics are very relevant at this time. We must acknowledge, however, that our society is largely male-dominated. As long as women rely on men to survive. Women will continue to lag behind in terms of academic achievement and economic independence.
Even the most qualified female is given the job of vice president at an organisation rather than the president’s post. My agenda is to increase female empowerment and support organisations that provide women the opportunity to hold leadership roles. We still have to push females in the sectors of health and education.
Women are only allowed 33% of the room in politics, until and unless its 50%, the gender bias in politics will continue. Females are said to have more intellectual capacity compared to males. According to various studies, it is said that women are more responsible and productive compared to males. So why not educate every woman with technical skills so that they can be independent.