KATHMANDU, NEPAL (Catholic Online) - Attracted to the Army by promises of equality and justice during the decade of conflict from 1996 to 2006, many have since formed families while staying on with the Maoist guerrilla group, the PLA. Now, many are looking for an alternative to the PLA as they turn their attentions toward raising their families and homemaking.
It has taken five years for the government to develop programs to help transition from the PLA into either the regular army or mainstream life. During that time, these women have lived in military encampments where they wed their husbands and started families.
Many women wanted to join the national army, but the final agreement only allowed for 6,500 PLA fighters to join the regular army. That left about 13,000 combatants without plans for the immediate future.
The leftover soldiers were given two options. First, they could retire and receive cash or receive education and job training. During November, a government committee made the rounds of the military encampments to ask each soldier but they would like to do.
Only 6 percent have chosen education and job training. The majority, 60 percent, have expressed their desire to stay on and join the army. The remainder are seeking to leave the army with their cash payouts.
According to records, there are 3,526 women in the PLA. Most of those who are married, and who have young children, are reportedly seeking retirement.
The women are choosing retirement so they may raise their children in peace. Others however, want to stay on with the army because it offers stable employment and meets their basic needs.
Many guerillas want to join the army, but some are being told that they cannot do so. The terms of the peace agreement required that the PLA be disbanded, and only permits a limited number of those fighters to join the regular army. Those terms were supposed to be completed before 2010, but for a variety of reasons the government is only just now beginning to act.
Wounded veterans are especially concerned that they must leave the army where their needs are met and their comrades provide care. They are not allowed to join the regular army for obvious reasons. That means they will have to leave the encampments. Once separated from the army and their comrades, they will return to their villages -- where many will struggle to find the care they need to survive.
The PLA is asking the government to reconsider the limited options they are giving to retiring combatants. They are asking that the government make changes that will provide for mothers with children and those who have suffered disabilities.
After a decade-and-a-half of military service, it will be hard to readjust to civilian life. They have spent the last decade-and-a-half toting rifles, making bombs, and participating in ambushes as well as all the other daily activities that soldiers must perform. It will be many times more difficult for women with children and those who are disabled to readjust to civilian life without special care.
For now, the government has not announced any plans to change the current agreement. It remains to be seen if increasing pressure from the PLA itself will make any difference.