Women and Poverty in Nepal


Women across the world have never achieved equality with men. Womenhave perennially been disadvantaged when it comes to their economicstatus, political participation and social development (Kiran, 2016).Although women are the founders of the society, they have never beenappreciated and accorded the respect that they deserve. It isessential to note that women comprise over 65% of the entire worldpopulation of 7.4 billion people. Additionally, it is paramount tonote that women also comprise 60% of the world’s refugees (Falch,2010). Women have been considered as second class citizens in manycountries, and this has made their course towards development tough.

In the most developed countries such as the United States only 7.1%of women participate in politics. However, in some developingcountries such as Rwanda, women have been allocated over 46% ofpolitical positions. Nepal is one of the countries that have grappledwith poverty and poor education standards for decades. This has madethe country and its populace to subscribe to superstitious beliefsand discrimination against women. The political leaders in the smallnation have also lacked political vision (Acharya, 2010). Women inNepal continue to suffer and their social-economic status leaves alot to be desired. There are other numerous factors besides pooreducation standards and superstitious beliefs that have led to thelow status of women in Nepal.

Extent to which women are Socially disadvantaged than men

Empirical data has clearly demonstrated that women in Nepalare severely disadvantaged in comparison to men. Nepal is aculturally diverse country, and there are many ethnic groups.However, one common factor is the low social status of women in thecountry. The fate and future of women in Nepal is determined by theirfathers, husbands, and sons (OECD development center, 2016). In otherwords, Nepal is an entirely patriarchal society where men aredominant over women. Marriage is an institution that is critical towomen in Nepal. However, women are not allowed to decide when orwhere they should get married. The patriarchal nature of the societyhas led to women getting married at the early ages of 15-20 years(Kiran, 2016). One fifth of all women in Nepal have been married offat a young age. While in the marriage, women are expected to bear ason. Failure to bear a son attracts ridicule and criticism from themen. This is one of the factors that have contributed to the extremepoverty in the country where families get numerous children in searchof a son.

The culture of the Nepalese distinctively states that people whofail to bear a son will go to hell (OECD development center, 2016).There is always immense pressure from the family members for amarried Nepalese woman to bear a son. The early marriages have alsoled to premature pregnancies, which have increased the infant andmaternal death rates in the country. Research has indicated thatNepal is one of the few countries where the life expectancy for womenis lower than that of men. The lack of political goodwill toincorporate women into the policy making processes has contributed tothe lack of effective health programs for the young mothers in Nepal(United Nations Development Program, 2012).

In rural areas of Nepal where the traditional culture isrife, women and young girls are considered as men’s properties. Asa result, numerous girls and women have been denied the opportunityto access education. National statistics indicate that only 30% ofwomen obtain formal education in Nepal. This is in comparison to over66% of men who access formal education in the same country (UNDP,2015). The national literacy rate of 40% is even higher than theliteracy level of women, which is 30%. Additionally, women’s accessand involvement in vocational and technical education is lower thanthat of men. This aspect has been associated with the retrogressiveculture that the Nepalese men subscribe to.

Families in Nepal have always viewed women as weak beings and aspeople who need protection. Therefore, any woman who seeks to explorethe available opportunities is viewed with such contempt. Violenceagainst women has also been common in Nepal. This constitutes bothverbal and emotional abuse (Fund, 2011). Research studies done inNepal show that 66% of women have been verbally abused while 33% havebeen emotionally abused. UNICEF found out that family members mainlyperpetrate the violence especially men who comprise 77%.

Another social aspect through which women are oppressed in Nepalrelates to their biological nature. Women and girls who aremenstruating in Nepal are not allowed to interact freely with othermembers of the family since they are considered as being impure. Thisis a retrogressive and oppressive culture that has been in practicein the country for many years. In some instances, especially in therural areas, women are chased away from their homes during theirmenstruating times (UNDP, 2015). Additionally, empirical data showthat women are not allowed to cook or serve food to other familymembers while menstruating. This is a biological aspect that womenhave no control over and, therefore, it is only prudent for men toaccept it. It is clear that since men do not undergo such cycles intheir lives, women are extremely disadvantaged.

Extent to which women are politically disadvantaged than men

Whereas women in Nepal have contributed and fought for theirdemocratic positions, the hegemonic character of the male politicianscontinues to affect women’s political participation. Before theestablishment of a multi-party democratic system in 1990, women had avery minimal role with regards to the country’s political policies(Khadka, 2010). The autocratic form of government since 1960 wasoppressive against women. Women fought against this kind ofleadership until they achieved the Democratic leadership in 1990(Falch, 2010). In the people’s movement of 2006, women played avital role in ensuring that the government was accountable, there waspeace and human rights were protected. Despite these immensecontributions that women have had on the political scene, theycontinue to be discriminated. Research has demonstrated that women inNepal are only involved and allocated the low-level politicalpositions. The women politicians in Nepal are hardly given anopportunity to participate in the decision-making processes (Jabes,2014). The male politicians make most of the political decisions thataffect the country and the people at large.

Since 1990 when the autocratic government was overthrown, and thecountry welcomed multi-party democracy, women have only had 32members of parliament. This is a significantly small numberconsidering that the population of women is higher than that of menin that country. Additionally, the allocation of female positions inboth the National Assembly and the House of Representatives in Nepalis discriminatory in nature. Women are only allocated a mere 3% and5% respectively(Cleaver &amp Hamada, 2010). Such a small percentagewould have a minute contribution, if any, towards the decision-makingprocess. Male politicians have dominated both houses since the 1960sand, therefore, they have been instrumental in the decision-makingprocess. The national political parties have also been discriminatoryagainst women. For instance, the Maoist revolution party did notfollow up on women representation, rather it emphasized only oneconomic oppression as well as class struggle. Likewise, the RPP andthe Nepali Congress Party have never had more than three women intheir central committees. Even though the political parties aresupposed to reserve 33% of the seats in the central committees forwomen, this is hardly observed (Falch, 2010).

Most of the government organizations, task forces and constitutionalbodies have negligible nominations for women. Another example of howwomen are disadvantaged politically is the composition of the SpecialClass of the Nepalese Civil Service, which has 85 members, and onlytwo are females (Cleaver&amp Hamada, 2010). This is outright oppression anddiscrimination based on gender. Such a small percentage of women inthe Special Class will have no voice in the decision-making process.

Some provisions are meant to uplift the political status of women inNepal. However, the oppressive culture against women continues tothrive. For instance, there is a 33% reservation for females in theHouse of Representatives, but in 1999, only 12 women (Falch, 2010)made it to the House. After the elections, there have never been anyefforts to bring in more women into the House (Khadka, 2010). Thegovernment organs Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary, which aremeant to bring the balance, are inactive and dormant. This has madesure that the House of Representatives continues to be dominated bymen.

Extent to which women are economically disadvantaged than men

In Nepal, women are never considered as being economically active,and their roles are culturally reserved for home activities andrearing children. This has significantly affected the economic statusof women in the country in comparison to men (Hertzog, 2011).According to the labor market and development enterprise empiricaldata, there are only 45% of women in the country who are consideredas being economically active(Kabeer, 2012). This is in comparison to men who are at68% (Kabeer,2012). In rural areas of Nepal, women are primarilyassigned jobs such as weeding, planting, and harvesting. These arelow paying jobs, which would never uplift their economic status(Asian Development Bank, 2012). In the urban centers, women aremainly employed as house helps and in government jobs that are at lowlevels. On the other hand, men are employed in senior government jobswhere they earn huge salaries. This aspect has brought aboutdiscrimination against women concerning their economic value andcontribution. Since 1991, it is only one woman who has been placed asan ambassador.

In Nepal, women are considered men’s properties. Therefore, womenare not meant to inherit any property. This is a clear example of theadvantage that men take over women regarding acquiring property. Theissue of lack of education, inheritance rights, job discrimination,and the retrogressive culture in Nepal has held women backeconomically for numerous years (Kiran, 2016). During inheritance, aman leaves his properties and assets to the sons only. The fact thatmost of the families have numerous children has contributed to thepoor economic status of women in Nepal. In rural areas, variousfamilies stay on less than a hectare piece of land. Women aresupposed to farm and generate income, as well as feed the families,and this has resulted in their economic stagnation.

Woman comprise the majority of the poor in Nepal

It is a fact from national statistics that women in Nepal are morethan men since they comprise more than 50% of the total population(Kiran, 2016). However, some factors have contributed to the factthat women remain to be extremely poor in the country in comparisonto men. Whereas there have been some steps to alleviate the povertylevels in Nepal, the country remains one of the poorest nations inthe world with a human development index of .0463 (Asian DevelopmentBank, 2012). Women are severely affected by the poverty levels in thecountry. In the rural areas, women engage in farming activities as away of generating income. However, the rugged terrain, poor rainfall,and infertile land have made farming non-lucrative for the women.This has caused most of the women in the country to be extremelypoor.

Women have been discriminated with regards to access to healthservices, education, and employment opportunities at the expense ofmen (UNFPA, 2015). As a result of the poor health of women in thecountry, women cannot participate actively in the various incomegenerating activities hence they remain perennially poor. Secondly,the fact that women are denied opportunities to attend school or evenacquire vocational education has contributed to the unfortunateeconomic status of women in the country (Saleeby, 2013). Women cannotget high level and well-paying jobs in the country due to the lack ofeducation and skills, as well as experience. The wealthy in thecountry are the owners of land and property. As it has been statedearlier, women in Nepal are not allowed to inherit land nor property.This implies that women will remain perennially in poverty.

Using social exclusion to explain the circumstances of the poorwomen in Nepal

Social exclusion is a concept or a process which implies that themarginalized people in society are denied the chances, rights oropportunities to participate in the social, political and economicactivities of a country. In this case of Nepal, women are consideredas the group that is marginalized (Bhattachan &amp Shrestha, 2013).Women have been denied the opportunities such as jobs, educationopportunities and the chance to participate in decision-makingprocesses. Failure to acquire education and employment willcontribute to poverty. Additionally, women have been denied the rightto own property such as land in the country and, therefore, they haveremained poor (Kiran, 2016).

The Women of Nepal have been excluded in all aspects of lifeincluding the social, political and economic. This has forced them totake a back seat when it comes to matters of economic and politicaldevelopment. The culture of the Nepalese people has also excludedwomen in economic activities, and their role is mainly looking afterchildren and farming. This has also contributed immensely to thepoverty that affects women.


In conclusion, Nepal is one of the poorest countries in theworld, and this is due to the various factors that have beendiscussed above. Although the state has been trying to make stepstowards reducing the poverty levels, the political class is notwilling to drive the change (Upreti, 2013). Women in Nepal are theones who have been significantly affected by the poverty levels.There is open discrimination against women in the country, whichincludes discrimination in the education sector, employment sector,as well as the political area. The culture that most Nepalese peoplesubscribe to considers women as properties, and, therefore, womenhave been subjected to oppression and undue control by men.


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