Center for Agro-Ecology and Development, Nepal
1.1 The situation of Nepali Women
Women comprise slightly over 50% of total population of Nepal (CBS, 2001), but the country has one of highest indices of son preference in the world (UNDP, 2004). As a predominantly patriarchal society, institutions such as education, the legal system and even health services are heavily influenced by these norms and values. The consequences of this system can be seen in social indicators such as literacy, child mortality, maternal mortality and morbidity amongst and women.
Generally, women in Nepal have three levels of responsibility. 1) Reproduction and child rearing, 2) Household maintenance and 3) Income earning. Under traditional gender divisions of labour women tend to concentrate more on their reproductive roles and household responsibilities, while men focus on income-earning. Women's jobs are generally not regarded as "work" or considered productive in economic terms, although they contribute considerable time in productive activities. Yet the, often non-formal, work burden of women in Nepal, which averages 16 hours per day, is much higher than the global average (UNDP, 2004). This also has the effect of reducing their access to self-improvement opportunities and paid employment. Even when they do have access to paid employment, women suffer from discriminatory practices in all the sectors women’s mobility is also highly restricted, which is significant as mobility plays important role in increasing self-confidence, self-reliance, skill development and decision making power.
At least the last three Constitutions of Nepal, including the current interim one, have non-discrimination and equality as fundamental rights. The National Penal Code (Muluki Ain, 2022), in its Eleventh Amendment, sets out women’s right to property and a conditional right to abortion, an increase in the minimum age of marriage (from 16 to 18 years) and equality in grounds for divorce. However, these policies have not been fully implemented, particularly at grassroots level. They are overwhelmingly influenced by the strong traditional beliefs and social norms leading to continuing widespread discrimination.
Gender parity in terms of opportunity is poor in Nepal. The Gender Development Index (GDI) is 0.452, against the Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.471. In rural areas it is even lower. The sex ratio, as an indicator of women’s status, has shown some improvement, form 105:100 in 1981 to 99. 8:100 in 2001(UNDP, 2004). However, women remain less empowered than men in economic, political and professional domains. Although directly productive work-force participation rate among women is 46% compared with 69% for men (CBS 1995), women’s share of earned income is about half that of men.
|Table 1: | | | |Status of Women in Nepal |Women |Men | |Literacy |42.5 |65.1 | |Primary School Attainment |45.9 |39.3 | |S.L.C Level |8.1 |9.6 | |Representation in Parliament |5.8 |94.2 | |Representation in Administrative and |12.71 |87.29 | |Managerial Positions | | | |Professional and Technical Position |18.75 |81.25 | |Source: UNDP, 2005 |
Women’s access to and control over resources is also limited. Of the total landholdings, women own only 8% and the average size of their land is just two-thirds that of an overall average holding. Only 4% of households have female ownership of both house and land (UNDP, 2004).
Despite significant gains in female literacy-from a mere 12% in 1981, to 43% in 2001 – women still lag for behind men in literacy and educational attainment. The difference between the male and female literacy rates between 1981 and 2001 remains...