Financial affluence is often considered the real factor that empowers women. However, some theorists counter-argue that even privileged women in third-world countries aren’t empowered because they lack the freedom to spend. The point holds truth for women in third world countries like Nepal as even the well off women are yet to benefit from their financial stability.
Theorists suggest that empowerment is where the agency of women improves and they attain a position where they can challenge and change unequal gender relations and practices. The definition suggests that women challenge other’s perception of their inferiority.What Microfinance has been Unable to Resolve
Nepal is one of the least developed nations in South-East Asia. Families in rural areas have to cut the corners to make ends meet. Such financial conditions have prompted NGOs, agencies and institutions to aid these families by empowering the women financially. When women start their micro-business they can alleviate the burden from the shoulders of the families’ breadwinners.
However, according to a recent qualitative research, the effects of financial prosperity have been rather ironic for women. Micro-businesses have been responsible for the well-being of whole family except the women.
Following are key findings of the study.
- Lowered poverty in the family
- Better physical condition of breadwinner after reduced burden and healthier nutrition
- Better child health
- Better education for kids
- Increased burden for women
- Decreased health
- Appreciation and simultaneous underestimation for women
Patriarchal norms are prevalent in Nepal. Sons are considered heirs, income providers and leaders in family. Father-in-law and husband get to eat the best food, take decisions and take money and the woman is left with virtually nothing. They eat leftovers even after their visible success in micro-business. This has resulted in overall low health and increased burden. They also have to face comments from women not challenging inequality.
What Needs To Be Done
Gender equality programs are often target towards improvement of women’s financial wellbeing, but the study suggests financial wellness isn’t the only answer for Nepalese women. The line of action for empowerment programs must hence be attainment of strategic gender needs. Microfinancing program needs to:
- Be critical of short term women empowerment
- Address women’s strategic gender needs
- Address structural inequalities
- Incorporate gender analysis in all stages of empowerment program
- Incorporate strategies that will remove factors affecting wellbeing negatively.