The ‘Feminisation’ of Local Communities in Rural Nepal: Opportunities and Constraints for Women

Ms Sujata Tamang1, Dr. Margaret Becker2

1School Of Social Sciences Unsw/forestaction Nepal, Nepal, 2Anthropology and Development Studies, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

Rural Nepal is going through substantial changes. People are moving from agriculture-based livelihoods in search of opportunities in urban centres and overseas. In particular, the massive out-migration of men is having gendered implications as rural women take up additional responsibilities and new roles in the public and private domains, resulting in the ‘feminisation’ of local communities (Gartaula et al. 2010). This has meant an increase in women’s workloads, including participation in farming practices, a greater level of representation within the community and new positions within the household – roles that are traditionally held by men. Nevertheless, despite these changes, women still lack major decision-making power, property ownership and control over resources, although the extent of women’s subordination is dependent on caste, ethnicity and socio-economic status. Drawing on research conducted in two villages in rural Nepal in 2016-2018, this paper explores the way in which the ‘feminisation’ of local communities is changing gender roles within rural Nepal. The paper argues that, ostensibly, these changes are opening up new opportunities for women, including leadership and entrepreneurship. However, such opportunities are not able to be fully realised as deep-rooted patriarchal gender norms and class and caste hierarchies persist in maintaining the status quo.


Sujata Tamang is a PhD candidate at UNSW. Her thesis focuses on migration and the ‘feminisation’ of local communities and food insecurity in rural Nepal. She is involved with ForestAction Nepal on research and policy advocacy in relation to smallholder farmers in Nepal. Her research interests include gender and social inclusion, rural livelihoods, women in agriculture and Indigenous knowledge.

Margaret Becker is an anthropologist with a focus on gender and development, particularly in the context of Nepal. She teaches undergraduate and masters topics in global health and gender and international development. Her research interests include critical development, gender, global health and rights.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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