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Gender empowerment in Nepal for sustainable development. Bhatt C.R., Joshi O., Koirala B., Pokhrel A., Ween B. and Dhakal HP.

Authors' name and affiliations

Bhatt CR1, 2, Joshi O3, 4, Koirala B5, Pokhrel A6, Ween B7, Dhakal HP8

Chhavi Raj Bhatt, B.Sc.

1Hedmark University College, Hamar, Norway, 2Manipal Teaching Hospital, Pokhara, Nepal Corresponding address: Dragonstien 57A, 1062, Oslo, Norway. Phone: +47 90757290

Email: chhavilalu@

Omkar Joshi, B. Sc.

3School of Forest Resources, University of Arkansas, Arkansas, USA, 4Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation, Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, Nepal. Email: omkarjoshi36@

Bibek Koirala,MBBS

5Medical Practitioner, 95 Srinagar Marg, New Baneshwar, Kathmandu, Nepal

Email: koirala.bibek@

Asmita Pokhrel, BBA

6University of Science and Technology, Beijing, China

Email: asmita-pokhrel@

Borgny Ween, M.Sc.

Gjøvik University College, Gjøvik, Norway

Phone: +47 97676182

Email: Borgny.Ween@rr-research.no

Hari Prasad Dhakal, MBBS, MD

8BP Koirala Memorial Cancer Hospital, Bharatpur, PO Box 34, Chitwan, Nepal

Email: aditi2001@


Gender empowerment has become a principal agenda in Nepal as women suffer from exploitation in terms of social discrimination, resource consumption, income and employment. Deep-seated orthodox patriarchal mindset is root cause of socioeconomic exploitation of women in Nepal. Sustainable development, which underpins a confluence of environmental, economic and social factors, cannot be achieved without enhancing women’s access to political, economic and social sectors. The Nepalese political changes in 2008 paved the way for the election of constituent assembly and declaration of republic. This has helped to reinforce the empowerment of women with a positive discrimination and also to open a prospect of generating empowered consumer citizens. This paper discusses gender perspectives in the Nepalese context that women empowerment should be an important tool for a sustainable development of Nepal.


Gender empowerment consists of a confluence of factors like equal politico-economic opportunities and participation, and equal access to education and health (Lopez- Claros 2005). Empowerment is pertinent at the individual and collective level, and can be economic, social, or political (World Bank 2002). Nepal is a developing country sandwiched between India and China, having a multiethnic population of 26.4 million with nearly equal proportion of males and females. Thirty-one percent of the Nepalese population is living below the national poverty line and more than 80 % of the population lives in rural areas (Central Bureau of Statistics 2007). The population consists of 80.6 % Hindus, 10.7 % Buddhists and nearly 9% other religious groups. The patriarchal culture in Nepalese society prefers keeping women in a low profile and discourages gender equality (Segala 1999). Nepal ranks 86th in the Gender Empowerment Measure (UNDP 2007) and 145th in the Human Development Index (UNDP 2008). The poverty, discrimination and inequality prevailing in the Nepalese society fuelled armed conflict and dramatic political changes in Nepal paving the way for the constituent assembly election and declaration of republic in 2008. This opened a new avenue for sustainable peace and democracy through the process of economical, political and social transformation. However, Nepal is still in a political transition period. This paper, therefore, discusses gender perspectives in the Nepalese context that women empowerment should be an important tool for a sustainable development of Nepal.


The women’s disempowerment is obvious worldwide with the rampant violence against women (Robinson 2003) and Nepal is no exception (Rana et al 2005). The gender inequality is often multi-dimensional - economic, social, cultural and geographic - and each aspect reinforces the other. Nepalese women are in a difficult situation due to their dependency on men (Luitel 2001). According to the Nepalese National Women’s Commission, only 16% of the women enjoy a regular income whereas 8% of them are in service sector (Dhakal 2008). They also lack access and control, which is one of the setbacks for the gender equity (Agarwal 1994). More recently, the Nepalese government has passed a bill that will enable women to lay a claim on parental property. The empowerment process by redistribution of resources can improve women's status in society. Even though women do wield an indirect power in the decision- making process for family welfare, direct influence appears minimal. Nepalese women contribute more than 60 % of the total workforce for the rural economy, and are engaged in household and agriculture activities - mostly unpaid - making their work less integrated to the market (Acharya 2008). The agriculture sector alone contributes 34% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (World Bank 2007).

Increased employment of women in the industrial sector can help reduce poverty and inequality (Acharya 2008). The Ninth National Plan (1997-2002) duly recognized the problem of gender marginalization in the Nepalese economy. The rural women’s physical contribution in livestock production is more than men’s despite their limited access to resources, credit, training, extension services and technology The livestock production has been shown to help Nepalese rural women to generate considerable income (Upadhay 2003).

Even in urban areas, as a byproduct of globalization, increasing number of women has become economically active; but majority of them are not able to find good jobs. There is also evidence that allocation of food and health care favour boys in some parts of Nepal and its neighbouring countries (Schultz 1999). To certain extent, preference exists for sons in the Nepalese society for both economic and non-economic reasons (Leone et al. 2003). South Asian women are in more disadvantageous situations particularly during illness and old age (Firke et al. 2004). In Nepal, gender plays an important role on illness reporting and decision-making process for health care (Pokhrel et al 2005). Maternal mortality is still a serious problem indicating inadequate health services to Nepalese women (Borghi et al 2006).Importantly, abortion law came into effect after 2002 (Thapa 2004), which was in fact a remarkable victory for the Nepalese women on reproductive health issue.


The sixth national plan of the country (1980-85) included the policies to bring women in various developmental activities. Gender issue got further momentum after the restoration of democracy in 1990 (Shrestha 2002). At 1995 Beijing conference, Nepal committed for- integrating women’s concerns in all policy frameworks, reviewing legal provisions related to violence against women, prioritising initiatives at impoverished women, improving health and educational status of women, and planning and implementing development programs within gender framework (Shrestha 2002). Following this, a separate Ministry of Women and Social Welfare was established in 1995 to foster the concerns of gender equity and welfare in the country, which reinforced issues of gender mainstreaming for sustainable development (Shrestha 2002). Therefore, contemporary development strategies of Nepal have realized the need for boosting women’s empowerment and their involvement in the policy and planning process of the development. Lind argues that feminist approaches should be integrated to development and social programs to overcome gender effects on developmental policies (Lind 1997). Globalisation has opened new dimensions for development in today’s world, and women face dual perspectives - the potential of exploitation via cross border trafficking and also the power to enhance women’s lives via global networking (Livesey 2005).

In Nepal, there is a need of increased women's participation and also their empowerment for better and sustainable use and management of natural resources like community forestry (Adhikari 2001). The use of the natural resources should occur in an environment-friendly manner and the responsible citizens are important contributors for a sustainable development (Dobson 2007).


The male and female literacy rates in Nepal are 65.5 % and 43 % respectively (Central Bureau of Statistics 2007) showing a contrasting gender disparity. Gender discrimination persists in Nepal when it comes to the access for education despite the expansion of educational sector (Stash et al. 2001). A study showed that rural Nepalese women have improved empowerment through literacy programs and small-scale household economic activities (Acharya et al 2007). Nepalese girls are kept at home for domestic works and also for ensuring their chastity while boys are sent to schools (Waszak et al 2003). This is detrimental to the national economy by letting half of the nation’s workforce go waste. It is argued that equal opportunities for education to both boys and girls need to be promoted through proper education policy for sustainable development in Nepal (Shields et al. 2008). However, education alone is not adequate for gender empowerment (Malhotra et al. 2003). Furthermore, women’s participation in decision-making level is necessary to achieve gender empowerment. Participation of women at policy level was aimed to reach up to 20 % by 2007 (National Planning Commission 2003). Effect of globalisation is apparent in Nepalese society with the gradual increased number of females taking up jobs, which had been hitherto considered that of male domain for e.g. military service. Also, the increasing number of women in higher education and civil services in recent times (through statutory reservations) is a positive sign, indeed.


Women’s participation in political processes is an important means of narrowing the gender gap by granting them greater power to plan and implement policies for development. The Nordic countries have the highest share of women in politics, the best gender empowerment measures and human development indices, which show a strong and positive correlation between gender empowerment and overall development (UNDP 2007; UNDP 2008). The average percentage of women in parliaments around the world is 18.4%, while with Nordic countries it is 41.4% (Women in National Parliaments 2008). In Nepal, the recently held election to the Constituent Assembly has, through quota provisions, led to 33 % of the assembly members being females, a level of women’s representation unparalleled to Nepalese history, placing Nepal 14th worldwide in terms of representation of women (UNMIN 2008). The implementation of quota, though controversial, has been instrumental to some extent in achieving gender equality worldwide (Ballington et al. 2002). In the previous Nepalese parliamentary election in 1999, women’s representation was merely 5.9% (UNMIN 2008).So, the current overwhelming women’s representation is a significant step, albeit just one more step on a long journey towards equality of Nepalese women. Nepal’s interim constitution 2007 for the first time in history ensured the provision of citizenship to the children through the mother’s ancestry (Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007).Nepalese women’s activists also feel that the lack of women in the policy making level will directly impact the life style and further development of women (Rana et al 2005). Women represented by a woman are more likely to contribute in overall political process in empowering themselves (High-Pippert et al 1998). Moreover, men should realize the need of including women in all domains of socio-political sphere if we want egalitarian society. It is suggested that the gender and development issues should be worked out together with men to overcome prevailing hindrances as recognized by the dominant models of masculinity (Cornwall, 1997). The observations from the gender workshops in Nepal, India and Bangladesh suggest that it is important to have better understanding and willingness to move forward in consensus for development and empowerment of women (Bhasin 1997). Interlink between men’s involvement in household activities and women’s involvement in public sphere with mutual understanding can bring benefit to family as a whole (Engle 1997). Pre-existing inequality and underdevelopment, root cause of problems among Nepalese women, necessitates an approach that helps to ensure economic, social and cultural transformation. This, in turn, can obtain human rights for overall development of women (Aguirre et al 2008). Work by some Nepalese women to alleviate the sufferings of the victims of gender violence and armed conflicts (Peace Women Across the Globe 2008) is helping to recognize the role of women in addressing gender empowerment issue in Nepal.


With more than half of the country’s population represented by females, women empowerment is vital in order to create consumer citizens, who then can make independent choices out of various options in the social field. Two distinctive behaviours and values are highlighted in addressing clients of social services and welfare programmes as empowered consumer-citizens: a capacity (and expectation) for choice; and a responsibility for the individual self (Newman et al 2006). In essence, we need to make women aware of their ‘right to have rights’! When we say consumer citizens, we mean to incorporate not only the “commodity” aspect but also the social welfare aspect. As Veronica Schild puts it, ‘modern’ Chilean women are active agents, with ‘life projects’ that they control – and that presumably include family life, children and paid work – and takes for granted that women exercise their autonomy as empowered citizens who make choices in the market as producers and consumers (Schild 2007).

Like in Chile, empowerment programs should try to envisage women as individual selves rather than as mothers or homemakers, and to offer them courses that focus on personal development, community development and job-related skills training. The Chilean techniques of desarrollo personal, or ‘personal development’ techniques are an exercise of power that incites, induces and seduces women – defined as ‘poor’, and as victimised by their traditional role and place in society – to transform themselves from domestic beings with responsibilities for others, into individuals with the potential for autonomy and freedom. Its goal is to act on the subjectivity of poor women and to transform them into active, entrepreneurial beings capable of exercising their citizenship as producers and consumers (Schild 2007). Nepalese women contribute in household and national economy by involving themselves actively and responsibly in production of various goods and evolving themselves as consumer citizens.


Nepal stands at a veritable crossroads and the issue of gender empowerment cannot be put on the back burner anymore. Some works have been done to empower women including their representation at the highest policy level. However, much more is still desired to improve the gender disparity by eliminating age-old patriarchal mindset of people that exists as a hindrance for equality. An issue, as important as this, needs to be dealt firmly by policymakers. They must demonstrate strong commitment and effectively implement various programs to mitigate the gap between men and women. What is at stake here is a definite chance to lead Nepal on a path of prosperity by empowering a gender which, for all its importance, has been reduced to the household chores when it is capable of much more. In this lies the future of Nepal and along with it the prospect of generating empowered consumer-citizens.


The authors would like to give sincere thanks to following persons for their kind advice during writing this article; Associate Professor Inger Haug, and Assistant Professor Alexandra Klein, Hedmark University College, Norway.


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How to achieve the environmental objectives in different cultures Joanna Boboryko, Marta Dawidziuk and Barbara Mazur

University of Finance and Management in Bialystok

ul. Ciepla 40, 15-472 Bialystok, Poland

tel. +48 85 6750672

e-mail: foreign@wsfiz.edu.pl


The concept of culture although notoriously difficult to define turns to be very useful in explaining many phenomena such as economic growth or consumer behaviour. Cultures, in defining what attitudes and behaviours are appropriate, develop the logic through which societies interpret and adopt to environment. Because of it culture is an influential variable not only in economics and politics but also in ecological arena. Our spiritual, aesthetic, and ethical views resulting from culture often motivate and constrain our behaviors. Using cultural typology originally suggested by Cultural theory (individualism, hierarchy and egalitarianism) and transformed it into G. Hofstede cultural dimensions (individualism and power distance), this paper explores diverse worldviews that might influence individual and collective attitudes relevant to environmental issues. It seems to be possible when ling the dimension of these variables for particular societal cultures, to seek for the factors which could activate members of the society for the sake of the environment.

The purpose of the article is to present the cultural conditioned notions, beliefs and convictions that indicate which arguments for which societies might be put forward for gaining sustainable behaviors in respect to different cultures. The research conducted between students representing national cultures with various levels of Hofstede’s variables (eg. Polish, Turkish and Indian) shows which arguments used in public discourse are promising to push them to behave in a sustainable way.


Cultures evaluate risk and policy proposals based on their perceived implications for the culture’s preferred way of living. Exploring cultural belief systems begins with developing or selecting a taxonomy of worldviews. Seeking a typology less temporally and spatially bound Curtis A. Pendergraft choose that suggested by Cultural Theory. An axiom of CT is that all societies and their underlying worldviews, irrespective of time or place, must be more or less hierarchic, more or less individualistic, more or less egalitarian. Instead of this theory which has no ethnocentric approach G. Hofstede’s conception of cultural dimensions might be used to map individuals or groups into the cultural matrix by analyzing their responses to statements which carry implications about how life ought to be lived. The major hypothesis of this research was that respondents would indeed fall into clusters along the lines suggested by Hofstede’s cultural dimensions which influence people’s beliefs and behaviors. Short description of two of them is shown below. For the purpose of presented research Hierarchy and Egalitarism have been replaced by one bilateral cultural dimension called by Hofstede Power distance. On the one edge of this dimension there are societies with egalitarian attitude towards social structure, on the other one there are those accepting and protecting sharp and unbreakable distances between stratified society.

Hofstede’s description of Power Distance is as follows (Hofstede 2005):The degree of inequality among people which the population of a country considers as normal: from relatively equal (that is, small power distance) to extremely unequal (large power distance). The extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. This represents inequality (more versus less), but defined from below, not from above. It suggests that a society's level of inequality is endorsed by the followers as much as by the leaders.

When considering Individualism Hofstede explains that it is (Hofstede, 2005) The degree to which people in a country prefer to act as individuals rather than as members of groups. On the individualist side we find societies in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after him/herself and his/her immediate family. On the collectivist side, we find societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended families (with uncles, aunts and grandparents) which continue protecting them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. The word 'collectivism' in this sense has no political meaning: it refers to the group, not to the state.

Table 1.

Power distance and Individualism scores for Turkey, Poland and India


Power Distance (PDI)

Individualism (IND)










Source: /

In the light of Hofstede’s dimensions India has Power Distance as the highest with the ranking of 77 compared to Poland (68) and Turkey (66). Individualism score for Poland (60) is bigger than for India (48) and Turkey (37). Polish culture can be considered as the most individualistic, Indian – as the most hierarchical and Turkish as the most egalitarian of all three. Scores resulting from Hofstede research are exhibited in the table 1.


Twelve statements drawn from the public discourse about environmental issues were selected by C. A. Pendergraft based on the idea that their implications for how we ought to live would differentiate adherents of the various cultures (Pendergraft 1998: 661-664). Responses were collected from 76 persons (33 Polish, 27 Turkish, 16 Indian) studying at University of Finance and Management in Bialystok (Poland) between January and March 2009. Prior to analysis of the responses a cultural index based on the literature of Cultural Theory and Hofstede cultural dimensions was constructed. Responses for the three cultural types (egalitarian, hierarchic and individualistic) were assigned to each response for each country. The logic behind them is presented below and the predictions for the answers are displayed in the table 2.

1. Private property will serve not only as a basis for feeding people but for long-term freedom and democracy.

The stronger the agreement with the statement the less egalitarian the respondent is expected to be.

The expectation is that the stronger the sense of community the more persuasive will be an argument that private property rights cannot be allowed to threaten the common good. It might be supposed that hierarchs, given their greater concern for community, would tend to be a little less enthusiastic about private property than would individualists.

2. Environmental problems are technical problems: we need to let experts handle them.

Responses to this statement should reflect perceptions of equality (are experts really more competent than the rest of us, especially in ethical or moral matters?) and views of nature (to what degree can we tamper with or manage it?). Egalitarians should disagree with this statement on the ground that it is elitist, anti-democratic, and tends toward hubris. Hierarchs should find it more appealing, since our relations with nature require competent management. Individualists could agree because some people are indeed more competent and knowledgeable than others, but on the other hand may see expertise, especially if it advises limitations on freedom, as ascribed rather than proven, and suspicious on that basis.

3.Humans have no innate or god-given mandate to dominate the planet.

The word ‘dominate’ should spark reactions here. It should be a negative symbol for egalitarians. Terms such as ‘innate’ and ‘god-given’ are also loaded with connotations about relationships among humans, between humans and nature, and about religion. It is expected that egalitarians will tend to agree with this statement, while hierarchs and individualists find it less appealing. Political and social conservatives and fundamentalist Christians should tend to disagree with this statement.

4. Environmentalism is mostly just a popular bandwagon and politicians will always jump aboard one of those.

This double-barreled statement is intended to stress the respondent, leading many to choose ‘neutral’. Those who feel most strongly about environmentalism (mostly egalitarians) should disagree with it, overcoming their skepticism about politicians. Those who fear constraints on freedom should agree with it. Hierarchs and those whose worldviews are more moderate should tend toward neutrality. This statement turned out to be one of the strongest indicators of difference between egalitarianism and the other cultures.

5. The explosive increase in population is the number one environmental hazard.

Both egalitarians and hierarchs should be more concerned than individualistsabout population growth, if for slightly different reasons. However, someindividualists, fearing that overpopulation will limit freedom and opportunity, mayagree. Again religion may play a role, and so, in this instance, might race. RomanCatholics and fundamentalist Protestants may disagree, as may Blacks (who areoften fundamentalist Protestants) and Hispanics (who are often Roman Catholics,and among who fundamentalism has made inroads lately). Egalitarians and ferventenvironmentalists should agree with the statement, concerned about balance.

6. If I had to choose between freedom and equality I’d take equality.

Individualists and hierarchs should disagree with this, but the statement should put more stress on egalitarians. Hierarchs, who don’t care much for equality, but who are leery about freedom degenerating into license, will tend to disagree or choose neutrality. Responses at the extremes should be characteristic of the low grid cultures. The statement was sometimes reversed (... if I’d take freedom) and the scoring adjusted accordingly.

7. Rich and poor, we are all on this planet together, and rich countries must take financial responsibility for cleaning up global pollution; we are obligated to help the Third World.

This statement should appeal much more to egalitarians than to hierarchs, and more to hierarchs than to individualists. The environmentalist and egalitarian aspect is obvious, but the final clause puts some stress on the hierarchic respondent, who may feel a sense of noblesse oblige not felt by individualists.

8. If we don’t change the way we live, we will make the whole planet uninhabitable.

This statement is intended to measure the anxiety felt by respondents about the sustainability of our current way of life. Egalitarians, perceiving nature as delicately balanced, see widespread asymmetries in wealth and power as a social and environmental negative, and should tend to agree with Planet. Hierarchs should tend to disagree with the statement because they are adverse to radical change, and disinclined to accept the notion that under their direction we are headed the wrong way. They may agree that the course is in need of some correction, but should reject the implication that we are totally misled. Individualists may agree with the statement because of a perception that the private sphere is threatened by an expanding public sphere, but their tendency to see nature as resilient should influence most to disagree with the statement.

9. Environmental issues should be strictly regulated by law.

It seems that hierarchs should approve this statement much stronger than individualists and egalitarians. The reason behind such assumption is not very sophisticated – hierarchs value order. Individualists and egalitarians together also should endorse it but for other reasons: individualists – because law stands for freedom, egalitarians – because everybody should follow the rules.

10. People should behave according to their own convictions rather than to law regulations.

It appears that egalitarians and hierarchs should completely exclude this statement: hierarchs because it generally threatens the concept of hierarchy, egalitarians – because all people ought to have the same duties and similar privileges. Individualists which value liberty might think that sometimes quality of law is low and individual morality can have higher level than common law.

11. Beneath the skin, people are pretty much all the same.

This statement should appeal most to the egalitarian, less to the individualist, and least to the hierarch. It is aimed at probing notions of sameness versus difference, which, it is thought, is a latent influence on notions of justice.

12. Nature is not nearly as delicate as some people claim.

This statementshould appeal more to individualists than to egalitarians, with hierarchs somewhere between. Believing this allows those with cornucopian notions, i.e. individualists, more latitude in utilizing natural resources, while rejecting it harmonizes with concern for ecological balance.


Supposing that Polish culture is the most individualistic, Indian – the most hierarchical and Turkish – the most egalitarian of all cultures researched here it was forecasted the respondents probable answers. The forecasting on the answers given by Polish, Turkish and Indian respondents are displayed in the table 2.

Table 2.

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