Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Abstract 2014 Sabrina Regmi

Sabrina Regmi, Ochanomizu University

Unequal Development: Micro-Business Creation and Gendered Outcomes in Rural Nepal

Mainstream development theory relies on the assumption that microcredit /microenterprise creation provides equal opportunity to both men and women. It is perceived as an equitable strategy that integrates men and women in development regardless of their gendered identity and transforms unequal gendered roles and relations. Development projects promote it as a promising strategy to achieve gender equal outcomes such as women's empowerment, while the primary goal remains household poverty reduction. This paper examines the strength and weakness of microcredit/ microenterprise development projects and gender mainstreaming (integration) policy in empowering female beneficiaries of rural Nepal. It seeks to determine, whether microcredit/microenterprise creation has potential to transform unequal gender roles and relations in Nepal's rural household by looking at the intra- as well as extra -household gender roles and relations and power dynamics. The findings show that gender roles and relations are changing, with women's opportunity to microcredit access and microenterprise creation. Women are now working in men's domain and men are gradually seeing their wives as partners if not co-equals. However the change has brought flexible yet rigid gender division of labour, from which men benefit more than women. Whereas husband's workload decreases with wives' share in the household income, wives' workload doubles and sometimes triples. While women's work outside may be appreciated by the relaxed and healthy husbands, it may severely affect women's physical and psychological health. Thus while the goal of overall household poverty alleviation could be met by women's microenterprise creation, it may come in the cost of women's disempowerment. Moreover the neoliberal conceptualization of empowerment based on equal opportunity and integration (gender mainstreaming) is not applicable in Nepal's context as it largely ignores the socio-cultural and contextual factors that rather tends to limit women's choices, intensifies their gendered roles and marginalizes them while mainstreaming males in development.

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