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Discussion Topic: Empower women through financial autonomy

Discussion Topic: Empower women through financial autonomy

In most of the families in Nepal, men work to earn a living and women work at home and have no source of income. Their financial expenses solely depend upon what their husband provides them to spend. This means that their livelihood depends entirely upon their husband’s grace. This poses a serious threat to their independence and economic freedom which is one of the reasons why they silently endure pain without any protest when subjected to domestic violence. We know that without financial autonomy, women will not have the confidence and capacity to fight against violence and discrimination. Therefore, empowering women economically is to give them the freedom to make choices that benefit them, their families, communities and the nation as a whole. 

Research from across the world has shown that women who earn and control their own money tend to have more power in the home and suffer less domestic violence. And when women earn, society as a whole stand to benefit because women spend more than men on children’s health and education (Pande, 2016). Therefore, it is imperative for women to be financially independent.

The above is one view of GBV, presented to promote thought and discussion around the topic.  The views expressed in the discussion topic does not necessarily reflect the views of the project or its team members.

Lisa Honan, Development Director, British Embassy Kathmandu, once summarized the RAP3 project, “RAP3 is more than just a road building project. It is an income generation project, as well as a woman empowerment project. Young women have been able to earn and contribute to their households”. Truly, RAP3 MHLR project has been able to empower local women and improve their economic condition in rural districts of Nepal. Especially, there were women in Mugu and Humla, who had never previously worked or participated in any community work or income-generating activities. When these women started earning money, they were able to gain recognition in their community and some have been able to send their children to school without depending on their husbands (who may choose to spend their wages on alcohol). RAP3 MHLR ensures that wage distribution is done as per the volume of work done, divided between all workers based on their attendance, irrespective of gender.  We hand out money directly into the hands of our workers, due to which, female workers receive the money they have earned directly and not through a male representative of the household.  This increases the ownership of money among female members which supports raising their confidence level. More importantly, these women RBG members are the perfect example that when women are able to earn their own living, the stereotypes of society and any domestic violence against them are challenged and reduced.

It was a proud moment when a group of female RBGs in Mugu and Humla shared, “RAP3 MHLR may not last forever in our village, but we are ready to be as self-dependent as we have been after the implementation of this project. We have experienced how important it is for us to be independent and know what it takes to live a happy and healthy life”. In fact, with the formation of RAP3 MHLR road construction and maintenance groups, many women who used to be confined to household chores have now been able to build social networks with other women in the village. With a group of friends outside the home, they are also able to help each other and can call on for emotional support in times of need.

This changing behaviour of our female RBGs in rural districts like Mugu and Humla is proof that the aim of change and social development is achievable when women are economically empowered. We cannot say that there won’t be struggles in the coming days for these women, but we’re hopeful that experiencing the gender-inclusive environment within RAP3 MHLR would spark a change - that they will not give up their independence, even after this project is complete. We are also hopeful that they will continue to strive to maintain what they have learnt and experienced from RAP3 MHLR.

This is a small example of RBG women who have got an opportunity in RAP3 MHLR project to experience the benefits of being financially independent. But, various examples around the world have clearly shown that economically independent women are more likely to prevent any possible violence against them. Therefore, today it’s high time we create an environment for girls and women in which they can thrive for a better tomorrow.

Investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a positive step towards gender equality, poverty reduction, and overall sustainable development in the country. What are the different approaches for economic empowerment of women and girls in Nepal? Let’s discuss.

RAP3 MHLR advocates for women’s economic empowerment!