Women’s insecurities and the workplace in Nepal: A study from Banke and Bara districts

Women’s insecurities and the workplace in Nepal: A study from Banke and Bara districts

Insecurities that Nepali women experience in the workplace have been explored in previous studies, but this new report focuses on the difficulties that employed and self-employed women face in the wider context – in their homes and communities, travelling to and from their work, as well as in their workplaces.

This report finds that women encounter multiple challenges to their full participation in the working environment, and that existing equality legislation, limited though it is, is not adequately implemented. Evidence points to the positive impact of women’s access to and full engagement with work: their earnings are likely to be invested in their children and the community, contributing to long-term poverty alleviation. However, unless existing obstacles are tackled, women’s working lives will be negatively affected.

The findings and recommendations, based on research in the Banke and Bara districts, are intended to strengthen governmental and nongovernmental engagement on the issue of women and insecurity, and point to future areas of research.

Based on key informant interviews and focus group discussions, this study illustrates the range of insecurities women reported in different spaces and in relation to different actors, the impact their insecurities have on their wellbeing, and the steps that they took to address the challenges they faced. The insecurities women experienced posed significant challenges to their security and safety as well as their performance at their jobs.

The study revealed that insecurity was a common experience for women at home, in the workplace, as well as on the way to and from work. However, the most frequent type of insecurity experienced was harassment, which occurred in different forms – verbal, gestural, through exposure to physical and pornographic images or written messages – but cases of physical sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) such as rape or the threat thereof was also reported.

Women were unlikely to report their problems because they were afraid of being stigmatised by society, and that reporting might create more problems for them than for their abusers. A draft bill on sexual harassment had been prepared and submitted to the Constituent Assembly, but years later there is still no specific legislation that addresses harassment in workplaces; other legislation addressing SGBV or ensuring women’s equality, such as the Labour Act of 1992, lack effective implementation.

While there is a general awareness that working women face a lot of challenges, there is a lack of action by government institutions to address this issue. Many employers are reluctant to take measures against insecurity and sexual harassment at the workplace, at times even exploiting women or threatening to fire them if they report sexual harassment.