Women’s Empowerment at the Frontline of Adaptation

2. A reduction in the yield of non-timber based forest products, such as moss, lichens, broom grass, asparagus, and several medicinal plants, has reduced the side income of poor women and the marginalized groups. The side income from NTFPs is usually under the direct control of women, who use it to deposit in their saving groups, for personal use, and to meet household needs, including their children’s education. Women members of the Leasehold Forestry group in Dhanusha reported that their personal income has been badly affected by this decrease in yield of NTFPs.

Challenges in Women’s Empowerment

1. Women are being alienated from vital adaptive knowledge as they are not able to grab opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills due to time constraints, leading to loss of adaptive capacity. Almost all women interviewed for the study across several villages stated that, due to increased workload and household responsibilities, balancing household and outside work was one of the key issues that hindered them from taking up responsibilities and doing justice to the positions given to them on different committees. Most of the women leaders interviewed stated that the quality of their participation has suffered, as they miss meetings and thus lose access to information and important processes. For example, if the meeting is about resource distribution, decision makers (mainly high caste men) sometimes choose not to give full and timely information to women committee members about the meeting, making it difficult for them to plan to attend. Even if women receive information about such meetings on time, they are often unable to prepare due to other prior engagements and, hence, cannot participate effectively. 2. The quantity and quality of the participation of women in decision-making bodies is decreasing; fewer women have the time to participate and when they do participate, they are not always well informed and do not have time to network and follow up on issues. Women’s networks play a vital role in information and knowledge exchange and solidarity. However, these networks are also being weakened due to time constraints and women’s increased workload. Due to limited networks, time, mobility, and knowledge, women are usually deprived of information. Women are often informed of meetings or resources at the last minute, making it difficult for them to plan, participate, and use the information in their interest. In addition, most women do not have financial resources to spend on transportation to attend meetings, training programmes, and other events outside their village (also see Gale 2008). 3. The decrease in sources of income for women has affected their mobility and participation in crucial issues that affect their livelihood. When it comes to resources (village funds, grants, training, consultations, workshops, etc.), related meetings, and other opportunities, women (particularly from marginalized groups) are systematically discriminated against or denied access by elite groups (both men and women). Even if a woman accesses or manages to participate in such opportunities, they are suppressed from raising their voice or concerns. Bishnu Maya Bhujel, a women farmer leader from Baijanath VDC in Morang district and member of several user groups and chair of the cooperative and women’s saving and credit group in her village, shared: I have reduced my participation in community meetings. I try to attend the cooperative and saving and credit meetings, which I chair, but I keep it on the same day to save time. I miss out on the other key meetings such as the VDC council meetings and as a result I get excluded from the decision making and information about the resources and opportunities for the women in our village.


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