UN Women Nepal Staff. Photo: UN Women/Ashma Shrestha
UN Women Nepal Staff. Photo: UN Women Nepal

Nepal has made significant progress in socio-economic development over the past two decades despite political instability. The adoption of a new constitution in 2015 demonstrated the government's commitment to eliminating discrimination, promoting inclusivity, and achieving economic equality. In terms of women’s participation and representation in the political arena, recently enacted progressive laws explicitly stipulate a quota of 33 per cent for women’s representation in elected positions across all three tiers of government (national, provincial and local). Although this numeric quota has been met for the most part, women from marginalized castes, classes and ethnic groups are still Significant inequalities remain in decision-making positions, which are still largely held by men. Women entering politics face several constraints, including access to financing, mobility restrictions, gender-biased party practices, household work and care responsibilities and most grievously, gender-based violence (GBV). Most of these challenges can be traced to Nepal’s wider social context of patriarchy and gender-discriminatory norms.

In terms of Nepali women’s economic security, the Government of Nepal (GoN) has instituted several legislative provisions, including the right to employment, the right to appropriate labour, equal wages, equal property rights for women based on the principles of inclusion and proportional representation and calls for an end to all forms of discrimination. Nonetheless, women in Nepal face multiple obstacles in attaining economic security and rights, and these obstacles are often graver for women from marginalized and vulnerable social groups. Nepal’s entrenched system of patriarchy – which is ingrained in gender hierarchical, discriminatory, and harmful social norms and practices – has impeded women’s participation in the labour force and formal sector, as well as their access to paid work. This situation relegates women to the domestic sphere, wherein their primary or sole responsibilities lie in care and household production activities. Inequitable inheritance rights also hinder women’s ability to access and control resources, assets, and services while limitations on their mobility and their low decision-making power also curtail their productivity potential.

Women across caste, class, ethnic, regional, religious, disability and sexual identities experience high levels of GBV in its various manifestations, such as sexual harassment and/or assault, domestic violence, intimate partner violence (IPV) and harmful practices en route to work, at workplaces, within households and in communities. GBV is pervasive in Nepali society, despite the presence of many legal measures and prevention services in place. Women’s reluctance to report GBV due to fears of reprisal, stigma attached to exposing family disputes and the possibility of economic disruption is one part of the equation. Uneven access to justice, poor implementation, and insufficient enforcement of existing laws further hamper progress to reduce GBV rates significantly.

Women face greater vulnerability in terms of disaster risk and during and in the immediate aftermath of a disaster event, including relief and recovery operations. Apart from the loss of life, there are various safety and security issues that emerge during relief efforts in which women may be subjected to GBV (sexual and domestic violence), trafficking and economic exploitation. Moreover, the lack of consultation and participatory efforts among women and marginalized groups is reported to have resulted in direct discrimination and the perpetuation of pre-existing disadvantages.

Priority Areas in Nepal

In its current Strategic Note (2023 - 2027), which is guided by Nepal’s Fifteenth Periodic Plan, the  United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) (2023 – 2027), and the 2030 Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, UN Women Nepal’s programmes focus on:

  1. Sustainable, Resilient and Inclusive Economic Transformation by strengthening capacities of duty bearers and right holders. This includes engaging the government and private sector actors to formulate and implement gender-responsive policy measures within the changing domestic landscape. Furthermore, this involves enhancing the skills and competencies of women, girls and LGBTIQ+ persons, particularly those from marginalized backgrounds. The goal is to enable their access to quality employment and income-generating possibilities, along with sustainable opportunities for livelihood.
  2. Inclusive and Transformative Human Development by promoting positive social norms and eliminating gender-based harmful practices engaging individuals (including men and boys) and institutions.
  3. Environmental Sustainability, Climate and Disaster Resilience by enhancing capacities of relevant key stakeholders and ensuring that effective community-based mechanisms are in place to ensure the progression of gender-sensitive strategies for climate change adaptation, disaster risk readiness, mitigation, as well as efficient response, recovery, and resilience measures.
  4. Governance, Federalism, Participation, and Inclusion by developing capacities of government stakeholders across three tiers of government, the objective is to enable the creation or revision of laws, policies and strategies that promote human rights and foster inclusive governance, aligning with established international and national normative frameworks. Particularly, ensuring the principle of leaving no one behind by meaningful engagement of women, girls and LGBTIQ+ persons, particularly those from marginalized groups, to influence governance processes.

UN-wide Coordination

UN Women leverages its substantive coordination efforts to mobilize crucial stakeholders in the UN system for gender equality and women’s empowerment (GEWE) in Nepal. Within this context, UN Women co-chairs the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) Leave No One Behind Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) Working Group. This leadership role ensures the efficient alignment of efforts among various agencies and supports both internal and external GEWE initiatives undertaken by the UNCT in Nepal. Similarly, as the co-chair of the Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Working Group, UN Women is facilitating the enhancement of a comprehensive system-wide platform aimed at collectively addressing issues such as sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment. This leadership extends to reinforcing mechanisms that cover prevention, response, and support within the UN system. UN Women engages in and makes valuable contributions to various Working Groups (WGs) and Task Teams within the UNCT, which encompass the UNSDCF Results Groups, the Programme Management Team, the Operations Management Team, the UNCT Monitoring and Evaluation WG, the UN Youth WG, the UN Communications Group, the Legal Identity and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV) WG, the Migration WG, and the HIV/AIDS WG.