Women's empowerment in high value cash crop activities in the rural hills of Nepal
Women in many smallholder communities in developing countries often face various types of cultural restrictions. In recent years, high value cash crop activities (HVCCA) are viewed as opportunities for women to travel to markets, improve household income, exercise more freedom and actively participate in training programs. HVCCA can also enhance women’s household decision making and empowerment. However, women’s empowerment is complex and multidimensional requiring context specific analysis. Hence, this study characterized factors enabling and inhibiting women’s household decision making and empowerment in HVCCA in two mid-hill districts of Nepal’s Far Western region. Sixteen couples involved in HVCCA (vegetables) were interviewed in July 2017, along with seventeen government and development officials working in HVCCA. Additionally, six focus group discussions were conducted with women’s organizations in participants’ communities, at districts and national level.
Using NVivo, this study found that almost all wives are trusted for joint decisions. They travel to markets, keep income and make expenditures. Some still have difficulty overcoming traditional belief systems that restrict women’s activities. Support from husbands, extended family members, community members, women’s groups, government agencies and development organizations are crucial. This study concludes that women’s active engagement in HVCCA significantly contributes to their increased decision making and empowerment. However, future research including women not involved in HVCCA and other factors that are not examined in this study is imperative to determine the full role of HVCCA in women’s empowerment. Understanding micro-level decision making processes in HVCCA has significance for furthering women’s empowerment.