Being in control or being controlled? A qualitative study to explore women’s empowerment in Eastern Nepal


Publication date



Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences

Document type


Master i International Social Welfare and Health Policy


The overall aim of this thesis is to explore women’s empowerment as a strategy for development. Awareness raising and changing power relations lay on the core of empowerment, and as such this thesis assesses, as part of the overall aim, empowerment as a means for more social inclusion in society. This study is formulated to understand both individual and collective empowerment within the sociocultural context. Exploring women’s empowerment in the Nepalese society, in which gender inequalities and discrimination remain on a high scale, is of great significance for further development. The Ilam district in Eastern Nepal provided a case and an interesting starting point for this study, since it ranks relatively well in comparison to other districts in Nepal in terms of women’s empowerment indicators. The core methods of this thesis are individual in-depth and group interviews with women; however, numerous observations and informal conversations from the fieldwork have been integrated in the analysis as well. The findings of this thesis point clearly to the interrelation of participating, interacting with others and communication skills as important aspects for women’s empowerment. While the ability to make decisions varies much among the participants and is dependent on many other contextual conditions, the ability to express oneself and to interact with others is a more straightforward process in promoting women’s empowerment. The feelings of having control is related to skills and abilities and points to the importance of skill development trainings for women. The husband’s influence on the women’s possibilities to participate and to take up work again after marriage is strong and indicates to the involvement of men in promoting women’s empowerment, not least to counteract women’s remaining role in domestic responsibilities. Isolated areas, lack of information and stigmata among Dalit caste groups are the greatest barriers in some women’s life; however, women’s empowerment seems to work as a tool to include and encourage other women to participate in local events. This thesis provides an important contribution to the existing knowledge of empowerment from the perspective of some Nepalese women and of what can improve the path of empowerment in the future.




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