Citizenship Rights and Women’s Roles in Development in Post-conflict Nepal


Pant, Bijan, and Kay Standing. 2011. “Citizenship Rights and Women’s Roles in Development in Post-conflict Nepal.” Gender & Development 19 (3): 409–21. doi:10.1080/13552074.2011.625656.

Authors: Bijan Pant, Kay Standing


Despite human rights abuses, the ten-year conflict in Nepal brought aspects of empowerment to women, changing their role in the family and community, as women became active outside the home, challenged the security forces, and began to assert their rights as citizens. Drawing on a research project into the participation of women in community development projects in three areas of Nepal, the present article examines how far development agencies in the post-conflict period have succeeded in furthering women’s citizenship rights, and in giving voice to women’s concerns and participation. It argues that development organisations and agencies have continued to operate mostly without including the voices of women, and women are disappointed by these non-participatory and top-down development models, which are leaving women’s status as second-class citizens unchallenged. Women are consequently exploring alternatives. The article uses examples from the field and interviews and focus groups with marginalised women and non-government organisation workers to suggest ways in which development agencies can work with participatory models to advance women’s citizenship rights. Given the diversity of social groups and peoples and gender relations in Nepal, the present article will also raise critical questions about the form and content of women’s participation, and the intersections of gender, class, caste, and ethnicity on citizenship rights.


  • Bijan and Standing analyze the ways in which women’s quest for citizenship in both a formal / legal sense and an informal / practical sense were made manifest in post-conflict Nepal. Although great atrocities were committed against women by both sides of the conflict, the civil war was a source of empowerment for some women, particularly for the large numbers of women who joined the Maoist movement, and there were hopes that this new agency would translate into greater citizenship rights for women in the post conflict period and that this, in turn, would give women greater agency in local community management institutions (over resources such as water). The authors’ approach was to approach this issue obliquely by investigating whether participation in NGO-sponsored activities (which play a large role in Nepal’s economy) could challenge women’s marginalized societal status. Challenging characterizations of women as second-class citizens and empowering women as active agents of change instead of objects of development was found to prompt a marked increase in the participation of women not only in NGO’s, but also in neighboring communities.


“Women articulated how NGOs contributed to the problem by employing top-down methods of project planning, informed by ideas about development and women’s economic and social roles which focus on the worth of women’s labour to the development process, rather than seeing women themselves as actors who can bring valuable contributions to the consultation and decision-making process.” (416)

Topics: Caste, Citizenship, Class, Development, Ethnicity, Gender, Women, NGOs, Post-Conflict, Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Nepal

Year: 2011

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