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Type: Theses
Title: In the name of ‘empowerment’: women and development in urban Nepal
Author: Becker, Margaret Lynne
Issue Date: 2017
School/Discipline: School of Social Sciences
Abstract: This thesis is concerned with women and development in Kathmandu, Nepal. Development and social change-oriented goals associated with it have been firmly enmeshed in Nepal since the 1950s. The philosophy and the terms of international development—both of which are based on ‘modern’, Western models of society—are highly influential in Nepal, intertwining with sets of social relations and local history to form a nationally shared vision known as bikas (development) (Pigg, 1992). Particularly since the 1990s, there has been a proliferation of international and local non-governmental organisations (INGOs and NGOs), including many focusing on issues related to women. The terminology of transnational discourses of development pervades the websites and literature of women’s development organisations. In particular, the language of ‘empowerment’—a term that is entrenched in the global development discourse on women—frames the stated objectives and interventions of these organisations, suggesting that this term plays an important role in formulating projects and objectives in gender and development programs in Nepal. In this thesis I interrogate what is being done in the name of women’s empowerment (mahila sashaktikaran) through an ethnographic exploration of two women’s NGOs operating in Kathmandu. Drawing on data collected during twelve months of anthropological fieldwork between October 2009 and October 2010 in Kathmandu, I examine women’s goals, understandings, and experiences of specific development encounters to explore what this global development concept, empowerment, looks like in the social spaces where women work and live. Key questions, then, are what ideas of empowerment are generated in the practice of development programs for women and what are the effects on women’s lives? My study suggests that understandings of the term empowerment are diverse, contingent and situational, depending on context and a woman’s positioning in that context at any given time. I argue that notions of ‘woman’ are critical to what it means to be empowered in this context, in terms of the organisations’ program objectives and strategies and for the women involved with these groups. I demonstrate the way in which different discourses—global discourses of women’s empowerment, local discourses of gender and development, and notions of ‘woman’ in Nepal—intersect and are intertwined in the everyday encounters and experiences of development for women in specific contexts in Kathmandu.
Advisor: Dundon, Alison Joy
Gray, John
Curnow, Jayne
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Social Sciences, 2017.
Keywords: Nepal
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
DOI: 10.4225/55/5a1e38cb3176a
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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