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Exploring Nepali adolescents' gendered experiences and perspectives

This brief summarises the findings of GAGE’s formative qualitative work in Nepal—which took place in 2016 in three contrasting districts: Kapilvastu, Makawanpur and Dang. Based on individual and group interviews with almost 500 people, approximately 300 of whom were adolescents between the ages of 10 and 15, we found that despite significant recent progress, adolescents’—especially girls’— capabilities continue to be truncated.

Primary enrolment rates are high in Nepal—with nearly all girls and boys enrolled in school.  Furthermore, girls are now more likely than boys to attend, and complete, secondary school, largely because boys are pulled out of school to work. However, on most other fronts girls continue to face more pressures than boys. For example, they are still likely to marry as children, have high domestic workloads, face restrictions due to menstruation, and—due to social norms that dictate that girls must be sexually pure and subservient—face nearly constant judgement from their families and communities. Girls also have limited mobility and little access to decision-making.

Our research suggests that Nepali girls need access to programming that provides them with opportunities to interact with peers and role models, learn life skills, and grow their aspirations and voice. Parents and broader communities need programming that directly addresses gender norms. Increased financial support to the poorest households would improve both girls’ and boys’ access to secondary school.

Understanding Intimate Partner Violence in Nepal

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a major public health and human rights issue in Nepal, and is rooted in a wider context of high gender inequality.

While IPV is an emerging research focus in Nepal, there remains a lack of evidence on the perpetuating factors, and the impact of intervention programmes on men, as well as studies that reflect both male and female perspectives.

This report aims to address evidence gaps by drawing on primary research from 2016 to understand the multi-level drivers of male perpetration of IPV in Nepal, including the relative importance of conservative gender norms.

The report investigate how broader political-economy dynamics shape attitudes, behaviours and service provision related to IPV, and the associated implications for policy and practice to strengthen responses to the issue.

The findings discussed in this report are part of a broader regional study of the perpetration of IPV by men and boys across South Asia.

Nepal girls landscaping report: Spring Girls Research Series

The nine most significant insights that emerged across all research locations, across the different types of respondents (girls in school and out, different age cohorts, married and unmarried – and
parents) are highlighted below. What follows in the main body of the report is a much more nuanced analysis of geographic, age cohort, and other differences.

Nepal is a highly diverse country, geographically, religiously, ethnically, linguistically, and culturally, and one adolescent girl’s life can be dramatically different from another’s. Generally, however, prevailing social norms value boys’ education and health over girls’, uphold a highly gendered division of labour, and prize girls’ virginity and obedience. Nepal has been through dramatic changes in the past 20 years, including a protracted civil war, intense internal and regional political struggles, and major natural disasters. Opportunities have opened up for girls as a result of these changes, but new vulnerabilities have also emerged.

Girls club and radio programs: Addressing discriminatory social norms for adolescent girls in Nepal

Key messages:
• Street dramas, girls’ groups/clubs and radio programmes are an effective means of communication for ending discriminatory social norms.

• Economic activities, whereby adolescent girls engage in entrepreneurship, are one of the most effective means to empower them. This in turn establishes a sound base from which to communicate messages about discrimination and gender-based violence.

• Combining life skills education with livelihood-centered activities that are locally acceptable and doable by adolescent girls is critical.

• Communication activities that respect local norms and values, such as those around age, gender and other cultural hierarchies, are more successful than others.

• Communications that are focused not only on the girls themselves but also on other reference groups are critical to ending gender discrimination

How does Nepal's child grant work for Dalit children and their families? A mixed method assessment of program delivery and impact in Bajura and Saptari

This study examines the delivery and impact of Nepal’s Child Grant, so as to identify implementation barriers and recommend ways to improve effectiveness. The cash transfer is targeted at all households with children aged up to five years in the Karnali zone and at poor Dalit households in the rest of the country. Its objective is to improve children’s nutrition. The Grant covers up to two children per household, with a transfer level of NRS 200 ($1.95) per child per month. Dalit households are eligible if they meet the wealth criterion, which is based on food security and land ownership. The focus of this study is specifically on how the Grant works for Dalit households.

The analysis is based on mixed-methods research conducted in late 2014/early 2015, using a survey of 2,000 Dalit households and more than 70 in-depth interviews, focus group discussions and key informant interviews. The two districts selected – Bajura in the Far-Western Mountains and Saptari in the Eastern Terai – have a high share of Dalit households compared with the national average.

Restoring and rebuilding livelihoods through CDD approaches in conflict settings: Nepal case study

Institutional arrangements in FCS are always a challenge, at both the national and the community level. In Nepal, PAF is a hybrid arrangement at the national level, working alongside existing ministries but reporting to the PMO. This provided political credibility in the conflict and CPA periods, but has also created difficulties in coordination.

The review of PAF and local interviews showed a major element of initiating livelihood programmes involves analysis of the local market. This requires both basic technical skills/capacity in the POs and work with the COs members on opportunities and obstacles.

An underappreciated aspect of the process involves the quality of the PO. Their capacity is essential, in terms of both previous experience and internal staffing, and ability to work with local organisations. In addition, the consistency of the relationships between the central unit (PAF) and POs requires continuous monitoring and assessment.

The creation of parallel structures during a time of conflict is a frequent approach by donors in fragile and conflict-affected states (FGS). In the post-conflict period, it is important to have clarity on the relationship between the PO and the CO on the one hand and different (however weak or even hollow) manifestations of local government (District Development Councils (DDCs) and Village Development Councils (VDCs)) on the other.

The lack of capacity (literacy and numeracy) among women and/or minority groups has meant men retain significant roles in the COs. This combined with a general patriarchal culture, means there are often significant gaps between the goal of women’s empowerment within the COs and what actually occurs.

PAF has monitoring mechanisms, but they are uneven owing to issues related to PAF staffing levels, how much time can be spent in the field monitoring as opposed to in PO oversight and the general distance to some of the sites. This also relates to capacity issues with the POs in terms of their ability to monitor the COs.

Migration from the margins: Mobility, vulnerability and inevitability in mid-western Nepal and north-western Pakistan

This study relates to the SLRC’s work on post-conflict livelihood trajectories, which explores how people get better off or worse off over time. Focusing on international labour migration, it follows up on two SLRC baseline surveys that showed international migration is a major livelihood strategy for households in Nepal and Pakistan. We set out to describe and explain, using mixed methods research and from a comparative perspective, the multidimensional process of international labour migration from two post-conflict contexts – Rolpa, Nepal and Swat and Lower Dir district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Pakistan – with a view to better understanding:

•   why and how it happens
•   what it means for migrants and their families vis-à-vis recovery following a crisis
•   and what it tells us about how formal actors and organisations (the state, NGOs, the private sector) may or may not shape the livelihood trajectories of people emerging from conflict.

Change and continuity in social norms and practices around marriage and education in Nepal

Key messages:

• Child marriage is still prevalent, and although the average age of marriage has increased, gendered social norms around marriage remain sticky

• Positive changes in higher education enrolment, coupled with the increasing age of marriage, have led to positive impacts in girls’ access to education. Despite this, dropout rates for girls remain high, and there is evidence of son bias in household expenditure on education

• Long-term interventions such as government or NGO programmes and policies to increase gender discrimination have proven to be the most important external drivers of change

• Strong female role models are critical, usually women who work in development, education or health sectors. Adolescent girls look to these women as agents of change

Continuity and change in social norms for Nepali adolescent girls: the drivers and inhibitors of early marriage and education

Key findings

• Study findings show that girls and boys have increasing decision making power over when and whom they marry compared to their mothers’ and grandmothers’ generations. However, this remains uneven, with girls continuing to have less say than boys.

• While the age of marriage is increasing for arranged marriages, particularly for girls, for those who choose love marriages or elopement, the age at marriage is decreasing – and this is true for both girls and boys.

• Increased enrolments in higher education, coupled with the rise in average age of arranged marriage, have led to positive impacts on girls’ access to education. Despite this, dropout rates for girls remain high, and there is evidence of son bias in household expenditure on education.

• Long-term interventions such as government or NGO programmes to tackle gender discrimination have proven to be the most important drivers of change around girls’ education and marriage; migration is not a strong driver of change in the study communities.

• Men have a key role to play in tackling gender discriminatory norms and their role as drivers of change should be encouraged. Other family members and female role models within the community can also be important drivers of change.

Understanding key capability domains of adolescent girls and gender justice

Human development reports of the past few years show that, despite the conflict, Nepal has made admirable progress in terms of the well being of its people. However, these developments are unevenly distributed, and adolescent girls and women are among those in a disadvantaged position. In addition, adolescents have received limited attention, with the focus on them only in relation to sexuality and reproductive health (Harper et al., 2012). In the belief that there are other, equally important, issues that have an impact on well being and that discriminatory social institutions such as formal and informal laws, norms and practices play a critical role in enhancing or limiting human capabilities, this study looks at their role in influencing the educational, economic, physical, psychosocial and political capability of adolescent girls and young women in Nepal.

Social norms for adolescent girls in Nepal: Slow but positive progress

Key messages:

• Research in Nepal reveals positive changes in the social norms that shape the lives of adolescent girls. These include the reduction in child marriage; the growing value being placed on the education of adolescent girls – some of whom now combine schooling with married life; shrinking family size; and signs in one district (Ilam) that girls now have a greater say in who they will, or will not, marry.

• These positive changes, together with improved access to technology – mobile phones in particular –mean that adolescent girls feel a greater sense of personal growth and well-being than their mothers and grandmothers.

• However, discriminatory norms persist: violence against women is commonplace and even expected. And girls – particularly high-caste girls in the district of Doti – are still expected to abandon their education to do household chores, marry early and have male children.

• A few broad packages of policies and interventions, targeted specifically to adolescent girls, would help to address their persistent and historic lack of gender justice in such areas as education, self-determination and economic empowerment.

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