Empowering or burdening women?
Assessing precariousness of vocationally trained women in Nepal
In many developing countries like Nepal, women are vocationally trained in ‘women-friendly’ professions, encouraging them to enter the labour market. Amidst discussions concerning the role of gender-stereotyped Vocational Training (VT) programmes in empowering women, this research makes a qualitative study of the training and post-training experiences of women graduating from two ‘women-friendly’ VT programs – tailoring and beautician. Data obtained from interviewing 12 beauticians and 7 tailors have been analysed to assess the precariousness associated with these professions and also women’s sense of empowerment through the World Bank Empowerment Framework 2005.
Discussions suggest that women are often nudged into low-income occupations owing to their gender roles, lower attainment of formal education and limited access to finances. In addition to their domestic and care work, women are forced to sell cheap labour and work longer hours in a highly competitive market, which signifies the extremity of precariousness they encounter.
Although VT programmes give women some agency through assets like income (albeit low), skill, information and social capital, the translation of this agency to empowerment remains questionable. Despite being professionals, women are still not the ones making decisions for their future and thus have limited social and political power. Even institutions designed to empower women leave them out of their board rooms – proving women quite powerless even while walking the recommended paths of ‘empowerment’.
This research concludes that gender-stereotyped VT programmes in Nepal exacerbate gender differences, burden women with precariousness and exclude them from economic, social and political capital-earning opportunities.
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