In the early 1990s, like in any other Asian country, women in Nepal were generally subordinate to men in virtually every aspect of life. Nepal, like the most societies in the present world was a rigidly patriarchal society. Women’s relative status, however, varied from one community to another.
In Nepal women’s lives remained centered on their traditional roles —taking care of most household chores, fetching water and animal fodder, and doing farm work. Their standing in society was mostly contingent on their husbands’ and parents’ social and economic positions. They had limited access to markets, productive services, education, health care, and local government. Malnutrition and poverty hit women hardest. Women usually worked harder and longer than men. But economic prosperity alone, decision making was left to men in the family.
The economic contribution of women was substantial, but largely unnoticed because their traditional role was taken for granted. When employed, their wages normally were 25 percent less than those paid to men. In most rural areas, their employment outside the household generally was limited to planting, weeding, and harvesting. In urban areas, those migrating from rural areas or with a lower economic status were employed in domestic and traditional jobs, as well as in the government sector, mostly in low-level positions.