Challenges of Nepali Women in Production Sector in Kathmandu
Critical discourses of postcoloniality proposed by subaltern studies have challenged Enlightenment rationalism, ideologies of progress and the nation-state, as well as the generalization of the capitalist market economy and its consequences on subalterns. This research focuses on the experiences of women employed in the production sector in Kathmandu in order to provide insights into the mechanisms of capitalism, patriarchy, and representations of women’s lives and relationships of women that are situated at the intersection of various systems of domination in Nepal. This study involve an empirical data collection based on 2 months of field research in Kathmandu and includes a total of 10 semi-structured interviews conducted with female industrial production workers. It also includes observations of their working conditions, their environment, and of how employers interact with them.
First, an assessment of the economic context of Nepal shows the impact of economic globalization and capitalism on the oppressions faced by Nepalese women employed in the production sector. The reality of the women interviewed testifies to the impact of capitalism on the ‘margins’ or subaltern layers of society. We will analyse some of the forces that led women to a subordinate position, as geographical factors. Indeed, women in the high mountains, remote hills and economically disadvantaged groups face greater accessibility problems than women in the better off households, urban areas and the terai region. These categories of women are compelled to migrate to urban areas to find work, and are likely to be employed in companies that take advantage of these precarious situations to hire them at extremely low wages. Our attention was particularly drawn to the fact that the larger the company, the more it becomes entrenched in the game of capitalist competition and the more working conditions deteriorate.
Secondly, a reflection on the theme of reconciliation between professional and domestic work enlightens the logics that do not favour women’s autonomy and thus contribute to the reproduction of inequalities. Here, we will investigate the consequences of patriarchy and male domination on the lives of these women by mobilizing gender studies. An analysis of how these issues are discussed in militant, media or political debates in Nepal indeed bears witness to the consequences of patriarchy on the lives of these women. The majority of communities in Nepal are patriarchal and women’s lives are strongly influenced by her father and husband. Such patriarchal practices are linked to religious beliefs and practices (Mishra, 2021) and are further reinforced by the legal system. As a result of the patriarchal culture, earning women have to juggle work and family together, while men don’t have to.
Finally, we will analyse the personal aspirations of these women, the representations of marriage or love through the analytical grids of gender studies, and of the sociology of the family or the anthropology of kinship. We will see how these women represent love and femininity in a context that leaves them little agency. Each of these three themes will be approached with an inductive methodology, starting from the findings of the ethnographic survey to understand the social processes that allow the reproduction of exploitation, poverty, domination and violence suffered by these women employed in the production sector in Nepal.