Bringing economic security to women in Nepal

Asha Devi in her new grocery shop (Photo: UNDP Nepal).
Asha Devi in her new grocery shop (Photo: UNDP Nepal).

Dipmala Mahato is beginning to reap the rewards of her own hard work and determination.

While she still lives in a one-room home, constructed of mud and roughly the size of a table-tennis board, she now earns a decent income selling her vegetables in the twice-weekly local market.


  • The project was launched in 2009 with funding from Norway in the poorest districts, where poverty, conflict and natural disasters hamper development.
  • The programme creates employment opportunities for vulnerable and marginalised communities, and supports 27,000 poor households.
  • With a total budget of US$18 million, the project has introduced new opportunities for women to start businesses.
  • 4,000 infrastructures projects have been constructed, benefitting 25,608 Households and generated 137,766 person days of employment.

Mahato is one of 32 members of the Sugaulo Jibikoparjan livelihood group, formed with the support of the Livelihoods Recovery for Peace (LRP) project. Backed by the UNDP, it is aimed at helping vulnerable communities in Nepal’s central terai (low lands).

Conflict in the terai - the 20 southern plains districts that border India - has emerged mainly due to the region being marginalised for several decades. The LRP project was launched in the terai’s three poorest districts - Sarlahi, Mahottari and Rautahat- where poverty, conflict and natural disasters have most hindered development. Forty per cent of the area’s 1.7 million inhabitants come from traditionally disadvantaged groups.

The LRP, which has a total budget of US$18 million, has introduced a host of new opportunities for women to start enterprises. The project awards grants to local NGOs to supply skills and vocational training; support for income-generating activities; micro- and small-enterprise development support; micro-finance; and access to solar home-lighting systems. The LRP has also supported the construction of nearly 4,000 infrastructure projects, benefitting 25,608 Households and generated 137,766 person days of employment.

It is creating employment opportunities not just for women, but also for other marginalised groups, such as youths and individuals from conflict-affected families. Some 27,000 households have recieved support, and more than 4,600 beneficiaries have become microentrepreneurs.

With the project’s support, Dipmala and eight neighbours have leased two bighas (1.35 hectares) of land in Ranigunj to grow vegetables to sell. Today, the leased farm is lush and green, with gourds, long beans, brinjals and chillies. Other community members have begun to rear pigs, poultry and goats, or opened small shops.

Asha Devi Majhi and her husband - who as dalits have been traditionally marginalised - opened a small grocery shop in Dhab of Pidari village in Sarlahi, and are now selling Rs1,200-worth of goods a day. Majhi says that her husband has given up the idea of going to Qatar to seek employment, which many out-of-work Nepalese men do.

The couple, belonging to the Mushahar community, deposit Rs200 a day in a local cooperative from the income they make from their shop. Nirmala Mahato says she is grateful for the project’s help, which has greatly improved her prospects. “I have made a net income of Rs23,000 in the past five months. I was able to pay back the rent of Rs8,000 for this leased land as well.”

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