Changing Gender Role: Women’s Livelihoods, Conflict and Post-conflict Security in Nepal

AuthorDorothea Hilhorst,Luna K.C.,Gemma Van Der Haar
Date01 August 2017
DOI10.1177/2347797017710743
Publication Date01 August 2017
SubjectArticles
Changing Gender Role:
Women’s Livelihoods,
Conflict and Post-conflict
Security in Nepal
Luna K.C.1
Gemma Van Der Haar2
Dorothea Hilhorst3
Abstract
This article examines how the Maoist conflict in Nepal affected women
ex-combatants and non-combatants, looking at shifts in gender roles during
and after the conflict particularly from the standpoint of current livelihood
challenges. We argue changing gender roles largely depends upon everyday
practice of gender division of labour and power as it evolved during and after
the conflict. We also found the conflict had different and contradictory effects:
Both categories of women experienced shift in gender roles, with women
taking on tasks earlier reserved for men, but this effect was strongest amongst
ex-combatants during conflict. In the aftermath of conflict, these changes were
partly reversed and especially ex-combatant women faced severe livelihood
challenges and returned to traditional gender roles. The article also considers
how women experience state and non-state responses meant to improve
their livelihoods security in the post-conflict setting. The article is based on
in-depth fieldwork in Chitwan and Kathmandu districts of Nepal. It draws
on interviews with women ex-combatants/non-combatants and key informant
interviews.
Keywords
Gender, women ex-combatants, non-combatants, Maoist conflict, post-conflict
Article
1
Doctoral Candidate, Sociology of Development and Change Group, Wageningen University,
The Netherlands.
2
Assistant Professor, Sociology of Development and Change Group, Wageningen University,
The Netherlands.
3
Professor, International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Corresponding author:
Luna K.C., Doctoral Candidate, Sociology of Development and Change Group, Wageningen
University, Hollandseweg 1, 6706 KN, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
E-mail: Lunakc13@gmail.com
Journal of Asian Security
and International Affairs
4(2) 175–195
2017 SAGE Publications India
Private Limited
SAGE Publications
sagepub.in/home.nav
DOI: 10.1177/2347797017710743
http://aia.sagepub.com
176 Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs 4(2)
Introduction
When women and girls around the globe join an armed conflict as combatants,
they often break traditional gender norms and take up new roles and responsibili-
ties earlier reserved for men, as they enter what is broadly accepted as a men’s
arena (Shekhawat, 2015). Also, non-combatant women tend to face a shift in gen-
der roles due to conflict. When men are away on military duty or involved in rebel
groups, or where husbands or fathers or sons are killed or disabled, the economic
responsibilities which were previously fulfilled by men are disproportionately
shifted to the shoulders of women (Arostegui, 2013). There has been much
academic debate whether conflict-induced change in gender roles means that
women are better positioned in the aftermath of war or whether it means women
are encountering new forms of insecurities. Authors have identified a diversity of
gender effects of war and its aftermath. El-Bushra’s (2003) field research carried
out in Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Mali and Angola indicates that new economic
responsibilities and greater public presence of women induced by conflict may
imply a (limited) shift in gender roles that to some degree carries over into the
post-war period. Denov and Ricard-Guay (2013) argue that reproductive roles
and power relations during and after conflict are embedded within broader
gendered power structures that shape gender identity and are unlikely to shift
unless these structures changes. Moosa, Rahmani and Webster (2013) state that
pre-war gender differences in rights and entitlements impact post-war situations,
rather than temporal changes during wartime.
Current work on armed conflict and gender have suggested that warfare may be a
process that empowers women through various transitions over time (Arostegui,
2013; Buvinic, Dasgupta, Casabonne, & Verwimp, 2012; Grabska, 2013). However,
the degree to which this is the case and the mechanisms at work are not yet well under-
stood, and might be very different for women ex-combatants and women non-
combatants. To understand this process, we studied the Maoist armed conflict and the
post-conflict context of Nepal. The article aims to contribute to the ongoing debate on
gender and war by offering a differentiated analysis of the experiences of both women
ex-combatants and non-combatants on shifts in gender roles during the Maoist
conflict and how that shapes their positions in the post-conflict condition in Nepal.
This article investigates how the Maoist conflict in Nepal affected women,
both ex-combatant and non-combatant (including war widows and women heads
of households), differently. It looks at shifts in gender roles and livelihoods during
and after conflict, and asks how women experience state and non-state responses
concerning their current livelihoods security. The article traces how the labour
and livelihoods endeavours for women as well as their power positions have
evolved in time. The article elucidates how post-conflict programmes in Nepal
have systematically marginalized some categories of women despite their focus
on gender mainstreaming. The article further provides critical insights on how
livelihoods insecurity for women in Nepal is intrinsically linked to not just the
question of gender but also to caste and ethnicity.
The article starts with an introduction followed by conceptual framework,
research methodology, findings and conclusion. The findings of the article have
been presented with two main headings: gender division of labour and power;

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