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Who Needs Literacy Programmes for Women in Rural Nepal?


Esther Hertzog


The paper focuses on a development project in rural Nepal aimed at women’s empowerment. It argues that the project, like numerous other similar projects aimed at women’s empowerment, serves the ‘developing’ organizations and experts rather than the women. The ethnography demonstrates how organizations enhance recognition of the self-evident need for their help, by describing the women, explicitly or implicitly, as needy and backward. However, these women’s social and economic competences, which are amply documented in the data, contradict this image. The rural women lack economic resources, yet are offered literacy programmes that are hardly needed for their daily routines. Nevertheless, in reality the developers provide neither literacy skills nor any vocational training or substantial economic assistance.

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