Integrating and valuing rural womanhood in community development projects: Case study lessons from Nepal

Cory G Collins


Rural women and women in remote locations are a critical but overlooked resource in community development projects. Nepalese women have made particularly significant contributions in their own environments, with their local knowledge standing out as an especially decisive intervening variable in the success of project outcomes. Existing descriptions of the dynamics and delivery of Nepal's School and Community Health Project (SCHP) are examined for the project's skillful incorporation of and attention to gender sensitivity in service delivery. Theoretical perspectives in social work, a foundational discipline of community development practice, is used to contextualize and reflect on the effectiveness of SCHP and related projects, while systems theory and chaos theory in particular are useful metaphors to understand projects' causality and organization. A reflection on relevant integration of social work knowledge is also provided.

Rural women are engaged as clients in a range of international community development projects. In Nepal, rural women have participated in many community development projects and community organizing initiatives to improve local conditions. In collaboration with social workers, marked improvements in quality of life have been achieved for many populations of rural women, despite significant historical and ongoing barriers. Following an overview of some experiences of rural womanhood in Nepal, I provide information on rural women's participation and connect relevant social work-inclusive projects to related theoretical concerns. As well, I describe and analyze the skills, knowledge, and ethics used by workers in the concerned development projects, with a particular focus on Nepal's School and Community Health Project (SCHP), a community development project that improved literacy rates and economic outcomes for women in many regions of Nepal. I rely strongly on descriptions of SCHP in the existing literature, such as those from Jimba, Poudel-Tandukar and Poudel (2008), who make a strong case for the decisive role of community health development in rural contexts.

Keywords: women, Nepal, community development, rural, gender

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.