Ignorant, deprived, discriminated – hundreds of thousands of women in rural Nepal are apparently looking for the meaning of life beyond the incessant routine of cooking, care and cultivation. The Women Development Programme of the Department of Women and Children is about helping them reinvent themselves as agents of change. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a micro-credit programme. It has little to do with conserving natural resources. It is not even a poverty-focused intervention.
The programme is all about developing those who missed regular opportunities for development early on.
True, when women are empowered, household dynamics change, values of conservation are reinstated and poverty gives way to prosperity. Many other positive externalities occur, too. But the direct object of intervention is women's empowerment.
When the Women Development Section was created in 1981, its programme also bore the same name. The Women's Development Programme has since been something of a banner under which all activities of the Department are run. Initially, the programme was often known as 'Production Credit for Rural Women Programme' – perhaps because of the scale of activity supported by this long-lasting project.
Nearly three and a half decades on, the programme has a nationwide spread. Over a million women are directly participating in it. It has a name for reaching out to the hardest-reached group. It has also been noted for its framework of intervention and unique approach to empowerment. The design of the programme has been improved in the light of organizational learning over the years.