Money and power in rural Nepal: Analysing the intergenerational power dynamics of household money management
Women's economic empowerment is increasingly recognised as a policy concern in global health. Many interventions to improve maternal and child nutrition, increase care-seeking behaviour, and prevent violence against women attempt to address this. Little evidence exists on how cash is actually managed, contested and negotiated in households in the Global South. We conducted a grounded theory study on the gender politics of money management in a contemporary rural Nepali setting. Our study uncovered ways in which junior wives and husbands became secret allies in seeking financial autonomy from the rule of the in-laws; most prominently, husbands sometimes secretly transferred part of their income to their wife to save up for a household separation from the in-laws. We argue these secret strategies constitute a means for junior couples to renegotiate the terms of Kandiyoti’s (1988) ‘patriarchal bargain’ wherein junior wives traditionally had to accept subservience to their husband and mother-in-law in exchange for economic security and eventual authority over their own daughters-in-law. Researchers, activists and policy-makers concerned with women’s economic empowerment should consider the impact of intergenerational power relations on women’s control over cash.
Dr. Lu Gram is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Global Health at University College London. There, he obtained his PhD studying the impact of participatory women's groups alone or combined with food or cash transfers on women's empowerment. He has more than 8 years of experience working in Global Health having worked on trials across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia involving a range of interventions related to maternal and child health. His current research concerns the prevention of violence against women through community mobilization with community groups and volunteer leaders in an urban Indian setting. He has published articles on women's empowerment in World Development, Journal of Development Studies and Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, of which the current talk reflects his latest publication in World Development.