Dignified and Violence-Free World of Work: A Study on Women Working in Informal Sectors in Nepal
Publication Date: 11/01/2022
A significant percentage (66.5%)1 of women in Nepal work in informal sectors and are vulnerable to all forms of violence and exploitation. The violence experienced by women in informal sectors ranges from physical, sexual, and verbal harassment to labor and economic exploitation by employers, co-workers and family members. Existing legal provisions such as Sexual Harassment (Elimination) at Workplace Act, 2015 do not have specific provisions for informal sectors whereas other mechanisms to address violence against women, in general, remain ineffective in implementation. In addition, socio-cultural norms and structures limit women’s access to justice-seeking mechanisms. Despite pervasive instances of violence and harassment experienced by women in informal sectors, there is a dearth of comprehensive documentation and evidence building on this issue. In this light, the paper examines the existing status, nature and experiences of violence faced by women working in diverse areas of the informal economy. It also critically analyses key gaps in existing legal provisions/policies and barriers to implementation from the perspective of informal sector workers.
The paper is based on the findings from 36 case studies of women working in 15 different informal sectors, Gendered Political Economy Analysis (GPEA) with community and policy stakeholders and desk review of relevant policies/legal provisions. The paper shows that women’s gendered social roles, lack of collectivisation and representation in decision-making bodies puts them in a weaker bargaining position to voice against instances of violence or to make it a priority agenda of advocacy for policymakers. Similarly, the findings of the paper indicate that lack of adequate and effective polices/provisions on safe working conditions and their implementation leads to invisiblisation of violence at the workplace, enabling powerholders to continue cycles of violence and exploitation without accountability. The paper contributes towards mainstreaming discourses around dignified work for women in the informal economy. It also serves as an evidence-based advocacy document to influence governments to ratify ILO Violence and Harassment Convention No. 190, which is a binding international treaty that protects all workers in formal and informal economy.