Priority Gender Equality

©UNESCO/Krishna Malla -
Females in an adult literacy class in Rupandehi district of Nepal learning in their mother tongue

In keeping with UNESCO’s overall priority of Gender Equality, the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu as established a gender focus in all its activities, particularly in the fields of education and communication and information. In addition, the Office has implemented gender specific activities, particularly for illiterate women and women journalists.

The situation of women in Nepal

A woman from Humla district of Nepal

The ten-year conflict has left its mark on Nepal's women who still struggle to enjoy their basic rights.


A tradition of violence against women, especially in remote areas, makes them more vulnerable, including to diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Conflict has also left many women alone, with sole responsibility to provide for their families. In addition, the women’s literacy rate (43.3 per cent) remains low compared to men (70.7 per cent).


However, women’s participation in public life is slowly improving, partly due to the Interim Constitution that ensures women’s rights and gender equality in principle. One of the improvements brought forward by the Interim Constitution is the 33 per cent representation of women in the Constituent Assembly. However, men still remain in control of resources and political decision making.




©UNESCO/Krishna Malla -
Girls from a literacy class in a Community Learning Centre in Nepal

A particular focus of UNESCO’s support in the area of education has been the development of basic quality education for all, focusing on girls.  In its support to establish linkages between formal and non-formal education through equivalency programmes, the gender issues has been strongly considered.


With a particular focus on poverty reduction and the inclusion of women in literacy programmes, UNESCO put emphasis on supporting national efforts to achieve the goal of literacy for all by focusing on improving life-long learning for women through non-formal means of education.  On the policy level, the main activities included the provision of gender sensitive policy advice, including the establishment of a non-formal education management information system (NFE-MIS), and capacity building for NFE officials to develop and implement evidence-based planning towards achieving literacy for all. On the operational level, a special focus was on mother tongue-based basic and post literacy programmes for girls and women.


In addition, UNESCO provided support for the capacity building of gender focal points in the Ministry of Education and within its constituent institutions to enhance their knowledge and understanding with respect to mainstreaming gender in education. Further support was provided through various research studies, including the status of women teachers, developing a set of indicators and tools to measure gender equality in education, girls in science and technology education and situational analysis of gender responsive budgeting in the education sector.



Communication and Information

© UNESCO\N. Sharma

UNESCO and the South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN) launched the regional project Women for Change: Building a Gendered Media in South Asia in 2015. The project covers nine South Asian countries, including Nepal. The project promotes equal rights for women working in the media and lobbies to improve the portrayal of women in media content. 

UNESCO and SWAN recognize the importance of gender empowerment as a key to sustainable economic growth, social development, environmental sustainability, and promotion of peace in South Asia. Women working in the media across South Asia must be encouraged to play a critical role in generating awareness for gender empowerment and the creation of inclusive societies. 

The media in Nepal have seen some progress over the past few years, but inequality persist when it comes to equal pay and being considered for top positions. The media need to be gender-sensitive, gender-responsive and gender-transformative. In order to strengthen these roles, UNESCO and SWAN agreed to:

  • Develop gender-sensitive media guidelines and standards.
  • Undertake baseline surveys of the media in the target countries.
  • Map and create a repository of existing resources on women in the media.

According to a 2015 survey by Sancharika Samuha in around 1000 media outlets, some 25 percent of journalists are women. The figure is progressive compared to the five years old data of the Federation of Nepali journalists which presented that only 10 percent women were working journalists. 

Meanwhile, the media coverage of women issues is still poor. In the content analysis of over 2400 news reports in between April to October 2016 by UNESCO Office in Kathmandu, it is revealed that news about women only represent a little more than 15 percent of both print and online news portals. 

Most of the news related to women are about violence, followed by politics and health issues. Likewise, the women-related news stories are mostly published on page 5 while only a little more than 10 percent front page news are about women. 

The work of the Office in this area also includes: 

  • Annual celebration of the “International Women’s Day”. One tool used to spread awareness is UNESCO’s “Women Make the News” initiative. 
  • Supporting the training of women journalists from the Terai region focused on personal security, conflict and gender-sensitive reporting. 
  • Capacity Building and Safety Training to Women Journalists in Nepal’s Eastern, Central and Mid-western regions. 
  • Supporting women’s active involvement in the dynamic community radio movement, by establishing community radios for and by women in the mountainous and remote Humla district.




©UNESCO/Music Musium of Nepal -
Women's role in cultural maintenance- women musical performers from Dalit communities

In the culture sector, UNESCO Office in Kathmandu continues to pay special attention for social and economic empowerment of women, and for promotion of gender equality, especially through capacity development at local and national level in the management and safeguarding of rich tangible and intangible heritage of the country. 


Within its core actions that include policy advice, advocacy and the implementation of normative and standard-setting actions, UNESCO will put particular emphasis to ensure and encourage women’s participation, especially in regard of involving communities in safeguarding and managing its diverse living heritage. This will range from community-based inventory making of intangible heritage to enhancing women’s empowerment through projects/activities for economic development opportunities linked to heritage tourism and craft industries and heritage awareness raising programmes targeted at young women and men.


In the past, UNESCO supported women’s group through training and capacity building programme on the production and promotion of local traditional crafts such as masks. Through its program “Music of the Gods: The Intangible Cultural Heritage of Nepal’s Musical Castes”, that paid tribute to musical performers from the Dalit communities, and that also involved women artists, conveyed messages featuring some key women’s role in cultural maintenance. UNESCO will continue to create awareness of gender dimension of the cultural heritage protection in Nepal.


Related Links


UNESCO Office in Kathmandu




Back to top