International Feminist Journal of Politics


Female combatants’ struggles for gender equality and empowerment in Nepal


Luna K.C

It is now widely acknowledged that war has different effects on men and women. While women may be victimised in particular gendered ways , war may also open up possibilities for them to take up new roles and exercise more liberties . The literature provides ample evidence of how conflict might offer women the space to experience and negotiate change and develop their agency and resourcefulness. Even where women have been accorded a larger change of role in the war, this has often not translated into political inclusion in the peace process and women face many disappointments on return to ‘normality’. The scholarship on conflict/post-war settings provides enough evidence that, when peace time begins, women are intentionally and unintentionally left out of the post-conflict reconstruction process. The UN Security Council resolution 1325  is one of the ground-breaking triumphs of the global women’s movement particular to respond women’s questions in conflict and in the post-war context.

On 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council resolution 1325, experts and advocates came together on the women, peace and security agenda at “The Road to 2020: Accelerating Action on Women, Peace and Security” side event  to the 63rd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in 15 March 2019. As we all have learned, this resolution has been in place for 2 decades, yet women’s questions remain the same: equal and meaningful participation of women in peace processes, women representation in politics including reconciliation process and in the post-conflict reconstruction. Including the recent Global Study on the Implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 conducted in 2015 identified similar issues women encountered in conflict and post-conflict settings.


Of course, feminist scholars have already informed much about gendered politics of war, reintegration process, political economy of conflict, and the complexity of gender equality and social inclusion. As suggested by Judy El-Bushra, in the war-time gender relationship gets fluid, women perform men’s roles, however, the fundamental structure of the society does not change but rather gets strengthen. Women ex-combatants in Nepal also faced similar or even worse discrimination in the post-conflict process.

Now the question is: how can the women, peace and security community develop good policy recommendations to respond to what women might encounter tensions between the war time empowerment they experienced and the limitations deriving from the patriarchal structures upheld or resurfacing in the post-war era?

How can women ex-combatant’s voices from the grassroots be translated into policy-action for sustainable peace? 

In my recent IFJP article I closely look at women’s ex-combatants ‘experiences in the Maoist movement and their everyday struggles on gender quality and empowerment during and aftermath of the insurgency in Nepal. My study found women felt empowered through the Maoist gender ideology as they were exposed to non-traditional gender roles and enjoyed equal treatment regardless of identity, caste, gender, ethnicity, positions and class. However, the post-war period turned to be a disappointment, empowerment experienced by women ex-combatants remains ambivalent, patriarchal structures continued intact and, in some ways, even extended. The Maoist ideological commitment to gender equality is still far from being a practiced reality.

Read the full article here: Living Maoist gender ideology: experiences of women ex-combatants in Nepal.

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Luna K.C. completed her Ph.D. in International Development Studies from Wageningen University & Research, the Netherlands, in January 2019. The title of her thesis is: Conflict, Disaster and Changing Gender Roles: Women’s Everyday Experiences in Nepal. She has worked on gender, women, armed conflict, post-conflict, and disaster issues in Nepal for more than eight years with multiple organization. Luna’s research interests are feminist international relations, women and politics, women’s empowerment, intersectionality, gender and armed conflict, post-conflict and disaster issues.

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