Imagine that you have a labour-intensive job. You spend your days cutting grass and weeds on the sides of steep hills and carry it home on your back. The bundle of grass is so big that you nearly disappear underneath it. You clean the buffalo sheds every day, hauling manure out and putting fresh straw in. You also clean the buffalo, keeping them in good condition so that they can produce the milk your family sells. Sometimes you even milk the buffalo; a task that is done twice each day.

But you don’t sell the milk. In fact, you never see the money that comes from the hard, and sometimes dangerous, work that you put in every day.

This is the reality for many women in Nepal. Women do the majority of the work involved in milk production. However, in most cases, it is the men of a household who sell the milk and pocket the money.

This is a serious issue that the Lalitpur District Milk Producers Cooperative Union (LDMPCU) has identified and begun to address. The board members, all living and participating in cooperatives scattered throughout the Lalitpur District of Nepal, made the decision to hire a Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) intern. My job is to create a women’s economic empowerment action plan as well as update GESI policies and strategies. I am now working to create and implement training programs in GESI awareness as well as leadership.

These trainings are taking place with the purpose of raising general awareness of the importance of women’s involvement in the dairy sector, but more importantly, raise awareness of the benefits of women having financial responsibility in a household. The World Bank has reported that when women have control over a larger portion of household income, more money is spent in ways to benefit children. In addition to this research, LDMPCU’s women’s only cooperative, The Nomunagaun Women’s Milk Producer Cooperative Ltd., established in 2011, has also seen the entire family’s socioeconomic status and livelihood  improve over the last 7 years due to women being involved in leadership roles.

These economic improvements lead to development and positive change in villages. Ultimately, LDMPCU wants to see more women becoming members of cooperatives, which also means that they will have access to further skills training, as well as having control over the money that they work so hard to earn.

Myself, Manisha (my translator) and members of the Nomunagaun Women’s Milk Producer Cooperative Ltd. on a field visit to the village Sankhu

While women may not have traditionally been involved in the financial aspects of a household in Nepal, the benefits outweigh the tradition. Women tend to be more attuned to the needs of their families and are more responsible when they handle cashflow. Additionally, most of the time, they are doing the majority of the work involved in milk production and should see the profits of their work

For more information about women and agriculture around the world, as well as information about the women’s only cooperative, please see the links below.