Scholarly Technical Education Publication Series (STEPS) Vol. 2

Hindering Factors of Female Participation in TVET in Nepal


    Ram Hari Lamichhane
    Member Secretary (CEO)
    Council for Technical Education & Vocational Training (CTEVT), Nepal
    Email: [email protected]


This paper highlights the status of women in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and the five major factors hindering access of women to TVET which include: educational attainment, involvement in household work, male dominance, lack of access to information and financing. Based on the literatures gathered, women’s contribution to the socio economic development of the country is of equal levels compared to the males but their participation in TVET is not encouraging. It is also found out that the participation of women is high in the rural public technical schools compared to the urban technical schools. There is a high women participation in the private technical schools, particularly in the health services sector. Meanwhile, the participation of women in vocational training is higher than in technical education. Women’s access to TVET facilities are hampered due to illiteracy, more involvement in household work and lack of financial capability.

The conventional perception towards women is a drawback in enhancing access of women in technical education and vocational training programs. Thus, measures to overcome these problems such as women-focused education programs in all levels must be pursued. The use of appropriate mediums and approaches to disseminate information about these programs, as well as the expansion of financial options must be explored.

Keywords: women participation, women-focused education, equal opportunities


Women and men make equal contributions to the Nepalese economic and social development, but women are not getting equal opportunities in education and other sectors. There are 51.6 percent females and 48.4 percent males in Nepal (CBS, 2012). In the labor force, their involvement in domestic work and agriculture is about 80% and the involvement of women in the public sector service and other development sectors is about 8 %.

Despite the existence of several programs targeted to improve the lives of women, their social status has not been that encouraging particularly in the field of education. In spite of several years of concerted efforts and different approaches of TVET adherents in improving the TVET systems, the participation of women could not be maximized because their access to TVET programs is almost impossible. This is supported by a research article of Subedi (2005) which stated that generally, women and other disadvantaged groups have had little opportunity in TVET. According to Lamichhane (2006), women’s participation in TVET programs was only 21 percent as compared to 79 percent of males. Also according to the report of the SEP (2012), women participation in a project-run vocational skills training averages at around 53 percent while in the other project, the total women staff is only at 30 percent.

Given these realities, this paper aims to highlight the disparity among the opportunities given to women as far as TVET is concerned. The subsequent discussion highlights the status and participation of Nepalese women in TVET and the five major causes that hinder access of women in TVET particularly: (1) lower education levels, (2) involvement in household work, (3) male dominance, (4) lack of access to information and (5) financing.

Status of Women in TVET

There is a remarkable difference between opportunities for men and women as far as TVET involvement are concerned as illustrated in Table 1 that shows the gender distribution of technical education (TE) graduates by location of technical training providers (TTPs). The public institutes are established both in rural and urban areas and private institutes are in urban areas only. There were 57 percent male and 43 percent female graduates in rural public schools. In urban schools, the percentage of female was higher in private schools than in public schools. The percentage of female graduates was higher in rural areas than in urban areas. There were 22 percent female in private and 12 percent in public schools.

Table 1: Gender Distribution of TE Graduates by Location of TTPs (in percentage)

Source: Lamichhane, R.H. (2006).

According to the study of Lamichhane (2006), public rural schools offered more women friendly trades such as health, agriculture and construction compared to urban schools, where mostly mechanical, electrical, and construction trades were operated. This contributed to the higher participation of female trainees in rural TTPs. Similarly, the respondents said that the percentage of the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) failure of females was high in rural areas, and because of that they resort to enrolling into TVET as an alternative education stream.

Similarly, private schools mostly operated health, agriculture and construction trades where female participation is expected to be high. Urban public technical schools offer trades such as: mechanical, electrical, auto-mechanic, sanitation etc, in which male participation is more encouraged, thereby explaining the low enrollment of females in the private TVET schools in the urban areas.

Table 2 shows gender distribution of vocational training (VT) graduates by location of TTPs. Female participation in vocational training in public school was high as in rural areas than in urban areas. There were 85 percent male and 15 percent female vocational training graduates in rural areas. In urban areas, there were 91 percent males and 9 percent females in both public and private technical schools. The female participation in Skills Development Training Centers (SDTCs) was more than in other schools. There were 54 percent male and 46 percent female graduates.

Table 2: Gender Distribution of VT Graduates by Location of TTPs (in percentage)

Source: Lamichhane, R.H. (2006).

Lamichhane (2006) further indicated that public and private schools conducted similar kinds of vocational training and technical education. Therefore, the justification of female participation in urban and rural areas was similar to technical education as mentioned above. Female participation in SDTCs was greater than in other schools because SDTCs run more women friendly trades e.g., beauty parlor, sewing and knitting etc., and provided free tuition with training allowance. Similarly, SDTCs have standard operational calendar for vocational training programs, which was lacking in private and public technical schools. People were aware of the training information of SDTCs and more females participated than in other schools. Private schools run vocational training programs only if they got support from donors.

Table 3 presents the status of female graduates in different trades by nature of training providers. The health, agriculture, and electrical and electronics trades had higher percentage of female graduates in technical education in both public and private institutes. In public institute, there were 50 percent, 25 percent and 17 percent of the total female graduates in technical education in health, agriculture and electrical and electronics, respectively. There were no female graduates in mechanical trades. Similarly, there was high percentage of females in agriculture trade in vocational training in both private and public institutes that was 50 percent and 90.5 percent, respectively. In SDTCs, more females (93%) were in beauty parlor and stitching training than in other profession. There was no female participation in construction and mechanical trades.

Table 3: Female Graduates in TVET by Trades and TTPs (in percentage)

Source: Lamichhane, R.H. (2006).

According to the study (Lamichhane, 2006), females participated in easier and softer skills than in hard and risky ones. Therefore, their participation was higher in health, beauty parlor, sewing and agriculture related training than in mechanical and construction. This finding was consistent with the findings of Nepal Human Development Report (2004, p. 52) and Sharma and Dhungel (2002). The above research reports emphasizes that women were confined to socially accepted and culturally prescribed occupations, and they had to perform household work, reproductive functions and unpaid agricultural activities as three major tasks.

Causes of Hindering Female Participation

The low education level of women is one of the major causes hindering their access to TVET programs. The average literacy rate is about 56 percent in Nepal. Out of that, female literacy is just 43 percent. As far as literacy rate is concerned, about 69 percent of the economically active population of Nepal is illiterate (CBS, 2001). This can pose some risks and problems since most of the offered TVET programs require at least the completion of primary level education or above. The training achievements do not only rely on the candidate's interest, because the skill-training programs are targeted to persons with academic degrees (SLC level education). People who lack skills or relevant qualifications, therefore, do not meet the basic requirements in entering TVET. Technical and vocational training requires basic levels of literacy and numeracy and an understanding of basic scientific concepts. Without proper training and comprehension, outputs will not be satisfactory.

Educated trainees often benefited more from training programs than their less educated peers. Therefore, basic education should be a pre-requisite to obtain entry into technical training programs (DFID, 1993). According to the journal (African Economic Outlook, 2010), “Gender inequalities in technical education and vocational training (TVET) reflect the lower enrollment rates of women in secondary education generally. Countries where women account for fewer than 15 per cent of TVET enrollment include Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Namibia, Niger and Uganda. For this group of countries, the share of TVET enrollment in overall secondary enrolment is less than 5 per cent, and the proportion of girls is low not only in technical and vocational education but throughout the entire education system.”

The second important cause hindering access of women in TVET program is their high involvement in daily household work. In Nepal, especially in the rural areas, women have to perform daily household work in addition to farm work and child care. Some of the household chores performed by women include: (1) preparations for cooking, (2) carrying water and fuel, (3) cooking, (4) cleaning and (5) washing clothes. Being a daughter in the family, a young girl also has to perform such activities. In urban areas, women have to do those activities in addition to their other jobs which added to the physical and mental strain. In addition, the TVET Journal (Sharma, 2005) indicated that women were forced to spend most of their working hours in carrying water and fuel, which made their working days longer. One of the key factors that limits access was the time spent by rural poor in development activities to meet their everyday needs (ILO, 1998). Therefore, despite their willingness to participate in TVET and other education programs, women are being hindered by day to day household activities.

The third important cause hindering access of women in TVET program is male dominance. In the Nepalese society, most of the people feel that TVET programs are for men and not for women. This stereotype was further exacerbated by the nature of the programs such as carpentry, plumbing and sanitation, welding, furniture maker, scaffolding, shuttering carpentry, steel fixture, mechanical, auto mechanic, electrical, and commercial cooking, in which physical strength and endurance is required. There are only a few trade which are oriented for women such as healthcare servicing, caregiving, housekeeping and some agriculture related programs. Because of the programs’ nature women hesitate to participate. One of the major findings of the study regarding the reasons for low female participation in technical education was heavy physical work demand and the physical structure of the female (Sharma, 2000). Similarly, other international studies have also recognized this problem. According to (Zuga, 1999), “Even though women today have an increased opportunity to enroll in technology education programs, the vast majority still chose not to”, signaling that there are some training practices that are not suited to the needs of women trainees.

Women perceive technology education as a male domain in which they do not belong and feel even more so after having taken a technology education course. The question of whether technology educators can address this lack of participation without first understanding the differences between men’s and women’s choice of studies is investigated using feminist analysis.” (Zuga, 1999 p.1)

The fourth important cause hindering access of women in TVET programs is lack of access to information. Information related to TVET programs are published mostly in national newspapers and radios, which are deemed to be inaccessible to women and are not readily understood by illiterate women. This exposes an apparent lack of several alternative sources of information in the rural areas that will cater for the illiterate sectors of the society, particularly women since most of the relevant information serves only the bigger urban areas and district headquarters.

A study on access of TVET (Lamichhane, 2006), identified the lack of information as a major cause of lesser female participation in TVET. Similarly, a field verification and monitoring reports of different TVET projects (SEP, 2012, & Lamichhane, 2013) highlighted that the lack of information about training and scholarship to people living in the remote areas of the country is the major cause of low female and disadvantaged group participation in training programs.

Another factor hindering access of women in TVET programs is financing. TVET programs are quite costly so, underprivileged people would have concerns in financing for it. For example, the total cost of Staff Nurse Course is about $7000 while 3-month vocational skills training cost is about $300 which is quite a huge amount for poor women. Considering the geographical distance of training institutions TVET cost becomes more expensive. In addition to this, the traditional concept towards women also led the parents to believe that there is no need to invest much on their daughter’s education. Furthermore any kind of financing institutions are not available in the country to provide loan to TVET students and even if there is, they provide on collateral basis only. In Nepal, ownership of land and buildings belongs mostly to men, in this case women would not be able to present any collateral in applying for loan. It is interesting to note, however, that some TVET programs have been running without tuition fees especially for women and disadvantaged groups. But still, poor women cannot participate due to high cost of living and transportation. This issue is supported in the study conducted by the British Council (The Economist, 2013) which mentioned the availability of funds in training and education as one of the key challenges in TVET in South Asia.

Initiatives Taken to Increase Female Participation

Given the scenario above, Nepal has taken various initiatives to increase female participation in TVET. The following are the major initiatives undertaken:

  1. Policy intervention: Since 2000 AD, all periodic economic plans formulated by the Nepalese government focused on the access of female and disadvantaged group in TVET. Similarly, TVET Policy 2007 and 2012 has mentioned access and equity of female as a key policy intervention.
  2. Women Friendly Environment: The Government of Nepal and CTEVT have proposed and implemented a program to provide access to women (at least 33 %) through the creation of acts, laws, bylaws and guidelines that ensures the inclusivity and participation of women in TVET programs. In a landmark step, CTEVT has circulated an order to all technical schools to construct female toilets to facilitate the sanitary needs of female TVET students. Similarly, capacity building efforts in developing and enhancing TVET knowledge and skills of more female teachers/instructors are provided and are given priority giving due importance to the role of female instructors who are responsible for providing training to female students.
  3. Program and Project Intervention: The Nepalese government, through CTEVT, has implemented different projects targeting to enhance female participation in vocational skills training. One of these projects is the Skills for Employment Project (SEP), which targeted a total of 62,000 graduates and at least 50% of them are female. At the end of the project, 53 percent of the female graduates received vocational training and about 60% of them were employed (SEP, 2012). Similarly, the program entitled “Enhanced Vocational Education and Training (EVENT)” project has been running since 2011. This program targeted 45,000 graduates, with at least 30% of them are female. Another project, “Skills for Development Project (SDP)” has started from 2013 targeting 46,000 graduates (40% female). In supporting inclusivity to other disadvantaged sectors of the society, the Nepalese government has initiated direct program intervention to bring Muslim and dalit* girls into TVET by providing full scholarship opportunities since 2010. Now in its third year, this project benefits approximately 100 girls per year.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Despite several efforts and focused programs, participation of women in TVET is still negligible compared to the size of women population. There are notable improvements though, in some women friendly vocational training, health and agriculture related technical education. Women’s access in TVET could bring remarkable contributions to the development of the country, but existing factors continued to be barriers in their involvement in TVET programs. Therefore, a more focused and deeper insight on this issue as well as meaningful measures must be undertaken to encourage women’s access in TVET.

There are several measures to overcome such causes of women’s lack of access in TVET programs. First of all, there should be women-focused education programs to increase their access in all kinds of education. Second, TVET program should be implemented with flexible time schedule to ensure their participation while attending to household work. Awareness programs must be carried out to provide information on and promote the importance of education to females. Third, TVET programs should be designed and developed considering the demands and needs of the women, which will resolve issues concerning male-dominated TVET. Fourth, TVET programs should be affordable for women to be provided with opportunity to avail of TVET. Finally, TVET programs should be implemented on a mobile basis which also means opening more TVET institutions in many parts of the country not only in capital and major cities. Based on the aforementioned suggestions, the following framework of actions has been recommended.

Table 4: Framework of Actions


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*Dalit - is a designation for a group of people traditionally regarded as untouchable