International Women’s Day: Neelam’s story of empowerment, business ownership, and equal rights

Mar 3, 2023

In Nepal, the ability to own, buy, and sell land, among other fundamental rights, is not equal for women, particularly those in marginalised or low-caste communities.  

If a woman leaves her husband, divorces or is widowed, partition practices provide limited economic support to women and, because she has been married, she has forfeited her right to parental properties. Faced with economic dependence and severe social stigma, many women are forced to stay in abusive relationships or remain living in poverty.  

Speaking to the Global Press Journal in 2019, Kamala Upreti, general secretary of The Women’s Foundation Nepal, said that only 26 percent of Nepal’s land and homes were owned by women, with rigid sociocultural norms still working against those that do.  

Habitat Nepal is active in advocacy for land and home ownership equality, including for the previously landless members of marginialised communities. Recently, 11 families of the Mushahar community in Tengri Agnisair Krishna Savaran Rural Municipality-4, Saptari, Nepal (eastern low-lands region), received joint land ownership certificates. 


Women of the Mushahar community, Nepal, receiving their joint land ownership certificates.

Women of the Mushahar community receiving their joint land ownership certificates.


Education and training is crucial to empowering the women of Nepal and achieving equal opportunities. 

Neelam, 30, resides in Sambhunath, Nepal’s eastern lowlands. Neelam belongs to the Mushahar Tribe. Neelam has consistently battled for fundamental rights, including the capacity to own land, obtain jobs, send her children to school, and be treated with respect and dignity due to her social status as an uneducated lady from a marginalized social group. 

Eventually, when she met the Habitat Nepal and Sahara Nepal (Habitat’s NGO Partner) team, Neelam had the opportunity to obtain training in financial literacy and safe shelter. Neelam excitedly shares that this training gave her the skills and courage she needed to start her own business. 

Neelam currently owns a grocery store, is a microfinance member, earns between 600 and 700 NRS per day, and has a 20,000 NRS loan from Microfinance to help her grow her business. Neelam also teaches financial literacy to other women in the community.  

“I have become strong and empowered as a result of Habitat’s financial literacy and safe shelter training,” Neelam says. 


Neelam, an empowered female Financial Literacy participant in Nepal.

Neelam has become an empowered business owner and financial literacy teacher after receiving support from Habitat Nepal.