Nepal’s Maoists fought a decade-long war for equality and inclusion. They have been in power off and on for the past 13 years after the conflict ended. But a report released last month shows that Nepal’s wealth gap is wider than ever.
The average income of the richest 10% of Nepalis is more than three times that of the poorest 40%. Worse, the richest 10% own 26 times the wealth of the poorest 10%. The wealthiest 7% of households own 31% of the agricultural land.
Mind the Gap, Editorial
Some are more equal than others, Anil Chitrakar
Removing poverty with jobs, David Seddon
Nepal’s great income divide, Ramesh Kumar
Even among the poor, women and excluded communities are even more deprived. Women own only 5% of the land in Nepal, and nearly half the Tarai Dalits do not own their own farms, and 80% of the country’s indigenous families own less than 0.4 hectares of land.
Poor women from minorities suffer triple discrimination: a poor Dalit woman is likely to receive less attention in government hospitals. Because of unpaid household work, women have lower socio-economic status, especially if they are from poorer marginalised communities. Of the poorest women, half cannot read or write. A rich Nepali man is 50 times more likely to be literate than a poor woman.
‘Gender inequality compounds the impact of economic inequality,’ states the Fighting Inequality in Nepal: the Road To Prosperity report released by HAMI, SAAPE and Oxfam, stating that remote, rural areas with ethnic minorities tend to be much poorer.
The root of persistent inequality in Nepal is the unequal distribution of land. And although remittances from overseas workers has reduced the malnourishment rate, a third of children are still stunted and one in every ten children shows signs of wasting due to lack of food.
Corruption, impunity and lack of accountability among the ruling elite perpetuates the vicious cycle keeping Nepalis poor. Experts say such a level of inequity is unsustainable in any country. If the wealth gap is not narrowed, not only will prosperity remain a distant dream, but Nepal could once again be mired in instability and conflict.