Since the end of the Nepalese civil conflict in 2006, spaces for a more inclusive democracy have been established to provide an opportunity to address issues involving the social exclusion of marginalized women. The government has amended discriminatory laws and provisions related to gender inequality and exclusion. However, at local levels women’s political participation – and access to political processes remains severely limited.
Violence and discrimination perpetuated by patriarchal cultural traditions form the root of low participation of women in the governance processes. This discourages female education, restricts their legal rights and participation in decision‐making, and permits women little control over their lives. Women's participation in all levels of governance is therefore a key area of focus for women's empowerment in Nepal.
The Raising Her Voice theory of change recognises three broad spheres ‐ personal, political and social ‐ which influence women's opportunities to participate in governance, and which need to change in order to strengthen women's voice:
- The political spaces need to be more open, inclusive and representative of women. This includes public and customary laws, policies, structures and decision making processes.
- For a woman to create, access and take‐up opportunities for participation and influence, she needs personal capacity, self‐esteem and confidence. Sustainable changes in women's lives, voice and influence depend on changes in all three spheres but are rooted in work in the personal sphere.
- The social sphere supports and embeds changes in attitudes, relationships and behaviours. It includes norms promoted or upheld by cultural and religious institutions and the media, as well as the strength and capacity of the women’s movement and civil society to support women with a platform to raise their voices. The social sphere is 'the glue enabling greater changes in the two other spheres.’
- RHV projects recognise that in order to be effective, gender and governance projects must consider and address all three spheres at different levels ‐ local, national and regional/global ‐employing a range of diverse strategies and alliances depending on the context.