Pal, husband of Basanti Pal (of the privileged Thakuri caste), Chholabagar bridge users’ committee member, Darchula.

We broadly expected user committees with a higher percentage of women to have a higher degree of women’s engagement and influence. However, almost the opposite was the case. Amongst the bridges visited, there were two examples of all-women user committees, but in neither of them were the women highly empowered. Rather, we found that women-only committees can be used as a means for others to exert control “behind the scenes”. Of course, this depends on the awareness and knowledge of the women concerned, but it was striking that one of the user committees with the lowest number of women members reported the most inclusive decision-making. The reason behind this was the active support of the men involved, who were both family members of the women concerned, and the male members of the user committee.

Women’s unpaid care work

"We (women) carry the stones at the construction site, mix the cement and earn some money, so the people have started to realise that women can work on a par with men.