Migration – som vej til social forandring? En kvalitativ undersøgelse af nepalesiske kvinders migrationserfaringer

Katrine Dichmann Christophersen

Studenteropgave: Speciale


Studies of female migrants’ outward migration have shown to influence their social relations and are therefore worthy of further investigation. The aim of this thesis is to examine in what way the migration experience changes the female return migrants’ social relations, and how it effects the women’s own interpretation of gender practices in Nepal. In examining these questions it is necessary to take point of departure in a local perspective and to apply a qualitative method. Consequently the methodological approach applied in this thesis is based on social constructivism, and the assumption that subjective narratives and experiences lead to knowledge about the subject matter. The research, on which this thesis is based, relies on a field study in Nepal in 2012, where I conducted nineteen semi-structured interviews. To understand the context of women’s migration in Nepal, I conducted four expert interviews with a UN Program Officer, representatives from two local NGO’s and a researcher. Subsequently I interviewed fifteen female return migrants. These latter interviews represent the primary source of information for the analysis presented in this thesis. This analysis seeks to understand the changes in the women’s lives, in their social relations and in their understanding of gender practices upon their return. The theoretical framework for the analysis is based on two different approaches: Migration theory and Ernesto Laclau & Chantal Mouffe’s discourse theory. The study consists of three parts. In the first part the patriarchal structures in Nepal are deconstructed in order to understand the contextual making of gender roles. The second part investigates the female return migrants, their diversity as well as the women’s migration experiences. The third and principal part is the analysis, in which the following themes are studied: 1) Local communities and (extended) families, 2) the female return migrants and their children, and 3) marital relations, the women’s self-esteem and gender practices. Throughout the analysis existing literature on Asian female migrants will be discussed, contributing with additional perspectives to my own empirical data. The research presented in this thesis indicates that the majority of the return migrants (interviewed) experienced a degree of upward economic mobility as a result of their migration. At the same time, the research shows that the same migrants encountered downward social mobility as they experienced being stigmatised as migrants and because of their gender. This analysis suggest that this stigmatising is due to two factors: 1) The patriarchal society in Nepal which promotes gender practices in which a woman’s role is to be a housewife, and 2) a flourishing “trafficking discourse” (O´Neill 2007) in Nepal which stigmatises female migrants as ‘impure women’. The interviews conducted in the present research show that all the interviewed women were stigmatised regardless of their background, caste and migration experience. The findings of this thesis reveal changes in the women’s relations to their children. This makes them change the discourses of the mothering role, so that a good mother can be equal to an absent mother. The findings also reveal that the women’s social relations are shifting as a consequence of their ability to gain remittances and to support their family. The women with successful migration experiences discovered that they could work and take care of their families, which lead to empowerment, self-awareness, and for a few women financial independence. For the remaining women whose migration experience was less successful, their future strategy is to remarry or to migrate anew. The analysis presented in this thesis concludes that changes are prompted by the (interviewed) women’s migration experiences both in terms of the women’s social relations and gender practices. These changes do not, however, reform the women’s internal family patterns or gender related power relations in the short term. Due to the Nepalese patriarchal society continuing to dominate and thereby limit the potential for such changes.

UddannelserInternationale Udviklingsstudier, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato25 nov. 2013


  • gender
  • social relations
  • Migration theory
  • Ernesto Laclau & Chantal Mouffe’s discourse theory
  • Female return migration
  • Nepal