For centuries, the heads of petty principalities within Nepal exercised local judicial, police, and other powers. Under the panchayat reforms introduced in 1962, the country was divided into 14 zones, which in turn were divided into 75 districts. The zones were directly administered by commissioners appointed by the central government, and the zonal panchayats were executive bodies elected from the 11-member panchayats at the district level, the members of which were in turn selected from village and town panchayats. Each of the 3,600 villages with populations of more than 2,000 and each of the 33 towns with populations over 10,000 also had an 11-member panchayat, as well as its own local assembly.
In April 1990, the partyless panchayat system was abolished as a result of a people's movement organized by the Nepali Congress Party and several leftist parties. However, the country remains divided into 14 zones (headed by appointed commissioners) and 75 districts (under the charge of district officers responsible for law and order, collecting revenues, and setting development priorities). The districts are further divided into smaller units— into municipalities and village development committees (VDC). At present, there are 3,913 VDCs and 58 municipalities in the country. A VDC consists of 9 wards and the municipalities consist from 9 to 35 wards. Municipalities and VDCs are directly elected.
In 1997, a royal decentralization ordinance was enacted that allowed for increased political participation by women. The ordinance called for the reservation of 20% of local government ward seats for women. Women currently hold approximately 32,000 local government seats in Nepal.