This study examines the relationship between male labour out-migration and the process of sociocultural transformation in the places of origin. Taking an example from Nepal, it shows that male labour out-migration has increased women’s participation in agriculture, more significantly so in those cases where the left-behind women are de-facto household heads than in cases where they live with in-laws. Similarly, in the case of de-facto female heads of households, women’s role in agricultural decision-making has increased. Women, who in the absence of their husbands live with their in-laws, continue to remain under patriarchal control, not by their husbands but by their father-in-law and elder brothers-in-law. Women who are de-facto heads of the households can exercise more autonomy in decision-making and have more control over their own mobility. Hence, the effects of male out-migration on women’s participation in agricultural work and decision-making are also contingent upon the domestic arrangement in which they find themselves.