|Theoretical Perspectives on Gender and Development|
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Internationally, the womens movement has given birth to a number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and groups that continue to challenge many of the implied and stated assumptions of the traditional feminist movement. These NGOs and groups offer indigenous approaches to solving womens problems in their particular environments. The focus of many NGOs is action, developing programs and institutions to improve the daily lives of women in their communities.
As we have seen, the general belief among womens NGOs and other development institutions is that the concepts of modernization and development have often led the primary international agencies to effectively ignore the plight of women in the societies they target and, in many instances, make the women worse off. The failure of their programs has forced indigenous NGOs and other entities to develop their own solutions.
Initiatives to improve womens economic
situations demonstrate the need for indigenous solutions to womens
problems. Nancy Barry, President of Womens World Banking, remarked, What
has become very clear is that what women need is access, not subsidies.
They need opportunities, not paternalism (Howells 1993, p.
Research and action
Research should inform both theorizing and policy-making, to make these credible. The womens movement and the various national and international institutions involved in development have recognized the importance of research and data, as illustrated in the foreword to the United Nations document The Worlds Women 19701990:
For many years, womens advocates have challenged stereotypes depicting women as passive, dependent and inferior to men. But efforts to reinforce their challenges with hard evidence have been undercut by serious limitations in available statistics and analysis, including a male bias in the definition and collection of many statistics and indicators. & Putting this kind of numerical and analytical spotlight on the needs, the efforts and the contributions of women is one of the best ways to speed the process of moving from agenda to policy to practice to a world of peace, equality and sustained development.The creation of Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) and DAWNs stated objectives are evidence that NGOs emphasize research. Discussed below are some currently active womens NGOs. Research is a critical activity of each of them. The exercises in each section use the following abbreviations for development approaches: WID, women in development; WAD, women and development; and GAD, gender and development (see Chapter 3).United Nations (1991)
Womens World Banking
Womens World Banking (WWB) is a nonprofit financial institution created in 1979 to give poor female entrepreneurs access to financing, market information, and training. It grew out of the 1975 United Nations World Conference on Women, held in Mexico City, to address the need for global structures to fund women in microenterprises. WWB currently operates in more than 50 countries and has provided assistance to more than 1 million clients internationally. WWBs goal is to help poor women create wealth.
Four basic principles inform WWBs policy formulation and operations:
Women have the power to transform the Earth through their local institutions (Nancy Barry, cited in Howells 1993);
Women are dynamic economic agents, not passive beneficiaries of social services; and
Lateral learning, a training methodology through which women share their business knowledge with each other and thus learn from their peers, is important.
Womens World Banking program
Identify the extent to which WWBs program can be categorized as falling under the WID, WAD, or GAD framework.
Self-employed Womens Association
The Self-Employed Womens Association (SEWA) is a union of 40 000 of Indias poorest women. It is an example of a new development model relevant to low-income earners. The membership covers the range of self-employed women typically working in the informal sector and effectively marginalized by mainstream development strategies:
SEWA successfully integrates a complex myriad of lives, occupations and issues into one union. Under SEWA, women have forged a new model of what a trade union can be a Third world model, which defies conventional conceptions about who unions organize and what they do for their members. Most unions in the world organize workers in one kind of industry, who share one fixed workplace, and concern themselves with problems which revolve only around the work issues of their members. Some unions do take up issues related to women workers, or include a womens wing in the larger body of the union, but there are very few unions in the world which are devoted entirely to a female membership, as SEWA is. SEWA organizes women who work in their homes, in the streets of cities, in the fields and villages of rural India, with no fixed employer, carving their small niches in the economy, day by day, with only their wits to guide them against incredible odds of vulnerability, invisibility, and poverty.These then are the common denominators around which SEWA has gathered 30,000 members into its fold since its inception in 1972: they are women, they are self-employed, and they are poor. From these common bases, diverse individuality in trades, religious and ethnic backgrounds, and living environments are brought together. Where these women are individually extremely vulnerable to the forces of their day-to-day poverty which are compounded by financial exploitation, physical abuse, and general social harassment, they have found that collectively they are able to struggle against these forces and odds to effect change in their lives and work. SEWAs choice of the term self-employed to define this large sector of workers was consciously made to give positive status to people who are often described negatively as informal, unorganised, marginal, or peripheral.Rose (1992, pp. 1617)
Self-employed Womens Association
To what extent might the criticisms of the WAD perspective (discussed in Chapter 3) apply to SEWA?
The WAD approach has been criticized for failing to challenge male-dominated power structures and for failing, as a result, to transform existing social structures. SEWA appears to fall into this category. However, further examination of SEWAs approach to organizing women demonstrates that the institution recognizes the importance of confronting existing power structures:
There is not just one goal which is fought for. Women understand that change is a process of struggles. Their experience has equipped them for this they have struggled all their lives. &
Whether small or large in nature, the changes this convergence has generated continue to influence increasingly broader spheres. The day-to-day, grassroots changes centre around trying to improve womens working situations. The tactics vary with each individual trade, but usually begin with confronting the direct exploiter and presenting him with demands for change. For women engaged in piece-rate work, this means asking the contractor for higher wages. For vendors, it means confronting the police officers who beat the women and extract bribes from them on charges of encroachment. For women providing services, it means ensuring fair wages and steady work.
From the beginning of SEWAs work, however, it has been apparent that this direct confrontation could never accomplish all the long-term, structural and social changes needed to seriously change womens lives. Women who earn just enough each day to keep their families going are vulnerable. Missing one days work can mean a crisis in the family. &
Yet SEWA has found that the only way to bring change is to organise, organise, and organise some more. In numbers they have found voice and strength. When they stand in sufficient numbers, their voices do shake the balance and change things in their favour from the tactics of their neighbourhood trader or local landowner, up to the national and international policies. Once they have policy backing, the ground is firmer from which to organise more women and push their demands into broader spheres.Rose (1992, pp. 2223)
Track the development of organizations in your country whose activities coincide with the WID, WAD, and GAD approaches.
Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action
The Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) was launched in April 1985 as a vehicle to encourage a gender perspective in action research and establish a network of womens organizations in the Caribbean. Its primary objectives include developing the feminist movement in the Caribbean, developing an approach to analyzing relations between men and women, and promoting the integration of research and action. In the words of the organization,
We are a network of individual researchers and activists and womens organisations who define feminist politics as a matter of both consciousness and action. We are committed to understanding the relationship between the oppression in the society, and are working actively for change.Membership spans the Dutch-, English-, French-, and Spanish-speaking countries of the Caribbean and includes Caribbean women living outside the region. Decision-making occurs at four levels:CAFRA (1993)
Regional Committee (elected national representatives and members);
Continuation Committee (a subcommittee of the Regional Committee); and
The Secretariat (program and administrative staff headed by the Coordinator).
History of womens labour and struggle in the region;
Womens culture and expression as an instrument for building power;
Women and trade;
Social and economic conditions of women; and
Caribbean family structures (history, present trends, and future directions).
CAFRA and development theory
Examine CAFRAs mission and activities (above) and identify the theoretical framework(s), as discussed in Chapter 3, that inform these. In discussing this assignment, highlight the following:
The activities undertaken are not merely about helping women. This NGOs activities are grounded in a feminist consciousness.
The nature and focus of research
Implications for action
The types of research undertaken and the methodology used are functions of the context of research and the ideological orientation of the researcher. Two broad ideological perspectives can be used to illustrate this point: family- and woman-centred approaches. A family-centred approach, according to Buvinic (1984), sees motherhood as a womans most important role in society and thus the most effective role for her in economic development. Womens reproductive and home production roles are, therefore, the focus of research and, consequently, the target of interventions to assist women. In any study, the unit analyzed is the family, rather than the woman.
In contrast, a woman-centred, or feminist, approach recognizes womens productive and reproductive roles:
Its unit analysis is the woman and, while she can be conceptualized in the context of the family, she is seen in her economic roles in the household and the marketplace. The main arguments of the woman-centred approach are that inequality between women and men has increased with economic development and that interventions that are designed to achieve equality will lead to economic efficiency and growth.With this approach, two variants guide research and action:Tinker and Bramsen (1976) (cited in Buvinic 1984, p. 7)
The poverty variant focuses on womens roles as economic actors in low-income groups and links the issue of womens economic equality to poverty in the Third World. Research seeks to quantify the nature and extent of womens poverty. Action centres around eliminating this poverty through, for example, income-generating projects.
Recognizing the limitations of the traditional approaches has sometimes also come, and should come, from the various development institutions and national agencies charged with developing programs to address the subordination, marginalization, and oppression of women. Lycklama à Nijeholt (1992) posited that there have been some shifts in development thinking, as illustrated by the following policy documents and other related publications:
The World Banks World Development Report, 1990 (World Bank 1990);
The United Nations The Worlds Women 19701990: Trends and Statistics (United Nations 1991); and
The Netherlands Minister for Development Cooperations A World Difference: A New Framework For Development Cooperation in the 1990s (NMDC n.d.).
Read the documents listed above (one per small group of students) and answer the following questions:
Is power within gender relations a problem?
Which development approach is best exemplified by this document (welfare approach, equity approach, antipoverty approach, efficiency approach)?
The United Nations, through its various agencies, has also exhibited obvious shifts in its focus and its development thinking as it continues to address womens issues. Pietilä and Vickers (1990) documented these shifts and contributing factors:
1970s The key role of women was better recognized, particularly in relation to efforts to relieve or solve problems in the fields of population and food. In the United Nations earlier decades, women had been seen as objects: the organization made recommendations and enacted conventions for their protection and rights. In the 1970s, the formula was to integrate women into development. Women were characteristically seen as resources, and their contributions were sought to enhance the development process and make it more efficient. For this purpose, the United Nations sought to improve the status, nutrition, health, and education of women. It was often claimed that a failure to fully integrate women into development efforts would be a waste of human resources. Womens dignity and rights were not yet seen as a cause in themselves. The perennial nature of womens contribution to the well-being of their countrys population was still unrecognized.
1980s The United Nations Third Development Decade gave rise to a trend towards seeing women as equals, as agents and beneficiaries in all sectors and at all levels of the development process. & and the year 1985 became a turning point in the history of womens issues in the UN system (Pietila and Vickers 1990, p. viii).
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), established in 1972 and with headquarters in Nairobi, has been instrumental in putting the issue of women and the environment on the international agenda. Braidotti et al. (1994) identified a number of activities undertaken by UNEP:
UNEP established the Senior Womens Advisory Group on Sustainable Development; and
UNEP maintains a womens network, listing participants, location, and areas of special interest as they relate to conservation and management of the environment.
Read Caroline Mosers article, Women, Human Settlements, and Housing: A Conceptual Framework for Analysis and Policy-making (Moser 1987) in the book Women, Human Settlements, and Housing (Moser and Peake 1987). Then critically assess Linda Peakes case study, Government Housing Policy and Its Implications for Women in Guyana (Peake 1987), in the same book.
Women and work
In a group discussion session, focus on highlighting the pitfalls of projects based on the stereotypes about womens proper work, using Jasleen Dhamijas article, Women and Handicrafts: Myth and Reality as a base (Dhamija 1989).
Braidotti, R.; Charkiewicz, E.; Häusler, S.; Wieringa, S. 1994. Women, the environment and sustainable development: towards a theoretical synthesis. Zed Books, London, UK.
Buvinic, M. 1984. Projects for women in the Third World: explaining their misbehavior. International Center for Research on Women, Washington, DC, USA.
CAFRA (Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action). 1993. CAFRA News, 6(2).
Dhamija, J. 1989. Women and handicrafts: myth and reality. In Leonard, A., ed., Seeds: supporting womens work in the Third World. City University of New York, New York, NY, USA.
Howells, C. 1993. Womens World Banking: an interview with Nancy Barry. Columbia Journal of World Business, 23(3), 2132.
Lycklama à Nijeholt, G. 1992. Women and the meaning of development: approaches and consequences. Institute for Social Studies, The Hague, Netherlands. Sub-series on Womens History and Development, Working Paper No. 15.
Moser, C.O.N. 1987. Women, human settlements, and housing: a conceptual framework for analysis and policy-making. In Moser, C.O.N.; Peake, L., ed., Women, human settlements, and housing. Tavistock Publications, London, UK. pp. 1232.
NMDC (Netherlands Minister for Development Cooperation). n.d. A world of difference: a new framework for development cooperation in the 1990s. NMDC, The Hague, Netherlands.
Peake, L. 1987. Government housing policy and its implications for women in Guyana. In Moser, C.O.N.; Peake, L., ed., Women, human settlements, and housing. Tavistock Publications, London, UK. pp. 113138.
Pietilä, H.; Vickers, J. 1990. Making women matter: the role of the United Nations. Zed Books, London, UK.
Rose, K. 1992. Where women are leaders: the SEWA movement in India. Zed Books, London, UK.
Tinker, I.; Bramsen, M.B., ed. 1976. Women and world development. Praeger, New York, NY, USA.
UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). 1990. Human development report, 1990. Oxford University Press, New York, NY, USA.
United Nations. 1991. The worlds women 19701990: trends and statistics. United Nations, New York, NY, USA.
World Bank. 1990. World development
report, 1990. World Bank, Washington, DC, USA.
Birdsall, N.; and McGreevey, W.P. 1983. Women, poverty, and development. In Buvinic, M.; Lycette, A.; McGreevey, W.P., ed., Women and poverty in the Third World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, USA. pp. 313.
Fenton, T.; Heffron, M.J. 1987. Women in the Third World: a directory of resources. Orbis Books, New York, NY, USA.
Sen, G.; Grown, C. 1987. Development,
crises, and alternative visions: Third World womens perspectives. Monthly
Review Press, New York, NY, USA.