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Presentation on theme: "FRAMING WOMEN IN DEVELOPMENT Historical Perspectives."— Presentation transcript:

1 FRAMING WOMEN IN DEVELOPMENT Historical Perspectives

2 OF RIGHTS AND RESCUE ‘Development’ as a 20 th century project framed by the European imperial conquest The “3 Cs” – Christianity, Civilization and Commerce created new opportunities and constraints for women Early colonial intervention made women objects of colonial concern and rescue, but left them out of politics and economic development: transposition of European gender norms Colonial (male) officials’ preoccupation with sexuality: child marriage, FGM, ‘black peril’, women in towns… Efforts focused on producing proper women and model citizens – education of women to improve hygiene and women’s domestic capabilities, community development

3 ‘DEVELOPMENT’ = WITHOUT WOMEN 1929 Colonial Development Act about economic development of the colonies, and aid to ‘countries that have not yet achieved responsible government Colonial governance between the World Wars focused on developing indirect rule – completely disregarding women’s roles in governance Colonial agricultural policies about developing cash crops for export and extension for male farmers - eclipsing women’s role in agricultural production Colonial female education about hygiene, domestic science, transposing European notions of women’s place in the home Colonial community development used as a way to ‘rehabilitate’ rebellious women and put them to good works

4 W(OMEN) I(N) D(EVELOPMENT) - WID Integrating women into development – enabling them to gain access to the benefits of development Critique was focused on women’s productive roles being ignored, and failures of development to ‘trickle down’ to women Focus on women’s education and skills training that would make them more productive and improve their access to the market

5 THE EMERGENCE OF ‘GENDER’ GAD as a feminist project: emerging directly out of second wave feminism Women (and men) framed by the sex/gender distinction The mantra of ‘gender as the socially constructed relationship between women and men’ Feminist critique of the biases of welfare economics foundational to GAD Underpinned by a particular framing of women – as hard-done-by, neglected, virtuous, subordinated, situated in a very particular version of ‘gender relations’ The (unspoken) hegemony of the gender binary: ‘gender relations’ become a particular kind of relationship between women and men…

6 FROM ‘GENDER’ TO ‘WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT’ ‘gender equality’ had been the clarion call of the 1990s – spurred by being taken up and promoted in the wake of Beijing ‘women’s empowerment’, brought to Beijing by southern activists, had begun to be domesticated by the early 2000s By the mid-2000s, GEWE had gained some purchase as an acronym; by late 2000s, ‘gender equality’ was fast going out of fashion…

7 GENDER MYTHS AND FEMINIST FABLES Feminist researchers contributed to a large body of work in which women were made visible to development, and out of which the following myths surfaced: Women are less corrupt than men Women work harder than men Women are not only less violent but want peace more than men: women are the peace-makers Women are closer to nature and the earth Women care more for their children than do men Sex work is the last resort for women, who are pushed into it by desperate poverty Women will take care of their households if they get money, rather than spend it on their own pleasure

8 REPRESENTING WOMEN The victim Images of abjection: women and girls as the poorest of the poor, abused by men, denied opportunities, in need of empowerment – objects of rescue The heroine Images of women and girls as ‘agents of change’, able to ‘lift economies’, families, communities



11 THE VICTIM PARADIGM as victims, lacking power, women become objects of rescue and subjects of development intervention. This gives development agencies a sense of moral authority that they use to legitimate themselves as rescuers “bodily integrity” becomes a way to assert and protect women’s virtue – and an umbrella for a host of other agendas this precludes recognition of women’s sexual agency, of sexualities beyond GAD’s heteronormative assumptions of victimised heterosexual women, of pleasure…

12 THE EMPOWERED WOMAN Women are industrious, they are survivors, they juggle triple burdens, raise economies and sustain communities; Women framed as morally superior to men, a better object for investment that can generate returns: ‘educate a woman and you educate a nation’ Women as ‘agents of change’ are women as economic and political actors in the public sphere: sexuality & the private sphere falls out of the frame Women and girls as an ‘investment’- a magic bullet that can be used to tackle just about any problem Women appear in empowerment narratives unencumbered by ‘gender relations’

13 THE ‘NEW WOMAN CITIZEN’ “The neo-liberal rules for the new woman citizen... are quite clear: improve your household’s economic condition, participate in local community development (if you have time), help build and run local (apolitical) institutions like the self- help group; by then, you should have no political or physical energy left to challenge this paradigm.” Srilatha Batliwala and Deepa Dhanraj (2004:13) in “Gender myths that instrumentalise women: a view from the Indian front-line.”

14 MISSING MEN Men appear in two domains of GAD discourse: violence and HIV – they (and research/activism on masculinities) are absent from policy debates on economic empowerment and on gender & politics Men-in-general are represented as hazardous and useless: men are violent, men infect women with HIV, men drink away women’s money, men don’t look after their families – women and girls are represented as a better investment

15 EM-POWER-MENT EmPOWERment has become “em-ment” Neoliberal empowerment less about transforming gendered power relations than equipping women for the market and enlisting them as consumers as well as producers Power becomes something that can be given or bestowed, something men have in excess and that women are lacking All other forms and dimensions of power fall away, out of view: women become the deserving objects of development assistance, and men are a ‘waste of rations’

16 CONTINUITIES, CONTRADICTIONS AND SILENCES Echoes of colonial concerns with protecting women’s virtue – exemplified in anti-trafficking/prostitution narrative and the rescue industry. Women’s (active, positive) sexuality falls out of the frame Mirror image of colonial disregard of women’s role in economy and governance – very little programming or policy discourse now pays any attention to the fragility of employment prospects for men living in poverty and the absence of opportunities for them “Gender” seems to have completely disappeared….

17 REFRAMING WOMEN IN DEVELOPMENT: TOWARDS A NEW NARRATIVE Re-positioning POWER – reclaiming a more structural perspective, making visible the power effects of difference and reclaiming resistance Re-framing DEVELOPMENT – beyond planned intervention and an obsession with ‘policy’ Re-articulating GENDER – beyond limiting binaries and pervasive heteronormativity Re-imagining ASSISTANCE – from ‘helping’ to acts of solidarity and resistance


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