Rethinking Empowerment: Gender and Development in a Global/Local World

By Jane L. Parpart; Shirin M. Rai et al. | Go to book overview

4
Women's rights, CEDAW and international human rights debates
Toward empowerment?
Shaheen Sardar Ali

In this chapter I seek to analyse the potential of human rights law as an effective tool for women's empowerment. Starting from a brief overview of the international norm of non-discrimination and equality culminating in the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the chapter explores the difficulties arising from employing notions of formal equality to seek empowerment for women in a diverse world. I do so by examining the alternative 'Islamic' discourse of human rights and instruments presented from Muslim forums.

Modern theories of human rights and women's rights have historically developed in two separate theoretical strains (Eisler 1987). Leading philosophers, such as John Locke in the seventeenth century and Jean Jacques Rousseau in the eighteenth century, defined men as individuals innately possessed of certain 'natural rights' (Rousseau 1947). Women, on the other hand, were defined not as individuals, but as members of men's households and thus, along with their offspring, under male control (Eisler 1987).

The UN has been key in acknowledging that women's rights have been marginalized both institutionally and conceptually from national and international human rights movements. 1 Starting from the UN Charter, a wide array of human rights instruments promulgated by the UN and regional organizations included provisions for the protection of women's rights and non-discrimination on the basis of sex (see Brownlie 1992; Ghandhi 1995). These include the UN Charter (1945), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR 1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR 1966), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR 1966), the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (the Religious Declaration 1981), the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR 1950), the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR 1969) and the African Charter on Human and People's Rights (African Charter 1987). All these documents prohibit discrimination on grounds of sex (article 2, UDHR; article 2, ICCPR; article 2, ICESCR; Preamble, the Religious Declaration).

Statements of formal equality and non-discrimination in general human rights instruments were considered inadequate, however, and, since 1945, more

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Rethinking Empowerment: Gender and Development in a Global/Local World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Routledge/Warwick Studies in Globalisation ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Contributors xi
  • Acknowledgements xv
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Part I - Theory and Praxis 1
  • 1 - An Introduction 3
  • References 18
  • 2 - Education as a Means for Empowering Women 22
  • References 36
  • Part II - Women's Empowerment in a Global World 39
  • 3 - The Janus Effect 41
  • Notes 57
  • References 58
  • 4 - Toward Empowerment 61
  • Notes 75
  • References 76
  • 5 - Rethinking Technoagency 79
  • References 92
  • Part III - The Nation State, Politics and Women's Empowerment 95
  • 6 - Beyond Official Empowerment Discourse 97
  • References 110
  • 7 - Women's Mobilization in Chile and Turkey 112
  • Notes 127
  • References 129
  • 8 - The Quota Debate in India 133
  • References 145
  • 9 - The Case for Female Peasants in India 147
  • Notes 158
  • References 159
  • Part IV - The Local/Global, Development and Women's Empowerment 163
  • 10 - The Pra Approach 165
  • References 178
  • 11 - Examples from Kenya and Cameroon 182
  • References 197
  • 12 - Depoliticizing Empowerment in a Tanzanian Family Planning Project 199
  • Notes 213
  • References 215
  • 13 - Informal Politics, Grassroots Ngos and Women's Empowerment in the Slums of Bombay 218
  • Notes 232
  • References 234
  • Part V - Conclusion 237
  • 14 - Concluding Thoughts on (em)powerment, Gender and Development 239
  • Index 245
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