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

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

8
Political representation, democratic institutions and women's empowerment
The quota debate in India 1
Shirin M. Rai

Introduction

This chapter examines whether the current debates about quotas for women in political institutions in India can form part of a wider debate on women's empowerment. I do this by exploring the reasons for these demands by women's groups in a country where quotas have had a problematic symbolic history of nearly forty years. The debate on quotas in India has reflected disquiet about women's engagement with state institutions, with the perceived elitism of 'the women's movement', and has challenged women's groups to address issues of difference among women based on caste and class. One of the important questions for women's groups has been whether this engagement with the state is appropriate at a time when the pressures of globalization and liberalization are increasing social inequalities and tensions within the country. Surely any debate on women's empowerment should focus on questions about improving women's life-chances rather than increasing their political representation in state institutions that are implicated, through policy-making, in the very process of globalization that is adversely affecting poor women in India?

The term empowerment has largely been ignored in mainstream Political Science. For example, it does not appear at all in the Oxford Dictionary of Politics (McLean 1996). On the other hand, empowerment has found great currency within feminist discourses. From early on, debates about the gendered nature of participation in local politics have been important within feminist politics (Phillips 1991). While some have taken issue with the costs of participation (Phillips 1991), the focus has been on the concept of participation rather than on empowerment. Empowerment as a concept has emerged out of debates on education and increasingly within the literature on social movements. 'The notion of empowerment was intended to help participation perform one main political function – to provide development with a new source of legitimation', writes Majid Rahnema in the Development Dictionary (1992: 122). Empowerment legitimates oppositional discourse as well as oppositional social movements, programmes, methodologies and policies – both macro and micro. The feminist literature on politics has re-emphasized empowerment as development. Bystydzienski, for example, defines empowerment as 'a process by which

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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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