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

By Jane L. Parpart; Shirin M. Rai et al. | Go to book overview
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Development, demographic, feminist agendas dent resource base. Furthermore, these groups would have to believe that an integrated approach to family planning and gender empowerment was worth the investment of their limited time and money. Finally, should we expect resistance from local women who benefit from the Project but are vulnerable both within and outside of it?

Because the Integrated Project has been situated in a historical framework that has favoured integrating family planning with goals of women's empowerment and local-level community 'development', this Project could demonstrate the possibilities for implementing the Cairo ideals, particularly the 'fit' between feminist goals and other project activities. Instead, it illustrates the need to give feminist goals explicit priority by international donors. If 'success' at the national level is to be equated with increased contraceptive use by women, then the Cairo discourse becomes merely an auxiliary agenda. Therefore, until women's empowerment is seen as more than simply a means to decrease fertility levels, family planning projects may theoretically support a feminist agenda, but this will have little meaning in practice.


I would like to thank the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for support during writing this piece while a fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. The chapter has benefited from comments by Jane Parpart, Stefano Ponte and Kathy Staudt, but, as always, the author assumes responsibility for its shortcomings.

The Integrated Project is based on family planning experience in rural Japan, first implemented in Taiwan (1975) and then in Indonesia, Korea, the Philippines and Thailand (1976) (Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre 1995: 2).
While not denying important theoretical debates over types of feminisms (see, for example, Mohanty 1991; Spelman 1988; Mikell 1997), I base my use of the term on Staudt's synthesis (1998: 30).
See also Moser 1989; Karl 1995; Rowlands 1997; Stein 1997; Afshar 1998).
'Needs' here should be understood as a political category (see Fraser 1997) constructed discursively in ways that are similar to the construction of 'interests'. However, Molyneux (1985) points out that 'interests' are more intentional and arise out of agency while 'needs' are usually 'deemed to exist' categorically.
Radcliffe and Westwood (1993) suggest that 'practical' and 'strategic' are often aligned with notions of 'private' and 'public', and assumed to be universal and linear so women must progress from one to the other. Marchand (1995) argues that in practice they are a continuum. Staudt (1998) suggests these distinctions are more significant for analysis than development praxis.
The term 'feminist' is controversial in many Tanzanian arenas, as elsewhere, no doubt partly because it is associated with aspects of white, Western ethnocentrism as much as because of its challenge to many aspects of local cultures. However, aspects of the 'feminist' agenda, such as the importance of women's control over economic resources, are discussed more concretely.
Village and district names are pseudonyms.
The villages in my study are located in two different regions and have been involved in the Integrated Project for different lengths of time. I conducted semi-structured interviews with project administrators and participants, engaged in participant observation at meetings and referral clinics, and reviewed project documentation. My larger work included non-project family planning activities as well.
I analyse this policy and its meaning for Tanzanian development (Richey 1999).


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