Feminist Visions of Development: Gender Analysis and Policy

Feminist Visions of Development: Gender Analysis and Policy

Feminist Visions of Development: Gender Analysis and Policy

Feminist Visions of Development: Gender Analysis and Policy

Synopsis

The UN Conference of Women, held in Beijing in 1995, provided a high-profile forum for exploring current gender issues. This volume presents the most important papers from that conference. Key issues in gender studies and development today are explored in detail. from rural and urban poverty to population and family planning. Taken together, the papers help to illustrate how factors such as famine, sweat-shops, environmental degradation and religion influence the lives of women in different countries. Crucially, given that women's work tends to be underestimated because it is Often unquantifiable, the research methodology for analyzing and bringing attention to gender issues presented in this volume will help open the way for further research in this important area.

Excerpt

Cecile Jackson

The New Poverty Agenda is seen as incorporating gender within a new broader concept of poverty (Lipton and Maxwell, 1992) capable of measuring, evaluating and redressing gender bias along with poverty reduction policies, based on labour intensive growth, targeted social services and safety nets. Multilateral positions on gender and development (GAD) for their part also stress the poverty of women as a primary justification for development interventions designed to improve the position of women. However, it is argued here that the concept of poverty cannot serve as a proxy for the subordination of women, that antipoverty policies cannot be expected to necessarily improve the position of women and that there is no substitute for a gender analysis, which transcends class divisions and material definitions of deprivation. the instrumental interest in women as the means to achieve development objectives such as poverty reduction may ultimately undermine gad. Gender appears to have collapsed into a poverty trap; this essay raises a call for help, or at least a discussion about the relative benefits of captivity versus escape.

A retrospective on the past twenty years, since gender became a widespread development concern, would have to acknowledge that gender has been assimilated into development thinking in what appears to be a comprehensive way. Bilateral and multilateral development agencies have gender policies, priorities and strategies, gender units, gender specialists, gender reporting criteria and monitoring. If gender and development (GAD) has moved from the fringe to the mainstream of development, this should be cause for celebration rather than unease about what has been lost in translation. Gender has been assimilated into development thinking in a particular way (Jaquette, 1990), and the many strands of feminist thinking and varieties of gender analysis have not been equally absorbed by development agencies. Any evaluation of how far gender has become incorporated into development institutions needs to enquire not only about whether they have staff with gender responsibilities, how funds are allocated, whether policy documents exist; it also needs to examine the content of how development institutions understand gender issues. This chapter is about one characteristic of this assimilation process-the perception of gender issues in development as a variant of poverty problems. Twenty years ago Huntington

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