Rural Women at Work: Strategies for Development in South Asia

Rural Women at Work: Strategies for Development in South Asia

Rural Women at Work: Strategies for Development in South Asia

Rural Women at Work: Strategies for Development in South Asia


"Ruth Dixon's book is a courageous and controversial contribution to the literature on women in the development process of Thrid World countries. No matter how one might diagree with specific parts of her proposals or her views on development, one can only heartily applaud her efforts to move beyond mere polemic and rhetoric. Having accepted that integrating women more fully into development processes is both right and necessary, she has gone a step further and outlined practical ideas for accomplishing this end... This is a book which makes a strong case for instituting income-generating programmes for rural women of the Third World. It should be on the required reading list for all academic development specialists, as well as for the staff of national and international development agencies. The author does not pretend to have all the answers (her Appendix sets out a comprehensive list of research issues in the area of female employment) but her arguments are well reasoned and well grounded in empirical data. This book should go some way to changing the out-moded approach to development which views women as home-bound dependents on active male producers"-- Journal of Development Studies


This report evolved from an essay commissioned by Resources for the Future for a conference on the Socioeconomic Determinants of Fertility held in Washington, D.C., in February 1975. the conference papers appear in Population and Development: the Search for Selective Interventions, edited byRonald G. Ridker. the experience of writing that essay and an earlier report for the United Nations on the Status of Women and Family Planning impressed me with the inadequacies of our knowledge of how rural women live in most parts of the world. in particular, the experience increased my own bewilderment about the conditions under which the various proposals (including my own) for improving the status of rural women and reducing birthrates might really work.

To satisfy their curiosity as well as mine, Resources for the Future kindly provided funds for me to travel to Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and Nepal from January through April of 1976. There, I talked with dozens of women and men in international agencies, governments, foundation offices, population institutes, family-planning clinics, and rural community development programs. I also spent weeks tracking down promising projects in which village women were organized into producers' cooperatives that provided them with an independent source of income. This report is based on those observations as well as on a variety of published and unpublished materials relating to development, the status of women, and population processes.

Although Rural Women at Work has been written primarily for development planners and community organizers searching for ideas on how to upgrade rural women's economic activities, the research proposals should attract wider interest. During my information-gathering forays to foundations and agencies (indigenous and foreign) involved in development projects, those being interviewed often turned the tables to question me avidly about projects I had seen. I was uncomfortably cast into the role of instant expert and asked for suggestions that I was totally unprepared to make.

Now, more than a year later, most of the smaller pieces have settled into place, although the larger questions still loom unanswered. I hope that this report will offer some new information about what programs might be possible, and that it will stimulate others to explore more fully some of the theoretical and practical issues it raises.

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