Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

The Rural Woman's Constraints to Participation in Rural Organizations

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

The Rural Woman's Constraints to Participation in Rural Organizations

Article excerpt

Abstract

Although women play a central role in the rural economy through their contribution to the agriculture production process, their equitable participation in rural organizations (ROs) remains minimal. Furthermore their role is decision making and in leadership positions within these organizations remains negligible. This disproportionate mismatch in participation is not only detrimental for women but also has negative effects on the household and on the rural economy. Combining insights from various secondary sources, the paper introduces of a new conceptual metrics around the discourse of participation. Based on this conceptualization of the term "participation", the paper attempts to provide a critical analysis of the current development initiatives that address gender participation in rural organizations. It examines the multi-faceted impediments that rural woman in developing countries encounter and informs on the development initiatives that were catalysts to the rural woman's participation. The paper finds that even the best designed development projects that are not cognizant of the impediments that the rural woman encounter, remain ineffective in promoting the rural woman's empowerment and participation.

Key words: Rural woman, participation, rural organizations, constraints, catalysts

Introduction

This paper (3) examines the key dimensions relating to the participation of women in rural organizations (ROs). Section-I examines the conceptualization of the term 'participation' from a development perspective, and subsequently introduces of a new conceptual metrics around the discourse of participation which will be used throughout the paper to critically analyze the current development initiatives that address gender participation in rural organization. Section-II brings together the theoretical perspectives and current evidence on the interrelation of meaningful participation of women in ROs with social and economic benefits. Section-III provides insights to aspects of primary impediments to women's participation, and evaluates the enablers that facilitate their participation as evidenced by case studies, followed by the conclusion

For the purpose of this paper we will adhere to rural organizations (ROs) as defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 2011): 'Groups of farmers, forest users and fishermen voluntarily bounded around a common purpose to achieve shared objectives, namely: informal rural producer groups (self-help groups, mediation committees, networks, multi-stakeholder platforms, etc.), or formal rural organizations (cooperatives, unions and federations of producer organizations (POs), inter professional associations, chamber of agriculture).' (4)

Section-I

Although there is a vast literature that surmises on the impediments women face in participating in development projects, there are clear overlaps in the definition and conceptualization of the term participation. This paper takes on new conceptual metrics around the discourse of participation, and using the devised metrics, the paper examines the initiatives of development organizations in providing an enabling environment for women in rural organizations in prompting their participation.

This section formulates a definition of women's participation that will be used throughout this paper. Although participation is a key word in developmental literature, its definitions signifies manifold undertones. The term remains elusive and the concept remains expansive and can signify different interpretation in different contexts (Akerkar, 2001). The term 'Participation' can often be construed as an interpretation of the organizational culture defining it (Jennings, 2000). It is therefore not surprising that despite the extensive use of the term in the development parlance, there exists only a rudimentary understanding of the complexities of the multidimensional concept of participation among stakeholders. …

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