Development, demographic and feminist agendas
Depoliticizing empowerment in a Tanzanian family planning project
Lisa Ann Richey
In the post-Cairo and post-Beijing environment, 'women's reproductive health' has emerged as a crucial site for negotiation between development, demographic and feminist agendas. Because these strategies are often ambiguous and may even conflict, struggles over interpretation arise in implementation, with implications for women's empowerment. This chapter examines an NGO-run integrated family planning project in Tanzania as an entry point for illustrating how competing agendas, embedded within a web of relationships – international donors, states, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local recipients – manifest themselves in local implementation. The Integrated Project on Family Planning, Nutrition and Parasite Control, known as the Integrated Project, has been operating in Tanzania since 1984. It has tried to integrate family planning service provision with projects that address other community needs. 1 This 'empowerment project' has been a site of conflict between different priorities, where feminist goals have been constrained by demographic and development goals.
On the surface, one would expect that the Integrated Project would have contributed to the empowerment of Tanzanian women, thus meeting what I have labelled feminist goals. These goals include active participation by women in all stages of the Project – including defining its goals, objectives and scope, and an improvement of women's strategic power within the Project and its community activities. These expectations were based on the fact that the Project has operated in a changing international environment of population intervention that links family planning with a larger focus on women's empowerment. Socio-economic development issues and issues of gender inequality are receiving more attention than ever before in the international family planning community. Second, the Integrated Project is noted for its community-based approach. It is meant to be a grassroots-based project that responds to the needs of local communities. Moreover, the Project explicitly claims women's empowerment as one of its primary goals.
However, my research suggests that women's empowerment has not taken centre-place in practice. The Integrated Project illustrates how the goals of