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

By Jane L. Parpart; Shirin M. Rai et al. | Go to book overview

13
Informal politics, grassroots NGOS and women's empowerment in the slums of Bombay 1
Vandana Desai

Introduction

The reach of global capital shows no sign of diminishing its impact on developing nations and their people. Indeed, in the past fifty years, the developing world has undergone major structural changes (Potter and Lloyd-Evans 1998) with drastic implications for social, economic and political life. There is a crucial gender dimension to such economic restructuring (Elson and Pearson 1981; Joekes 1985; Wilson 1993). Women are increasingly drawn into employment in globalized industries. The consequences of this change continue to be debated. Some scholars reject the notion that employment can empower women (Joekes 1985; Lawson 1995; Wilson 1993). Nevertheless, it is important to point out that women, even poor women, are sometimes developing strategies to cope with new situations. Indeed, even a small income can become the basis for challenges to existing social roles, norms, values, traditions and boundaries.

Poor urban women have their own daily, diverse and subtle strategies to bring about change and enhance their lives within the context of the household and its restrictions. Scheyvens (1998) defines 'subtle strategies' as attempts to achieve profound, positive changes in women's lives without stirring up wide-scale dissent. Subtle strategies can be a form of informal politics, which represent women's citizenship in action, and are important for the empowerment of communities and individuals. They build on social capital 2 – the 'networks of norms and trust which govern societal interactions'. Empowerment and social capital are inherently linked through the informal networks forged between households at the community level. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have a crucial role to play in encouraging the transferability of such informal networks into organized community groups that will be key players in civil society and municipal and national politics.

Women-focused NGOs have expanded dramatically since the 1975 declaration of the United Nations' International Decade for Women. Over time, many have also shifted from welfare-oriented strategies based on women's customary domestic roles to more transformative empowerment projects. International donor agencies have followed a similar pattern, becoming increasingly focused on women's empowerment. To that end, some donor agencies have provided

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

Table of contents

  • Routledge/Warwick Studies in Globalisation ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Contributors xi
  • Acknowledgements xv
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Part I - Theory and Praxis 1
  • 1 - An Introduction 3
  • References 18
  • 2 - Education as a Means for Empowering Women 22
  • References 36
  • Part II - Women's Empowerment in a Global World 39
  • 3 - The Janus Effect 41
  • Notes 57
  • References 58
  • 4 - Toward Empowerment 61
  • Notes 75
  • References 76
  • 5 - Rethinking Technoagency 79
  • References 92
  • Part III - The Nation State, Politics and Women's Empowerment 95
  • 6 - Beyond Official Empowerment Discourse 97
  • References 110
  • 7 - Women's Mobilization in Chile and Turkey 112
  • Notes 127
  • References 129
  • 8 - The Quota Debate in India 133
  • References 145
  • 9 - The Case for Female Peasants in India 147
  • Notes 158
  • References 159
  • Part IV - The Local/Global, Development and Women's Empowerment 163
  • 10 - The Pra Approach 165
  • References 178
  • 11 - Examples from Kenya and Cameroon 182
  • References 197
  • 12 - Depoliticizing Empowerment in a Tanzanian Family Planning Project 199
  • Notes 213
  • References 215
  • 13 - Informal Politics, Grassroots Ngos and Women's Empowerment in the Slums of Bombay 218
  • Notes 232
  • References 234
  • Part V - Conclusion 237
  • 14 - Concluding Thoughts on (em)powerment, Gender and Development 239
  • Index 245
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