Creating Social Spaces for Transnational Feminist Advocacy: The Canadian International Development Agency, the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women and Philippine Women's NGOs

By Angeles, Leonora C. | The Canadian Geographer, Autumn 2003 | Go to article overview

Creating Social Spaces for Transnational Feminist Advocacy: The Canadian International Development Agency, the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women and Philippine Women's NGOs


Angeles, Leonora C., The Canadian Geographer


Introduction

Canada is apparently known within the international development community for its strong leadership and support in two areas: gender and the environment. This reputation has been established through the Canadian International Development Agency's (CIDA) advocacy work within the Development Assistance Committee of the Overseas Economic Co-operation for Development (DAC-OECD), the umbrella group of the most industrialised countries in the world (Rivington 2001). The CIDA is lauded within the international donor community for its women-in-development (WID) focus since the 1970s, and its policy guidelines to integrate gender concerns in all its programs and activities. The Philippines, on the other hand, is known for its vibrant social movements and government women's machinery, the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW), which collaborate on feminist advocacy and gender mainstreaming within government and civil society. It is also proud of the fact that four Filipino women chaired the Commission on the Status of Women within the United Nations (UN) system. (1) In this light, Canadian agencies and Philippine institutions would seem to be logical partners in supporting state feminism and gender mainstreaming by creating transnational and local spaces for women's rights and gender equality within civil society and government bureaucracy.

Gender mainstreaming is a more widely used concept than state feminism (2) within the CIDA, the Philippine government, and women's NGOs. As a broadly accepted approach to achieve gender equality, gender mainstreaming involves ensuring that gender perspectives and the goal of gender equality are central to all government and NGO activities, from legislation, policy development, research, advocacy, planning and resource allocation to project or program implementation and monitoring. In the Philippine context, gender mainstreaming involves both individual feminists and women's organisations engaging with the state and their use of state mechanisms and structures to promote feminist goals. Such engagements with the state shape collective (class and gender) identity formation, a process that is simultaneously 'in flux', 'in place' and 'rooted in people's specific ways of engaging, interpreting and reacting to lived social relations' (Chouinard 1996, 1485). Such identity formation and social relations stretching over transnational geographic space also constitute 'social space' (Massey 1984, 333), or a transnational social space that involves social learning, networking and other discursive practices across nation-state boundaries.

The partnerships between the CIDA, the NCRFW and Philippine women's NGOs in promoting state-based gender advocacy and mainstreaming, which began in 1987, are interesting for their discursive practices, or practices grounded in international discourses on gender and development (GAD), organisational capacity development and feminist engagement with the state. Bibingka (3) (rice-cake) strategy--the equivalent of sandwich strategy in English--is the local idiom used by the NCRFW and women's NGOs to refer to this critical collaboration between state and civil societies. My concern in this paper is not to rehearse the processes, strategies and mechanisms of gender mainstreaming and women's NGOs' relations with the NCRFW and the government, themes well explored in the literature (e.g., Del Rosario 1995, 1997; Valdeavilla 1995; Angeles 2000; Honculada 2000). Nor am I interested in echoing the already well-developed literature on the origins and critiques of participation, partnership, social capital, capacity-building and gender mainstreaming (e.g., Fine 1999, 2001; Angeles and Gurstein 2000; Cooke and Kothari 2001: Fine, Lapavitsas and Pincus 2001; Molyneux 2002). Rather, I want to examine how local women's NGOs have interpreted, negotiated and engaged with transnational discursive practices on 'development', 'social capital', 'capacity-building' and gender mainstreaming in ways that simultaneously 'empower' some groups of women and marginalise, fragment and disenfranchise other groups in the course of interactions between women's organisations, government agencies and international donor agencies. …

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