Women, International Development, and Politics: The Bureaucratic Mire

By Kathleen Staudt | Go to book overview

5/Can an Aid Bureaucracy Empower Women?

Karin Himmelstrand

Sara Longwe suggests that the "main problem in Africa is to shift women's development above the welfare level in the face of resistance from male dominated government bureaucracies." She also maintains that "women's welfare is not likely to be much improved until the affected women themselves achieve control in such areas as control over factors of production and distribution of income and benefits. . . . This dimension is concerned with women's power to control their own lives and become independent and self-reliant--both individually and collectively--on equal terms with men. Equality in control is the ultimate objective of the process of empowerment." 1

How far from realizing this objective are the developing countries? Can a foreign donor country like Sweden facilitate the process? If so, is Sweden's contribution specific or unique, and are there constraints difficult to overcome? Looking ahead, can we envisage new alternatives beyond the present horizon of feasible implementation?


Objective with Impediments

Longwe suggests that the male-dominated bureaucracies in the developing countries are the main obstacles to the emancipation of African women. Undoubtedly, this is a significant and obvious factor to be reckoned with, but according to my experience it is only one symptom of a much more fundamental and basic dilemma. The constraints holding women back from taking their rightful place in society, on equal terms with men, are embedded in the overall socioeconomic fabric of these countries. The constraints

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