Women, International Development, and Politics: The Bureaucratic Mire

By Kathleen Staudt | Go to book overview

13/Getting to the Third World: Agencies as Gatekeepers

Katherine Jensen

One of the most formidable problems in addressing gender issues in development projects must be that of dealing with the successive gates in bureaucracies themselves. If we take as an assumption that the bureaucracies are populated mostly by men, the chief task is for women to have their issues heard, if not to infiltrate the organizations personally. However, usually that task requires "getting there." The first problem is that getting through the gates does not simply refer to the hierarchical structure of any one bureaucracy, but also to the multiplicity of bureaucracies involved in any Third World development project. The resulting maze turns Max Weber's view of the possibilities of bureaucratic rationality into a complexity prone to chaos or recalcitrance and vulnerable to personal idiosyncracies as well as organizational inertia.

What follows is a narrative of a personal journey into Third World gender redistributive research and the bureaucracies encountered along the way. It is not possible to analyze in full the organization and agenda of each, even in this case study focusing on Women in Development (WID) programs through U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) projects. Rather, I aim to enumerate them and to describe the typical gatekeepers in the path from a home university through development consortia and AID at home and abroad as well as implementing agencies in a host country. In addition, this path requires a recognized WID program at each junction, lest one be left climbing the fence in unofficial and probably unapproved ways. The point of this journey is to analyze the possibilities of improving the opportunities for women less advantaged than those of us who can afford to make getting to the Third World part of our work.

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