Essay Example on The status of Women in Development








The status of women in development The 20th century has been shadowed by disparities between and among nations the greatest of which is gender Women still constitute 70 of the world s poor occupy minor parliamentary and cabinet seats and are continuously discriminated against Their work is often devalued and unrecognized and they live with the constant threat of violence Women and girls are at a disadvantage in terms of education health income and politics United Nations 1995 Although the last decades have seen important progress on women s status in many fields there is currently no society where women enjoy the same opportunities as men United Nations 1995 Unequal gender relations and discrimination continue to be the norm across countries and regions in legal social and economic rights To achieve real development therefore it is important to create a new system in which women and girls can participate equally as agents of development The Gender and Development Theory Gender is a social and cultural construct reinforced by social activities that define and are defined by men and women Moore 1988 As opposed to sex which is determined physiologically gender is the outcome of cultural ideologies which then determine men and women s relative positions in society Razavi Miller 1995 It differs within and among cultures due to its dynamic social and cultural characteristics and is affected by cultural social and economic factors
 The concept of Gender and Development GAD emerged after the social construct of production and reproduction were identified as the basis of women s oppression shifting the focus to social relations of gender and questioning the validity of roles ascribed to women and men in different societies Rathgeber 1990 It puts forward that unequal power relations between men and women result in the restriction of women s access to and control of resources Young 1999 Inequality is not just a problem of women in developing countries In more developed countries women face a gendered labor market lower pay and job hierarchy levels and insufficient representation in politics religion or finance Desai Potter 2008 GAD theorists noted how economic and social change often favors men gives them more opportunities and shifts the development of the market economy to their benefit Young 1989 Whereas other theories confined women to their traditional role in the family the GAD concept perceives women not just as recipients of development efforts but as agents of change and thus puts emphasis on their empowerment Tasli 2007
The feminist movement sought to give women more decision making capability and integrate their experiences and perspectives into the mainstream of economic political and social life laws and institutions Young 1993 The Social Relations Theory Working on a feminist background the Social Relations Approach Kabeer 1994 analyses these prevailing gender inequalities in the distribution of resources and power that affect women s ability to be their own agents of development According to this theory 1 human wellbeing is the goal of development 2 social relations create inequalities that assign hierarchy in society and 3 institutions create reproduce and reinforce these inequalities Gender relations allow men greater capacity than women to mobilize cultural roles and material resources in pursuit of their own interests Razavi Miller 1995 The problems that this theory highlights are the structure and processes that permit women s disadvantaged position Thus putting an end to women s subordination requires not just the reallocation of resources but the reallocation of power
This power dimension of the Social Relations approach emphasizes the need for political strategies to realize women s empowerment and centers on women s NGOs and participatory planning Kabeer 1994 Women s Empowerment and Participation Empowerment however cannot be given it must be self generated Razavi Miller 1995 The most that a gender transformative policy can provide are enabling resources that would allow for women to take better control of their lives the gender relations they want to live within and the strategies and alliances for them to get there Kabeer 1994 The empowerment approach to policy planning acknowledges the importance for women to increase their power not in terms of status but in self reliance inner strength and the ability to be in control of material and non material resources Moser 1993 Similar to the Social Relations approach women empowerment pushes for the redistribution of power within and among societies

It also aims to raise women s consciousness to challenge their subordination and assist different types of organizations towards a greater awareness of feminist issues Women s participation in planning is also a form of empowerment in itself Moser 1993 According to the UNRISD 1979 where participation is identified as an end in itself the objective is not a fixed quantified development goal but a process the outcome of which is an increasingly meaningful participation in the development process Women s power then is drawn from the collective notion of empowerment Young 1994 They build solidarity when they realize the need to unite based on their shared goals strengths or struggles Ruddick 1989

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