1. 1 Women in Development
The Women in Development (WID) approach gained popularity in the early 1970’s, catalysed by the work of Boserup (1970). Central to the WID movement was the efficiency approach which argued that women had productive value and should therefore be part of the development process to increase overall economic efficiency. This approach placed primary importance on integrating women into labour markets, simultaneously increasing overall productivity and women’s status through the invisible hand.
The WID movement illustrated a shift from a ‘welfare approach’ which identified women as wives and mothers, to an ‘efficiency approach’, identifying women as economic agents. (Miller and Razavi, 1995). Boserup (1970) challenged the theory behind the welfare approach by identifying women in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) as significant contributors to the agricultural sector and suggesting a positive link between agricultural participation and women’s status. Boserup’s identification of women as labourers challenged the conventional role of women as wives and mothers and justified the allocation of resources to women (Tinker, 1990). While previous gender development efforts focused on social welfare and reproductive matters, the WID approach gave primacy to women’s productive labour outside the householdAC1 .
Descending directly from WID, the World Bank and the United Nations used an approach to development, coined ‘Smart Economics’ (Chant, Sweetman, 2012). Gender equality was integrated into mainstream development goals by focusing on economic efficiency with a link being made between investing in women and economic growth. As the name suggests is was deemed ‘smart’ to invest in women. The approach did not recognise gender equality as an aim in its own right, however, the efficiency based argument provided a rationale for allocating resources to women. Women’s subordination was placed within an economic framework with women’s overall status and power being linked to their economic activity. Economic achievements were thought to lead to social progress via the invisible handAC2 . The assumption was that development efforts to integrate women into the labour market would increase economic growth and women’s status simultaneously. Thus, women’s empowerment was seen as equal to their economic power.
1. 2 Gender and Development
Criticisms of WID, namely its focus on women in isolation, led to the development of the Gender and Development (GAD) approach in the 1980’s, linking women’s subordination to gender and power relations. The shift to GAD brought power relations into gender inequality discourse, allowing for the concept of empowerment to be applied to women and advance as a development strategy. The approach was heavily influenced by Oakley (1972) who made a distinction between sex and gender; sex being the biological differences between men and women and gender, the “social classification into masculine and feminine” (Oakley, 1985, p.16). The replacement of the term sex with gender, showed an awareness that gender identities, roles and relations are an outcome of social processes and culture which can therefore be challenged instead of being biologically given (Reeves, 2000).
The GAD approach frames gender inequality not in economic terms but as relational issue. Gender relations are defined as the social relationships between men and women which explain how power is distributed between the sexes; they both create and reproduce differences in men’s and women’s position and determine the value placed on their respective responsibilities (March et al, 1999). Importance is placed on accounting for how gender relations and the distribution of power influence development opportunities and outcomes. Empowerment is then seen as a redistribution of power between the sexes.
One of the main contributions of GAD was the recognition that women’s experience of gender inequality differs depending on identifying factors such as class, age, race, faith etc. Instead of treating women as a homogeneous group, as was the case in the WID approach, it was recognized that gender relations and power imbalances differ depending on group membership. This differentiation was named ‘intersectionality’ by Crenshaw (1989) and discussed further in section 1.1.3. L3 A distinction is also made between improvements in women’s status and overall gender equality. Instead of taking a neo-classical approach of assuming that gender equality would be an outcome of economic development, GAD advocates saw gender equality as needing to be addressed by improving women’s position relative to men.
Identifying gender inequality as a relational issue, Moser (1989) puts forth that as men and women have different roles they also have different needs. Molyneux (1984) distinguished between practical and strategic needs. Practical gender needs are the immediate needs of women, considering their socially acceptedAC4 roles, for their survival within the existing power structure. These could include access to labour markets and adequate living conditions. Although they can be a direct result of women’s subordinate position in society they do not directly challenge gender inequalities (Reeves, 2000). Strategic gender needs relate to the inequalities in the ownership and control of resources, the gender division of labour and participation in decision-making. For strategic needs to be met, women’s status and position in society in relation to men has to be challenged. They require policies that challenge male’s dominant position and the imbalance of power, making the achievement of strategic needs more likely to be resisted (Reeves, 2000). Alongside potential resistance, interventions to address power imbalances may be harder to implement and are likely to take longer to achieve desired outcomes.
The WID approach can be seen as primarily focusing on practical needs while GAD incorporates the strategic needs of women, thus, the concept of power. From the GAD perspective, women’s subordination is linked to the socially constructed differences between men and women which result in power imbalances while WID identifies women’s lack of resources and access to income-earning activities as the key to their subordination. The main criticism of WID was that the emphasise placed on efficiency ignored power relations between men and women, social divisions and social relations which may constrain women’s economic opportunities (Goetz 1989; Moser, 1993). Under the WID perspective there is no direct mention of power or power relations, rather the idea of status is used. If status is taken to be synonymous to power (wrongly soAC5 ), empowerment is seen to be achieved successively once women enter the labour market. Access to formal paid work is undoubtedly important for gender equality; however, a simplistic relationship is assumed to exist between income earning activities, an increase in economic power and subsequently an increase in status.
Independent factors AC6 such as an individual’s position in the community alongside employment dependant factors such as the type of work undertaken, the proportional economic contribution to the household and the control of income, will affect status gained through formal employment. Empirical works have shown that when women enter paid work, income does not always remain under the control of women but is instead passed on to the male head of household (Boffa et al, 1996; Mayoux, 1995). The WID approach does not account for such exchanges of control while under the GAD approach this example would be explained by power imbalances.
One of GADs main contributions is the integration of gender and power relations into the analysis of women’s subordination and the recognition that the experience of gender inequality differs depending upon group membership. The following section will outline the concept of intersectionality and how this is applied to the study of gender inequality and empowerment. L7
AC1Hence a context-based approach to empowerment.
When you review this document again, do it in the light of your definition of empowerment (to show your critical perspective).
AC2Same here. How does context of empowerment may affect this.
L3Best to offer at least a summary definition fo the concept here.
AC4Which is context-based
AC5Why? Elaborate. Wrong in which normative framework? The CA? for individual agency?
AC6Yes, these are all social constraints to individual agency
L7But what of the above relates to how you are framing your research question? In what ways to you disagree or seek to add/refine these perspectives. I hear nothing of Coleman in this thus far.