At the present rate of development, according to many scientists, the world will reach critical mass sometime within the next fifty years. With these doomsday predictions, many development models have come under scrutiny for their shortsightedness and lack of environmental concerns.
Over the past thirty years, those affected most, or more appropriately, those who are being forced to bear the brunt of the negative impacts of these development programs the most, have increasingly become themes that have not only brought to light serious defects in Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPS) and other development programs, but have also critically assessed the very social fabrics that have encouraged the systematic deterioration of roles and status for a majority of people in the developing countries.
Unfortunately, the majority is comprised of mainly women and children, with women especially affected by the development programs’ shortsightedness. With this in mind, the theme of Women in Development (WID) and women, environment and development (WED), among other related themes and programs, have been the main actors in voicing the concerns of those in the Third World and making known the major flaws in the Western hegemonic model of development.
However, in the 1980s, because of the variety of problems, situations, complexities, and a deeper insight of the root of exclusion, a transition from WID to Gender and Development (GAD) was enacted by the aid agencies. Rosi Braidotti outlines this in her chapter, “Women, the Environment and Sustainable Development: Emergence of the Theme and Different Views” in her coauthored book, Women, the Environment and Sustainable Development. Born in the early 1970s, WID addressed women’s roles in the development process and the need to recognize and account for their various contributions (Braidotti 80).
However, with the need to eradicate poverty, governments and development agencies reformulated the demand for equity as a means to harness the valuable resource of women in economic development (80). With the increasing poverty of Third World populations, a crisis that was termed the “feminization of poverty,” women disproportionately suffered from cuts in government spending that development programs targeted as nonessential to rapid economic development, such as health care and social services (80).
Additionally, development efficiency and effectiveness was seen through increased contributions (read as workload) of women? he “Efficiency Approach,”a term coined by Caroline Moser to describe the participation and equity of this approach to women’s development (81). Criticizing the WID efficiency approach, aid agencies during the late 1980s initiated a move to GAD, which represented a transition to “not only integrate women into development, but look for the potential in development initiatives to transform unequal social/gender relations and to empower women” (82). This shift from WID’s preoccupation with women to GAD’s focus on gender was a stance that allowed for empowerment, something the WID approach essentially lacked.
With the new view of “women as agents of change rather than as passive recipients of development assistance,” or only as tools and resources for economic development, many embraced the idea that women could be empowered in a way that allowed for better integration into development programs that would aim for complete economic development equality (82). The adoption of GAD as a way of thinking for aid agencies was relatively simple considering the far more complex and mounting problem facing the agencies: How does one design a sustainable development program which could empower women as well as improve their economic well-being?
One thing is for certain, the Western gendered division of labor instituted in the South through colonization would have to be replaced by or reversed back to a more “complementary” arrangement (Peterson and Runyan 131). The more rigid, less equal division of labor has not completely undermined alternative notions of the work that men and women perform, but instead, has become a unitary, global, gendered division of labor, which is rooted in the patriarchal conceptions of the “natures” of men and women that are inextricably a part of the world capitalist system (131).
The gendered dichotomies of production/reproduction, public/private, paid/unpaid, and breadwinner/housewife ideologically confine the roles of men and women into a division of labor that has detrimentally affected countries in the South and have caused the basic failure of many SAPS and other development programs. Recognizing the Western model as inherently and structurally inappropriate for economic and sustainable development is a recommended start in designing a program for any country in the South.
Additionally, it has been found that not only do women experience a relative and absolute deterioration of role and status vis-? -vis men through the development process, but they also do not automatically benefit from that process (Braidotti 78). This was the outcome when men were drawn into the modernizing agricultural sectors while women remained in subsistence farming with no access to credits, training, and technology (78).
The designers of development programs most often ignored women’s major contribution of labor in agriculture and in other productive activities within the community and household (78). Thus, any design would have to recognize the valuable knowledge and role of women while eschewing the rapid unsustainable development models of the North. Perhaps, a case study would be helpful in outlining a program that would dually empower and improve, and be useful in highlighting its difficulties.
In Ghana, the dramatic environmental changes resulting from overcultivation, deforestation, and overgrazing, combined with the extreme changes in climate, will soon cause a severe shortage in resources (Davidson 80). The high cost of fossil fuels, the loss of forests, the damaged water resources, and rapid population increase have placed immense pressures on the women of Ghana, with the development of this country and its environmental degradation radically transforming the domestic and occupational roles of women in Ghana in detrimental ways (80).
For the women of Ghana, a sustainable development program that empowers and improves their economic well-being is very much needed and could save their country from economic and environmental ruin. An antipoverty approach with an emphasis on empowerment could be the best design of solving Ghana’s problems (Kardam 145-148). Empowerment is broadly defined as a women’s achievement in control over their lives by expanded choices, self-reliance, and internal strength (148).
Specific policy recommendations that would follow would have to deal with ways to resolve the conflict between women’s productive and reproductive roles, addressing the Ghani women’s double burden of having to work for income and provide for their families, and issues in need of resolution for the Ghani women, such as men’s share in the maintenance of family and women’s participation overall in the redefinition of gender relations and the meaning of development itself, would have to be analyzed (148).
The move toward empowerment would involve the five-step process of welfare, access, conscientization, participation, and finally, control (Kardam 149). This is where the antipoverty aspect is combined in order to assist the move toward “control” by focusing on the many low-income women of Ghana and aim at increasing their employment and income-generating options that are less dependent on natural resources, like the forests (Kardam 145). Many of the women generate what little income they can from the sale of raw material intensive activities such as smoked fish and charcoal (Davidson 73 & 80).
Until “welfare” and “access” have been addressed through providing those women lacking the most fundamental human needs with food, shelter, clothing, and medical care, increasing literacy and education of all Ghani women, and providing upgraded technology to reduce the hours of work and degradation of natural resources, sustainable development will remain infeasible because they will continue with their current practices, which are highly unsustainable. Once the “conscientization” level has been reached, the possibility of change and significant improvement can be realized.
With continual support of this proposed program, the Ghani women who gain consciousness of their position and potential hopefully will want to actively participate in the decisions that affect them, which could increase their participation in the program. The participation could be anywhere from organizing grassroots organizations to increase awareness of options for improved economic well-being, to providing education of sustainable techniques, to establishing community services to aid in raising all women to an acceptable level of empowerment, with “control” over their choices being the final goal.
Through the empowerment process, the Ghani women potentially will have changed the unsustainable economic development that had been instituted before the introduction of this new program. Difficulties with this program become apparent when one critically analyzes the various points and implementation. First of all, this program could be used by political leaders to achieve other political goals and could easily be manipulated by political actors for their own interests, undermining the impact and acceptance of this program (Kardam 150).
Also, even when rights are eventually granted by law, implementation can suffer because Ghana may not be able to receive compliance from all parts of their society, especially since this program will clash with traditional perceptions of gender roles (150-151). Additionally, finding alternatives to the current raw material intensive activities that are equally available and immediately applicable could prove difficult.
Furthermore, getting men involved in the program, a vital aspect in the program’s attempt to alter the current inequality, will be difficult as will getting women involved in a program that will challenge their traditional roles and temporarily cause hardships as they become involved in the program. Moreover, the difficulty of having to appropriately implement policies that try to reduce environmental damage, such as the introduction of more fuel efficient cooking methods, will require an intuitive and feasible approach to take different women’s needs into account if they are to succeed (Waylen 44).
Also, if the economy of Ghana is dependent on environmentally unsustainable practices, like deforestation, large-scale agribusiness, and polluting industries, finding ways to break that dependence in order to shift to more sustainable practices, or require the corporations to implement environmentally safe standards, could prove extremely difficult. Lastly, the program may not have significant, immediate results that would encourage adoption and participation.
Ultimately, a program that is designed and successful towards sustainable development and empowerment of women will depend on the women and men in Ghana, or more inclusively, in developing countries. Once the empowerment of women is recognized as central and pivotal to development, the first step toward change has been made, and women as agents of change can aid in the social, economic, and cultural development of their countries. Development programs need to from the beginning incorporate women’s issues into its agenda in order for a successful outcome.
Only when development programs include a holistic (gender, environment, economy, society, government, etc. ) approach to development, not just the quickest way to enter the world capitalist market, will developing countries have the sound foundation needed to operate in the global market and practice sustainable development. If not, the world will continue with the current trends of overpopulation, resource depletion, and impoverishment.