This article provides information about the role of women in development process !
Much of the formative intersection between the ideas of feminism and women in development took place during the context of the U.N. “Decade of Women” -1976-85. “Equality, Development and Peace were the slogan that was proposed at the International Women’s Year Conference in Mexico City in 1975.
Equality was seen as an issue that came from industrialised West, peace from the Eastern Bloc and development as a key issue that concerned developing world women. What exactly constituted key women’s issue was constantly being debated and it was eventually realised that women’s issue should not be kept as a separate section.
It is this continuous realisation of women’s integral role in development process that brought in concepts such as “Women in Development”. The Women in Development (WID) approach promotes women’s integration in development efforts by focusing on women, looking at how the process of development has made an impact on the position of women in society. The study of women in development focus upon development and the economics of development i.e., the distribution economic benefits rather than its growth singularly.
The key question in such contexts is essentially “who gets what”. Indicators of human development show that women have an unequal share in the processes of development and they are often endowed with negative development merits. When resources are stretched, then, it is women the most marginalised in the first place, who suffer first and most. Women have the smallest share of the resources pie of the world; when its pie shrinks women’s losses are greatest.
The World Bank’s early Women in Development programme tended to treat women as a special target group of beneficiaries in the various projects and programmes. However, “a major criticism of the Women in Development approach is that it treats women as beneficiaries. It starts from the premise that women have been excluded from development. But women’s time, energy, work and skills are involved in every aspect of the development process; it is the inequality of gender relations and the continuing subordination of women that ensure that women’s contribution is not matched by recognition and remuneration in social, political and economic terms”.
The problem with the women in development approach is that it targets women in order to make them a part of mainstream development while ignoring the fact that women are already an intrinsic part of the development process. Women are always there. The understanding of women’s ‘free labour’ is that there is no need to compensate it, and subsequently there is no cost in terms of resources allocated.
The ‘real’ picture, however, is that female domestic labour provides a critical and necessary support enabling the male workforce and society to function. Women’s role in society is a combination of productive and reproductive role. Women’s productive role includes all tasks that enhance the income and economy of the household and the community, e.g. crop and livestock production, handicrafts production, marketing and wage employment.
Reproductive activities are those carried out to reproduce and care for the household and community, including the activities involved in fuel and water collection, food preparation, child care, education, health care and home maintenance. These activities tend to be viewed as non-economic, generally carrying no monetary compensation and are usually out of the budgets of the national income accounts. Women’s role in society in reality is life-sustaining. According to Sen and Crown, “in every society…. women’s daily
invisible efforts to feed, clothe and nurture their families are the actions that sustain their communities”. This reality of social reproduction derives from a sexual division of labour that is tied to gender division and male dominance.
While sex is a physical distinction, gender is social and cultural. Moghadam finds that the division of labour between men and women is a matter of gender roles and not sex roles determined by culture rather than by sex and the key to understanding the division of labour patterns is in the culture rather than in human physiology or anatomy. Moreover, culture is not a constant but a variable with the extent of its impact depending on factors like the depth and scope of development, state policy, the class and social structure.
While a woman in development refers to the current situation of people, it tends to demarcate “women” as a separate practice area. The frame of “Women in Development” (WID), has been supplanted by that of “Gender and Development” (GAD), since the late 1980s. The latter broadens the scope of intervention to include systemic relations of inequality involving the relations between both men and women, together with a critical look at the entire development perspective, process and the underlying assumptions. The gender and development approach to policy framework includes modalities of reflecting ways in which men and women relations constrain or advance efforts to boost growth.
The gender empowerment approach as defined by the European Commission identifies “women’s participation indecision-making. It seeks to increase self-reliance and self-confidence so that they will become more active players in society.” Gender empowerment redresses the imbalance in the status of women through affirmative action to improve the quality of women’s lives.