Feminisms in Development: Contradictions, Contestations and Challenges

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Andrea Cornwall, Elizabeth Harrison, Ann Whitehead
Zed Books, Feb 15, 2007 - Social Science - 253 pages
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The political project of reasserting feminist engagement with development has proceeded uneasily in recent years. This book examines how the arguments of feminist researchers have often become depoliticised by development institutions and offers richly contextualised accounts of the pitfalls and compromises of the politics of engagement. Speaking from within academic institutions, social movements, development bureaucracies and national and international NGOs, the contributors highlight on-going battles for interpretation and the unequal power relations within which these battles take place. They engage with the challenges of achieving solidarity in the context of increasingly polarised geo-political relations, and advance a diversity of critiques of simplified ideas about gender, and how these ideas come to be interpreted in institutional policies and practices.
  

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This book explores contested relationships between feminisms and development as political project, not to mention the challenges in reasserting feminist engagement in development. The authors of the chapters in the book also touch upon ‘empowerment’, which has been reduced from a complex process of self-realization, self-actualization and self-mobilization to demand change, to a simple act of transformation bestowed by a transfer of money and/or information (p.7). This book basically shares how ‘women empowerment’ in development context also in my opinion relates to access, if not the endowment of resources to empower women in the process.
Furthermore, the book also discusses social transformation by feminist engagement in development, which creates political spaces. Various forums and international network of researchers have also contributed to stimulating debates and engagement in dealing with gender inequalities. (p.2)
Interestingly the book also underlines that social transformation demands not only activism but also engagement in content and processes of international development policy, including 0.7% target of GDP on most states for their aid budget. Aside of the failure to meet the target, according to the authors, the spending on aid and loans has been rising for the last twenty-five years and been considered as major government revenue for many poor countries. (p.3)
The authors also mention background of gender mainstreaming concepts which was officially adopted by the UN in 1995 during the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing. Feminists have seen this concept as a way to ‘integrate women’ in development policy and practice, although one of the authors argues that the implementation of this concept has to deal with technocratic challenges which redress as well as suppresses differences amongst women. (p.3).
In my opinion, the book is helpful in providing various experiences of feminist engagement in development policy and practices in further promoting social transformation. Through the book, the authors seem to acknowledge positive contribution of international networks, collaboration of various stakeholders in addressing gender inequalities, including through international aid and international assistance which promote gender mainstreaming through their programming.
 

Contents

a view from
21
Dangerous equations? How femaleheaded households
35
Back to women? Translations resignifications
48
gender myths in the British
65
the African woman
79
reframing the debate
86
feminist studies in African
150
The NGOization of Arab womens movements
177
postconflict
191
Announcing a new dawn prematurely? Human
214
gender ennui and the changed
227
Notes on contributors
241
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

Andrea Cornwall is Fellow of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. Her work on gender includes ethnographic research and writing on gender identities and relationships, on men and masculinities, and on gender and participatory development. Ann Whitehead is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Sussex. Building on research on agrarian transformation and changes in rural social and gender relations in Northern Ghana, her work addresses changing gender relations under the impact of economic processes and development policy discourses on gender and economic change. Elizabeth Harrison is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Sussex. Her research has focused on the anthropology of development, with a particular interest in understandings of gender and development from different positions in the development process.Long Andrea Cornwall is Fellow of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. Her work on gender includes ethnographic research and writing on gender identities and relationships, on men and masculinities, and on gender and participatory development. She is co-editor of Dislocating Masculinity: Comparative Ethnographies (with Nancy Lindisfarne, Routledge, 1994), Realizing Rights: Transforming Sexual and Reproductive Wellbeing (with Alice Welbourn, Zed Books, 2002) and editor of Readings in Gender in Africa (James Currey/Indiana University Press, 2004). Ann Whitehead is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Sussex. A contributor to foundational debates on feminist engagement with development and on theorising gender, she has had a wide engagement with national and international feminist politics. She was co-founder of the first UK Masters course on Gender and Development at IDS and the University of Sussex in 1985. Building on research on agrarian transformation and changes in rural social and gender relations in Northern Ghana, her work addresses changing gender relations under the impact of economic processes and development policy discourses on gender and economic change. Elizabeth Harrison is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Sussex. She has undertaken research in Southern Africa, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Her research has focused on the anthropology of development, with a particular interest in understandings of gender and development from different positions in the development process. She has been co-director of the MA in Gender and Development at the University of Sussex over several years and is the co-author of Whose Development? An Ethnography of Aid (with Emma Crewe, Zed Books, 1998).

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