Gendering Development

As a corrective to the assumptions of the larger development community, various workers and scholars have explored ways of understanding and implementing more gender-sensitive development projects. This "women in development" perspective has generated a large literature (e.g., Feldstein & Jiggens, 1994; Poats, Schmink, & Spring, 1988) and has expanded the ways in which development can be understood. Ferguson (1994) addresses this issue by noting that economic development that involves women may be generally more focused on local knowledge and folk agricultural systems. Although lip service is now paid to women's role in economic development, practice remains depressingly static. Specialists will still assume that behavior or work mirrors that found in the west. Ferguson (1994) provides an explicit recent example in her description of bean agriculture in Malawi. Development specialists wished to discover why women farmers (beans were a women's crop) grew a seeming hodgepodge of bean varieties. In their discussions, primarily with local men, the specialists assumed that the crop mixes were designed to withstand various biological risks, such as drought (Ferguson, 1994, pp. 541-542). However, further research among women farmers showed that the women themselves grew quite specific variants of beans in their mixes, that the varieties fulfilled different purposes, and that the range of varieties grown also differed depending on the rank or social standing of the farmers themselves: higher-status women with larger landholdings grew a greater variety of beans, while poor women only grew a few, and those few had early maturity and quick cooking time so that they could be harvested, cooked, and eaten early (Ferguson, 1994, pp. 543-544). This not only permitted a food supply during the growing season, but conserved firewood. What had seemed random and disorganized to outsiders was intentional and planned, and further differentiated along incipient class lines. The original intention of the project had been to formulate an appropriately introduced bean mixture for planting across Malawi; Ferguson's research suggested that bean agriculture was far more involved and the range of needs more complex.

Ferguson suggests that the difficulties she described and that occur repeatedly in development work can be understood in part as a reluctance on the part of development workers to acknowledge that science itself is socially contextualized. Scientists themselves may take for granted the division of labor typical of their own culture, and development workers, generally trained as agricultural economists or biologists, tend to ignore the social and cultural contexts in which they work, contexts which certainly in this case were vital in understanding the larger agricultural needs of the community (Ferguson, 1994).

This school of thought differs from the traditional viewpoint by asking very different questions of its clients. Rather than noting that, for example, men and women specialize in different activities and that women's activities are overlooked or devalued, these workers ask why this should be the case. They are willing to be more client driven, and respond more to those demands that clients need, rather than instituting "top-down" projects. While they provide a critical viewpoint and corrective to earlier work, they are careful not to upset imperfect programs that nonetheless provide some good.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

If Pregnancy Is Something That Frightens You, It's Time To Convert Your Fear Into Joy. Ready To Give Birth To A Child? Is The New Status Hitting Your State Of Mind? Are You Still Scared To Undergo All The Pain That Your Best Friend Underwent Just A Few Days Back? Not Convinced With The Answers Given By The Experts?

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment