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Gender

How does Gender change the way we think about Power?

Duncan Green's picture

One Billion Rising-Delhi-14 Feb 2013The importance of gender to 'Thinking and Working Politically' is often overlooked, as are power and politics in gender discussions. Duncan Green reviews a concept brief from Developmental Leadership Program on the links between gender and power.

I can’t attend the next get together of the Thinking and Working Politically network in Bangkok next month because of a prior commitment to speak at DFID’s East Kilbride office (ah, the glamour of the aid biz….). Apart from missing out on the Thai food, it’s also a shame because they are focusing on an area I’ve previously moaned about – the absence of gender from a lot of the TWP/Doing Development Differently discussions.

Ahead of Bangkok, some of the participants have fired some useful preemptive shots. Tomorrow I’ll review an ODI survey on aid programmes promoting women’s leadership. Today it’s the turn of the Developmental Leadership Program, which has just published an interesting, if tantalizing, six-page ‘concept brief’ on Gender and Power by Diana Koester.

Koester argues that a gender lens can add a lot to the TWP’s analysis, but also vice versa – we need more thinking about power and politics in gender discussions. Some excerpts:

"Donors have largely neglected ‘gender’ in their efforts to understand power relations in partner countries. In particular they are often blind to the ways in which power and politics in the ‘private’ sphere shape power relations at all levels of society; the ways in which gender hierarchies mark wider economic, political and social structures and institutions; and the opportunities for peace and prosperity emanating from feminized sources of power. By addressing these blindspots, a focus on gender can significantly enhance donors’ insights into power dynamics and their ability to ‘think and work politically’ overall.’

This paper "addresses three main questions: What is power and how can a gender perspective help us understand it? What is gender and how can a power perspective help us understand it? What policy and operational messages follow from a focus on gender and power?"
 

Could the UN’s new Progress of the World’s Women provide the foundations for feminist economic policy?

Duncan Green's picture

London launch of UN Women’s new flagship report,Progress of the World’s Women 2015-16Yesterday I went to the London launch of UN Women’s new flagship report, Progress of the World’s Women 2015-16, in the slightly incongruous setting of the Institution of Civil Engineers – walls adorned with portraits of bewigged old patriarchs from a (happily) bygone era (right).

The report is excellent. These big multilateral publications are usually a work of synthesis, bringing together existing research rather than breaking new ground. And that’s fine; it’s really important that a UN body has pulled such an excellent range of research together and made it accessible to policy makers. Gender and development debates suffer from a fair number of unsubstantiated claims and pretty dodgy stats (don’t get me started), and this report feels like something you can trust – I hope someone will go through it and pull out every major stat and graphic.

But the overall approach is both new and exciting, in that it applies an explicitly human rights approach to economic policy. Laura Turquet, UN Women researcher and report manager, summarized this as ‘bringing together human rights and economic policy-making to ask ‘what is the economy for?’’

This is a big deal, because the normal approach to gender and economic policy is incredibly reductive and instrumental – educate girls and get women into the workforce because it boosts growth! It ignores whether that will improve the lives of the said women or just pile more burdens onto their pre-existing roles as carers (of children, old people, neighbours), home maintainers etc etc.
 

Lifting the lid on the household: A new way to measure individual deprivation

Duncan Green's picture

Guest post on an important new initiative, the Individual Deprivation Measure, from Scott Wisor, Joanne Crawford, Sharon Bessell and Janet Hunt.

Woman in her home. Kaski, NepalYou don’t have to look far to find assertions that up to 70% of the world’s poor are women ‑ despite Duncan’s efforts to show that the claim cannot be substantiated.

Just last month, ONE launched a new campaign called “Poverty is Sexist”, drawing on star power to bring attention to the issue of women’s poverty.

ONE didn’t use the 70% stat, but implied that poverty is feminized. Yet the reality is that it is still not possible to say whether women are disproportionately poor ‑ despite widespread calls  for better sex-disaggregated statistics.

Why? Because both monetary measures of poverty such as the International Poverty Line and multidimensional measures such as the Multidimensional Poverty Index continue to use the household as the unit of analysis. This assumes that everyone in a given household is equally poor or not poor – and that’s a big problem.

Not to mention concerns about the gendered differences in the experience of poverty. How do you price the value of being free from violence or securely accessing family planning?

These are not small problems. A great deal hangs on how we measure social progress. Are development programs working? Do anti-poverty policies make a difference? Is foreign aid alleviating poverty? Evaluating households makes it impossible to see how different members of the household are doing. And failing to assess dimensions of life that are particularly important to poor women, or men, limits our ability to show whether and how their poverty differs.

So what to do? Well, despite heated debates about measuring global poverty, something of a consensus has emerged. Most experts now agree that monetary poverty measurement should be complemented by multidimensional measurements. The individual, not the household, should be the unit of analysis. Poverty measurement should reflect the views and priorities of poor people. And in so far as possible, measurement should provide meaningful comparisons across contexts and over time.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Tomorrow’s world: seven development megatrends challenging NGOs
The Guardian
As we move into 2015, many UK-based NGOs are wondering how to meet the challenges of a crucial year. What is the unique and distinct value that each organisation, and the UK sector as a whole, brings to international development, and how might this change in future? To help the sector get on the front foot we have identified seven “megatrends” and posed a few questions to highlight some of the key choices NGOs might need to make. At the end of next week we’ll be concluding a consultation with DfID on the future of the sector – all your thoughts are welcome.

Why emerging markets need smart internet policies
Gigaom
The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) has released its latest study into, well, the affordability of internet access. The study shows how big the challenge is on that front in emerging markets – for over two billion people there, fixed-line broadband costs on average 40 percent of their monthly income, and mobile broadband costs on average 10 percent of their monthly income. The United Nations’ “affordability target” for internet access is five percent of monthly income, so there’s clearly a ways to go in many developing countries. Almost 60 percent of global households are still unconnected and, unsurprisingly, those who can’t afford to get online tend to be poor, in rural communities and/or women.

The global women’s rights movement: What others can learn, a progress stocktake and some great videos for IWD

Duncan Green's picture

Duncan Green reviews the balance of achievements on gender equality as summarized in a new paper from Gender and Development Network and shares some videos in honor of International Women's Day.

Egyptian woman celebrates International Women's DayIt was International Women’s Day on Sunday, which is swiftly followed by celebrations around the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing conference (I still remember the buzz from women returning from that) and the start of the 59th  Commission on the Status of Women at the UN – an annual spotlight on progress (or otherwise) on women’s rights.

Gender is a big deal in Oxfam, and I’ve often been struck by what the rest of the development business can learn from progress on gender rights, and the activism that underpins it. For starters:

Power begins with ‘power within’, when previously marginalized people kindle their sense of rights, dignity and voice. Far more of our work should start there.

Norms really matter. Gender activism shows just how shallow a lot of advocacy can be, when it concentrates on the ephemera of policy, and ignores the social norms that underpin identity and injustice. And international movements can have real impact on those norms.

Stamina: any struggle worth its salt takes decades – you don’t just look for a quick win and move on.

The world beyond money – work on areas such as the ‘care economy’ highlights just how much of what really matters lies outside the monetary economy that dominates thinking on development. We should be talking about shame and joy as much as about income and assets.

(I also happen to think the gender activists could learn useful lessons from others, but that’s another post.)

As for IWD, first some heavy policy, then some fun videos.

Campaign Art: Ending child marriage

Roxanne Bauer's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

It’s been 20 years since 189 countries signed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, committing themselves to embracing gender equality, and 104 years since the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911, but child marriage is still a common practice in many developing countries. 

Child marriage, defined by UNICEF as a marriage or informal union before age 18, is a violation of human rights. It is a reality for both boys and girls but disproportionately affects young females. Globally, more than 700 million women alive today were married as before age 18, and more than 1 in 3 – or about 250 million – were married before age 15.

The following video is a partnership between UNICEF and trap artist RL Grime and tells the story of child marriage through the eyes of one young girl in Chad.  Chad has the third highest rate of child marriage in the world, behind Niger and Central African Republic, and 68% of its girls are married as children.  Unlike many other countries, the practice is prevalent in both wealthy and less wealthy households.  Child marriage compromises the development of girls because it interrupts schooling, limits career and vocational opportunities, and places girls at increased risk of complications during pregnancy or childbirth.  The video captures all of this. 
 
VIDEO: #ENDChildMarriageNow

Quote of the Week: Zainab Salbi

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"I’m no different from anybody else. I like clothes, I like shoes, I like to go have nice dinners, I like to dance. Just because I’ve dedicated myself to serving women, why do you think I need to sacrifice myself?”

Zainab Salbi, an Iraqi-American humanitarian, entrepreneur, author, and media commentator who has dedicated herself to women’s rights and freedom. She founded Women for Women International, a humanitarian and development organization dedicated to serving women survivors of war, at the age of 23.
 

How can research help promote empowerment and accountability?

Duncan Green's picture

In the development business, DFID is a research juggernaut (180 dedicated staff, £345m annual budget, according to the ad for a new boss for its Research and Evidence Division). So it’s good news that they are consulting researchers, NGOs, etc. tomorrow on their next round of funding for research on empowerment and accountability (E&A). Unfortunately, I can’t make it, but I had an interesting exchange with Oxfam’s Emily Brown, who will be there, on some of the ideas we think they should be looking at. Here’s a sample:

What do we need to know?

On E&A, we really need to nail down the thorny topic of measurement – how do you measure say, women’s empowerment, in a manner that satisfies the ‘gold standard’ demands of the results/value for money people? And just to complicate matters, shouldn’t a true measure of empowerment be determined by the people concerned in each given context, rather than outside funders? We’ve made some progress on such ‘hard to measure benefits’, but there’s still a long way to go.

Campaign Art: Why won't you slap her?

Roxanne Bauer's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

What happens when you ask a boy to slap a girl? In a social experiment that highlights the subject of violence against women and demonstrates that violence is a learned behavior, Italian children react to being asked just that.

In the experiment, Italian video journalist Luca Lavarone introduced a few boys, aged 7-11, to Martina, a young girl who has a giggly, adoring effect on all them. When asked to caress her or make a funny face for her, the boys do not hesitate.

However, when asked to slap her, they all look surprised and confused. The boys seem to search for a reason and give side-ways glances that reveal their bewilderment. They all eventually refuse to slap her. One boy answers, “Girls shouldn’t be hit, not even with a flower. Or a bouquet of flowers,” and another asserts that he is, "against violence." 

 
VIDEO: “Slap her": children's reactions


14 Ways for Aid Agencies to Better Promote Active Citizenship

Duncan Green's picture

As you may have noticed, I’ve been writing a series of 10 case studies of Oxfam’s work in promoting ‘active citizenship’, plus a synthesis paper. They cover everything from global campaigns to promoting women’s leadership to labour rights. They are now all finished and up on the website. Phew. Here’s the accompanying blog which summarizes the findings of the exercise (with links to all the papers). Huge thanks to everyone who commented on the draft studies when they appeared on the blog.

Programme design

1. The right partners are indispensable

Whether programmes flourish or fail depends in large part on the role of partners. Usually this means local NGOs or civil society organizations, but sometimes also individuals, consultants or academics. Good partners bring an understanding of local context and culture (especially important when working with excluded minorities such as the tribal peoples of Chhattisgarh). They often have well-developed networks with those in positions of local power and will carry on working in the area long after the programme has moved on.

2. Start with the ‘power within’

Promoting active citizenship means building the power of citizens, starting with their ‘power within’ – their self confidence and assertiveness – especially in work on gender rights. In the case of We Can in South Asia or Community Discussion Classes in Nepal, building this ‘power within’ was almost an end in itself. Elsewhere, citizens went on to build ‘power with’ in the form of organizations that enabled poor and excluded individuals to find a strong collective voice with which to confront and influence those in power. This approach has led to some impressive progress in what are often the most unfavourable of circumstances (women’s rights in Pakistan, civilian protection in Eastern Congo).

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