Women as a group make up an enormous portion of the world’s population. Thus the development of women, the changes implemented that affect them both positively and negatively are integral in study the world. Introduction to the field of women and development can be traced back to the 1950’s post World War II. , specifically the period of reconstruction. Due to focus on external issues rather than internal issues, programs like the United States Marshall Plan were created, emphasizing the need to bridge the gap between developing and developed nations. The study of women and development gives an overall perspective of women’s development in comparison to other areas.
Women’s development shapes many things including our perspectives and our public policies. I will assess the contributions of the three major theoretical debates applied to the field of women and development and explain how they shaped the field. The first and perhaps the most dominant perspective, Women in Development (WID) stresses western values and targets individuals as catalysts for social change. The origins of this perspective came about after the release of Esther Boserup’s book entitled Women’s Role in Economic Development. The theory points out that modernization had somehow bypassed women and that some segments actually destabilized the prevailing position of women. The theory argues that legal and administration modifications are needed to facilitate change and integrate women into economic systems.
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The most notable contribution of WID is that it drew attention to women’s questions in the arena of development theory and practice. While WID emphasizes the productive role of women, it overlooks the direct influence of race, class and culture and it minimizes the reproductive role of women entirely. Women and Development (WAD) emerged in the 1970’s; its primary basis was critiquing the earlier theory of WID. Essentially, WAD contends that economic growth and the industrialization of the West were based upon the exploitation of nations that were subjected to colonial rule. The theory focuses on the idea that countries are core, semi-peripheral and peripheral. Power-dependency relationships are reflected in an international division of labor that encompasses each of these types.
Core nations, including the major powers of Western Europe, the United States, Canada, and Japan dominate globally by virtue of their domestic and international strength. According to conventional world-system arguments, the countries in the periphery of the world-system, the least developed nations in Africa and Asia, such as Bangladesh and Rwanda are relatively weaker than the core nations and to a lesser extent, the semi-periphery nations such as Chile and Libya. As a result of this system, the peripheral nations remain underdeveloped, and are subjected to the domestic conditions that accompany a low standard of living. WAD argues that women have always been a part of the development process inconsistent with the earlier assertion of WID.
WAD’s greatest contribution to the field of women’s development is the acceptance of women as important economic actors in their societies. Similar to WID however, WAD casts the reproductive role of women aside with it’s’ preoccupation with their productive roles. WAD also fails to question the relations between gender roles. Gender and Development (GAD) was introduced in the 1980’s influenced heavily by socialist feminist thinking. The GAD approach has been adopted by major development agencies. As opposed to sex, which refers to biological differences between women and men, gender refers to how people in different societies make meaning out of those biological differences, using them to explain the different roles and activities assigned to women and men and the relationships between them.
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The GAD approach concentrates on how the relationships between women and men correlate to the development process. By focusing on relations between women and men, GAD confines the propensity to render women in developing countries as powerless victims. As the different spheres where women have power come into view, so do the ways that they challenge gender inequities. GAD advocates organization of women in order to maintain a powerful political voice. The biggest contribution of GAD is the inclusion of men into the scope of the theory. It does not exclusively emphasize the solidarity of women.
An analysis of development in terms of women would not be complete without clarifying the meanings of women in development. Equality, education, employment, empowerment and economic development are each crucial components with regards to women’s development. Equality by means of eliminating discrimination against women overall, increasing access to formal education for women, involving women in development programs for employment, empowering women to have a voice and lobby for change, and allowing for women to supply basic needs for their families are all essential instrument to expand women’s development. Advocates, practitioners and scholars have long been in the business of dealing with the above issues. Each of these groups plays a vital role in the future of change and achievements. Advocates speak, plead, or argue in favor of a cause and bring about social change.
They campaign for legal rights, create women’s organizations, provide access to professional schooling for women and promote integration of women into the process of development. Advocates provided for non-governmental meetings which became the forum for women speak their minds about issues and provided a venue for global interchange. The objective of this group is to influence governmental policies concerning women. Practitioners are defined as people who practice something, especially a technique which is involved with daily work for the fight for women in development.
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These men and women primarily work inside development agencies and are constrained by the policies and bureaucratic behaviors of these agencies. They focus on liberating women’s income, institute women only projects, educate women on daily tasks, promote small businesses and back programs which purposely look at women. They instituted these types of programs separately, women as mothers and women as workers. Scholars are specialists within a given branch of knowledge who research the issues involved and write about them. Specifically scholars have written that patriarchy puts constraints on the development process, suggested global feminism value, and put emphasize on the sexual division of labor. In some respects, scholars are often much less restricted then their advocate and practitioner counterparts.
They are constrained neither by the existing governmental systems nor by agency bureaucracies, they can utilize ideologies or images of the future to the test and judge contemporary issues. Various programs and policies have been carried out around the world to incorporate women into all aspects of development. I decided to research the area of education in both a developing nation, Nigeria and compare those institutions to the education institutions in a developed nation, the United States. I found that the approaches taken within the two countries were both similar and contrasting. Nigeria, the most populous country on the West African coastline gained its’ independence from Britain in 1960.
The education systems were devised according to class and gender. Due to this parents often invested schooling only in their male children, not their daughters. The schooling introduced for women and girls was wrought with two main objectives. The first was to motivate and educate women on the housework needed to maintain a good home and keep a husband. The second was instruction in the area of motherhood and parenting. Emphasis was on social responsibilities, participation and job orientation, spiritual and moral values.
Later in the 1970’s, a more modern education system was adopted in Nigeria. The Universal Primary Education Program (UP) encouraged both boys and girls to participate in curriculum that was then mainly assigned to women. Cookery, sewing, home management and child rearing were subjects that gave girls the chance to compete with boys for equal footing where traditionally female subjects were concerned. Although programs like this one were adopted, women continued to face obstacles in regards to formal education. Males were still predominately regarded as more important then females therefore the males tended to go further in education than females. The girls outnumbered the boys in primary school, but the numbers tapered off with secondary and professional schools of learning.
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The society’s attitude which denies girls the access to formal education is a direct result of Nigerian women’s low status which is made inferior to that of men. During the 1980’s, the low enrollment of women in school was blamed on several factors. Early marriage, lack of money to pay for schooling, and the obligation for female to care for younger siblings and maintain the household accounted for the low enrollment rates. At the Nairobi Conference in 1986, several policies and objectives were put in place in order to allow for the re-entry of women into the education system.
Some of the policies proposed were more educational opportunities for women to move from bottom to top, creation of national awareness of the inequality of educational systems, a change the attitudes of women regarding education, providing for basic literacy for women leaving school early and the awareness of women to adopt a more positive self image. At the higher education level, enrollment of women saw a gradual increase between 1947 and 1970. However, in Nigeria, the student population in universities is very low. Much fewer women are enrolled than men.
This can be traced to the idea that even today, Nigerian women are still considered to have a certain role in society. Women’s main task is to procreate and further the race through her children. It is necessary to bridge the gender gap in universities, and allow for women to see that having an education allow them to offer more to their family in the long run. In the United States, there is a more pronounced focus on women in the higher learning field than in Nigeria. The female enrollment in colleges and universities has increased substantially from 1975 to 1995.
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Women now have a slight majority at the undergraduate level and reached parity with men at the graduate level. For U. S. citizens as a whole, 47. 9 percent of all doctorates awarded in 1999 went to women, up from 31 percent in 1979.
However, women receive fewer doctorates in areas such as computer science, engineering, mathematics and physical science. Some explain the under-representation of women in these fields is due to the avoidance of women. The article also examines the employment of female faculty in colleges and universities. Women faculty are more likely to be in less prestigious and lucrative fields than their male counterparts. The article goes on further to say that while women have increased their entry into the profession, the terms and conditions of their employment have in some ways actually declined. Nalini Viswanathan, The Women, Gender, & Development Reader, 17.
Ibid, 18. Ibid, 18. Ibid, 19. Ibid, 19. Irene Tinker, “The Making of a Field: Advocates, Practitioners and Scholars,” The Women, Gender & Development Reader, 35.
Ibid, 34. Ibid, 37. Ibid, 39. Stella B. Williams, “Women’s Experiences and Visions in Nigeria’s Education System,” International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 2001, 87. Ibid, 88.
Ibid, 91. Karen Dugger, “Women in Higher Education in the United States: II Statistics,” International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 2001, 137 Ibid, 34.