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Opposition to gender-sensitive development. Learning to answer back.

  • Longwe, S H
Published Article
Gender and development
Publication Date
Feb 01, 1995
PMID: 12159821


Opposition to gender-sensitive development policies can arise within the very development agencies charged with implementing the policies. Agencies may maintain that policies on equality for women are unnecessary because development is concerned with improving welfare in general. This can be refuted by referring to the literature which points out that failure to address the specific needs of women means their exclusion from the development process. Agencies may argue that women's equality is a political rather than a developmental issue. This is countered by the fact that the "Forward-Looking Strategies" define women's development, equality, and empowerment as intertwined processes. Agencies may say that promoting women's equality constitutes undue interference in a country's internal affairs. This is wrong because aid programs should not be supported in countries which do not support women's rights. Agencies may claim that they must work within the existing laws and policies of a developing country. This is partly correct, but the point must be limited because policies and laws may be "given," but they are not fixed. An agency may state that they have no business seeking or promoting change in existing social and customary practices. This is wrong where such practices stand in the way of development and because any development project is by definition a social and economic intervention. Agencies may consider their policy on women an inappropriate imposition of Western ideas. This is wrong because international conventions place a concern for women's rights on a level with a concern for human rights. Finally, agencies may maintain that women in developing countries do not desire equality with men. While it may be true that women accept their subordinate position, this does not offset issues of human rights and equal development. Oppressed women may be very silent; given the opportunity, they generally have a great deal to say.

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