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THIRD WORLD WOMEN FAMILY, WORK, AND EMPOWERMENT
Contemporary Issues for Women in Three World Areas
South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America
An Instructional Unit for Adults
Susan Hill Gross
Upper Midwest Women's History Center for Teachers
Mary Hill Rojas
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
The U.S. Agency for International Development's
Development Education Program
FOR TRIAL USE ONLY
NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION
HANDOUT 1 PRE-WORKSHOP RESPONSE
In the left-hand column below
list words or phrases
you associate with the concept
In the right-hand column below
list words or phrases
you associate with
THIRD WORLD WOMEN.
HANDOUT 1 -POST-WORKSHOP RESPONSE
Looking back at your lists on HANDOUT 1 and thinking of the day's activities:
(Use additional paper if you wish.)
1. In what ways have your ideas about the Third World been:
2. In what ways have your ideas about Third World women been:
3. What new information did you learn from the workshop.
4. Was there information or aspects of the workshop that you felt were general knowledge
and would not have to be investigated here? If your answer is yes, give examples.
5. Do you feel that the workshop helped to give you a women's perspective and reasons
for including gender information in teaching about the Third World? If your answer is yes,
6. General comments on the workshop:
I was confused by:
I would have changed:
I enjoyed (or additional comments):
THIRD WORLD WOMEN FAMILY, WORK, AND EMPOWERMENT
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Introduction 1
II. The Family and Women in the Third World 6
A. Defining "Family" A Small Group Exercise 6
B. "Family Configurations in the Third World 7
A Focus on Women as Single Heads of Households"
An Audiovisual Presentation and Small Group Exercise
C. "Examples of the Influence of Gender on the Distribution of 17
Family Resources" (HANDOUT 2)
III. Women's Work in the Third World 21
A. "What is Work? An Exercise" (HANDOUT 3) 24
"A Model for Defining Work" (HANDOUT 4) 27
B. "Getting at Women's Work 33
A Day in the Life of Third World Women"
C. "Gender Issues and Work: Cross-cultural Examples" 43
IV. Empowerment of Women in the Third World 49
A. "Women Organizing for Change" (HANDOUT 7) 53
B. "Planning With Women in Mind 65
The Example of the Grameen Bank" (HANDOUT 8)
V. Teaching Contemporary Third World Women's Issues 73
A. Exercise 1 "Teacher Questions" 75
Exercise 2 -
"Teaching Women's History and Culture in a Global Setting" 77
(HANDOUT 9) "Cultural Relativism vs. Ethnocentrism" 81
B. Resources and Selected Bibliography (HANDOUT 10) 87
C. Glossary (HANDOUT 11) 103
VI. Summary Videotape
"Examples of the Influence of Gender on the Distribution of
The following examples demonstrate how the distribution of resources in the Third World
can be related to gender. The categories of resources selected as the focus are access to
food and nutrition and health care. The rationale for selecting these categories is that they
represent the most basic of human needs and have special implications for women who are
bearing or nursing children.
The examples are taken mostly from South Asia and, to a lesser extent, Africa. Specific
examples of gender biases in distribution of food within the family were not found for
Latin America and rarely for Africa. Africa, perhaps, had the most frequent examples of
food taboos that might influence women's health and the most rigid tradition of women
being in charge of subsistence farming and cooking. This tradition gives women power as
food providers as well as imposing a heavy burden of family responsibility upon them.
Researcher A. K. Sen in, Resources, Values and Development (1984) claims that intra-
family biases in food distribution are peculiar to Asia. However, other investigators point
out that discriminatory distribution of food resources favoring males within families may
depend more on class or specific group. (Barbara Harriss and Elizabeth Watson, "The Sex
Ratio in South Asia," in, Momsen and Townsend, Geography, p. 93.) In many parts of
the world women are at special risk of suffering from malnutrition because of frequent
pregnancies and lactation and insufficient diets. A large percentage of women in Latin
America are part of consensual unions or are single heads of households. They are often
completely responsible for feeding their families and may deprive themselves to do so.
This situation is also true of women in Africa, South Asia, and North America who, for a
variety of reasons, are supporting themselves and families often as single heads of
households. Lack of support systems for these growing numbers of female heads of
households has led to inadequate nutrition for many women in this family configuration. A
division of family resources, then, reflects the power structure within the family, social
taboos, and the division of labor. The status of family members m4y be the basis of
allocation particularly where resources are limited. The evidence that women in some
groups deprive themselves of food to give the best and most food to family males reveals
the powerful psychological internalization by these women of their subordinate position
and the ideal of female self-sacrifice.
According to a study of women in rural Bangladesh, adult women (15 and over) receive
between 27 and 63 percent fewer calories than men. When the study was adjusted for the
needs of pregnant and lactating women, the female disadvantage worsened.
(L.C. Chen, E. Huo, and S. D'Souza, "Sex Bias in the Family Allocation of Food and
Health Care In Rural Bangladesh," Population and Development Review, Vol. 7, No. 1,
(1981), p. 55-70.)
A study of 17 villages in the Punjab area of India discovered that boys were breast-fed
longer and given more food after they were weaned than were girls. Boys from 6 24
months in all castes were better nourished than girls of the same age.
(Sue Ellen Charlton, Women in Third World Development, 1984, p. 5.)
Researcher Shirley Lindenbaum describes a rating system in Bangladesh that gives
preference to boys: "mothers favor sons...and the male child receives preferential
nutrition. Along with his father, he eats first; and if there is a choice, luxury foods or
scarce foods are given to him rather than to his female siblings."
(quoted in, Barbara Miller, "Sexual Discrimination and Population Dynamics in Rural
India," unpublished dissertation, 1978, p. 137.)
In the northern Indian state of Kashmir an anthropologist reported the belief that
"overfeeding" girls makes them unattractive but there was no similar belief about
overfeeding boys. (quoted in, Ibid., p. 138.)
According to a study of a village in south central Bangladesh, women eat after the men and
children, making do with what remains. This is largely a self-imposed form of deprivation
since it is women who cook, distribute, and serve the meals. It is widely-held belief that
such a practice ensures the husband's longevity and good fortune.
(Naila Kabeer, "Do Women Gain from High Fertility?" in, Haleh Afshar, ed., Women,
Work, and Ideology in the Third World, 1985, p. 96.)
Hindu women are not allowed to cook or be in the kitchen when menstruating and therefore
must accept what food is given them during their menstrual periods. Their food intake is
frequently less than normal.
(Judit Katona-Apte, "The Relevance of Nourishment to the Reproductive Cycle," in, Dana
Raphael, ed. Being Female Reproduction, Power, and Change, 1975, p. 46-7.)
The Indian Council of Medical Research found in 1971 that girls outnumbered boys among
children with kwashiorkor, a disease resulting from severe malnutrition, but among
children hospitalized with kwashiorkor, boys outnumbered girls.
(Kathleen Newland, The Sisterhood of Man, 1979, p. 447.)
"It is not unusual to find households [in India] where the women are vegetarian but the
males are not. Vegetarianism among females may be rationalized on religious grounds,
thus leaving more (or all) of the high protein foods for the males."
(Katona-Apte, "Relevance," p. 45.)
The state of Kerala in south India has the most balanced sex ratio girls to boys in India
(967 males to 1000 females comparable to Africa, Europe, and North America) while the
northern state of Uttar Pradesh has a sex ratio of 1129 males for 1000 females.
(Janet Henshall Momsen and Janet Townsend, Geography of Gender, 1987, p. 93.)
A study of a slum area in Khulna, Bangladesh, found that 56 percent of all female children
from the households studied were either second or third degree undernourished (under 80
percent of expected weight for height) while only 12 percent of male children were
(Jane Pryer, "Production and Reproduction of Malnutrition in An Urban Slum in Khulna,
Bangladesh," in, Ibid., p. 135.)
In Bangladesh 66 percent more boys than girls under five were brought for treatment to
health facilities even though there are no sexual differences in general morbidity.
(L.C. Chen, E. Huq, and S. D'Souza "Sex Bias in the Family Allocation of Food and
Health Care in Rural Bangladesh," Population and Development Review, Vol. 7, No. 1,
(1981), p. 55-70.)
"From official statistics [in Bangladesh], it has been deduced that high female death rates
from gastroenteritis, colitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, avitaminosis and other diseases
associated with malnutrition are indicative of the late stage at which treatment is sought.
But this evidence may also reflect influences of nutritional status."
(Momsen and Townsend, Geography, 1987, p. 92.)
Among Hindus in Nepal, women "prepare the food (unless menstruating or recently
delivered), but eat last and, therefore, within poor households, eat little. Nutritious foods
such as milk, eggs and vegetables may be scarce, and are invariably offered first to men
and honored visitors."
(Maggie Pearson, "Old Wives or Young Midwives? Women as Caretakers of Health: the
Case of Nepal," in, Momsen, Geography, p. 126-27.)
Women provide significant labor as subsistence farmers of the Blue Nile Province in
Sudan. Because of male migration, women are left behind to tend and manage the farms.
As household providers, they depend on their subsistence farms and remittances from the
male family members who have migrated for jobs. However, additional income earned by
the men is not necessarily sent home to improve the farm or to pay family expenses.
Consumer goods and alcohol are often purchased with extra income and in many cases
the husband takes an additional wife. In contrast to the men, women generally spend their
income on community social occasions such as rites of passage, the household, health and
(Lina Fruzzetti, "Farm and Hearth: Rural Women in a Fanning Community," in, Afshar,
Women, Work, and Ideology, p. 42-58.)
"The cooking of food has considerable symbolical significance in relationships between
men and women in most African societies, ...For a wife to refuse to cook for her husband
is indicative of her extreme displeasure and tantamount almost to a sign that she is about to
leave him. Similarly, for a husband to accept and eat food cooked for him by a woman
other than his own wife or a relative is tantamount in her eyes to his committing adultery."
(Kenneth Little, African Women in Towns, 1973, p. 169.)
Food taboos may prevent good nutrition. In parts of Tanzania and Botswana, women are
reported not to eat eggs because they think it interferes with women's fertility. The
restrictions on the diets of nursing mothers in many societies are too numerous to list.
(Newman, Sisterhood, p. 49.)
Among the Luo of Kenya "the association of women with agriculture and men with
livestock and wild game is mirrored in a series of food taboos that prevented Luo women
from eating chicken, eggs, milk, sheep, rabbit, hippo, or elephant meat...Customs that
reserved many of the high-protein foods for men must have had some effect on women's
health, fertility, and agricultural productivity." (Margaret Jean Hay "Luo Women and
Economic Change During the Colonial Period," in, Nancy Hafkin and Edna Bay, eds,
Women in Africa, 1976, p. 91.)
Secluded muslim women in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East who keep to purdah
restrictions must depend on the availablility of women doctors and health care providers as
it is against modesty codes to visit a male doctor. For example, in one case all the men
were sent out of a north African village for a day while the women were vaccinated for
tuberculosis. (Rene Gardi, Blue Veils-Red Tents, 1953, p. 33.)
Ewe men of east Africa traditionally grew the staple crop, yams, used primarily for
subsistence. In recent years heavy male migration and growing of the cash crop, cocoa, by
men has meant that women now provide food for their households. Men contribute money
for occasional expenses like school fees, tools, or house maintenance but not toward food
and day-to-day expenses. The Ewe women complain that the men spend cash from wages
and selling cocoa on "bachelor consumption goods" such as cigarettes, palm wine,
watches, and sometimes radios or bicycles.
(Esther Trenchard "Rural Women's Work in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Implications for
Nutrition," in, Momsen and Townsend, Geography, p. 165.)
POINTS TO CONSIDER
1. Thinking over the discussion of the terms "family" and "resources," the audiovisual
presentation of family configurations, and the information on HANDOUT 2, in what ways
would you modify or change your definition of "resources"? Would you further modify
your definition of "family"?
2. From these readings and your general knowledge, what specific factors limit access to -
and control of resources by women?
3. Since women are the cooks, the fact that they often are less well-fed is (as Naila Kabeer
commented in the example from Bangladesh in HANDOUT 2 on page 18) a largely self-
imposed form of deprivation. What factors do you think lead to this kind of self-imposed
deprivation on the part of women?
4. From what you know of limitations to Third World women's access to resources, are
there similar limitations for women in parts of the industrialized capitalist or socialist
5. List reasons why a knowledge of family structure is important for an understanding of
the allocation of resources in all societies.
6. Speculate about ways in which this allocation of resources may relate to women's roles
in economic and social development.
HANDOUTS 3-a. 3-b. 3-c. and 3-d (One to each group)
WORK AS PRODUCTION TASKS
Production is work where workers are generally paid for their labor with wages or receive
payment for other income-earning activities. It also includes work, such as subsistence
farming or slave labor, where the result is a consumable product. However, subsistence
farming in many world areas is looked at as an extension of housework and so is not seen
WORK AS REPRODUCTION TASKS
Reproductive work can be defined as the biological reproduction of human beings and the
daily maintenance of the labor force but also social reproduction; the perpetuation of the
particular social system. (Lourdes Beneria Introduction to Women in Development,
xxiii.) Subsistence farming and work in the informal sector is often viewed as an extension
of housework, so is "reproductive" work.
WORK AS INTEGRATION TASKS
Integration work can be defined as those tasks that serve to hold the society together and
build morale in the community. Integration work aims at tempering griefs,
disappointments, failures and celebrating success and joy. These tasks often involve life
stages' rituals associated with birth, passage to adulthood, courtship and marriage, and
death. (Kenneth Boulding, quoted in Jessie Bernard, The Female World From A Global
WORK AS STATUS ENHANCEMENT TASKS
Status enhancement tasks are those that lead to increased prestige for an individual, family,
or community group within their community or society. These tasks may be associated or
confused with leisure activities. They often involve various kinds of volunteer work.
"A Model For Defining Work"
WORK AS PRODUCTION
Historically, production has been associated primarily with men.
Production involves income-generating activities, paid or wage labor. It is valued as
"real," accountable work because visible cash payment is made for productive labor or
economic activities. The category "productive work" should also include subsistence
farming and work in the informal sector such as trading fruits and vegetables and selling
homemade beer and foods. Work in the informal sector, however, is often not counted in
national statistics. The work of women in the informal sector is often seen by both men
and women as an extension of housework.
The capitalist view of women and productive work is that, although not the ideal, some
women may need productive work to help support their families or themselves. In some
countries, such as Japan and Mexico, corporations often encourage young women to work
in low-level office or factory jobs. Generally these are poorly paid and are seen as
temporary productive work jobs for women before marriage.
Women are needed in the productive work force in times of emergencies, particularly
during wars. Through propaganda, governments encourage women to work in the
productive sphere during wartime. Frequently, reverse propaganda demands they leave the
productive work force at the end of war.
In the 20th century women in the capitalist world have organized to demand equal
productive work opportunities and wages and to have men share in reproductive work.
The socialist view of productive work for women has encouraged women to enter the
productive work force this has been an ideological commitment
According to socialist planning, day care for children, food, and laundry services were to
be provided and women were to work for wages. For example, Lenin said that to become
equal with men "women [must] participate in common productive labor."..."housework is
the most unproductive, savage and the most arduous work a woman can do."..."We are
setting up model institutions, dining rooms and nurseries, that will emancipate women
from housework. And the work of organizing all these institutions will fall mainly to
women....Women can also work in the sphere of food distribution, on the improvement of
public catering..." (N. Lenin, "Pravda," No. 213, September 25, 1919.) In other words,
in the socialist state, women would be doing tasks similar to those they did before the
socialist revolution but with socialism they would do these tasks as productive wage
laborers rather than as unpaid reproductive laborers.
Third World views on women as productive laborers vary some fit the capitalist view and
others fit the socialist view. However, the Third World view toward women doing
productive work, as in most of the world, has been ambivalent. Young women, as in
Mexico, may work for wages until marriage but the ideal is the mother at home. Many
Third World women must work for wages as with Indian construction workers or factory
workers. Many Third World areas (e.g., the Middle East) have very low rates of women
in the formal productive wage force, but many subsistence workers are women and
women in the informal sector are not counted in official statistics.
Policies aimed at providing women with productive labor have often resulted in a double
work day for women worldwide. Neither capitalism nor socialism have seriously
addressed the problem of changing the male/female division of labor. Soviet propaganda
encourages husbands to help their wives at home; men are pictured in aprons washing
dishes. However, studies, have shown that Soviet women are overwhelmingly in charge
of domestic chores, child care, and shopping. (See, Gail Lapidus, Women in Soviet
Society, 1978). The ideal of institutionalizing day care, laundry, and food preparation
tasks faded away by the Stalinist era in the U.S.S.R. and has not been possible in China
because of limited resources.
The women's movement in the capitalist world has had a goal of sharing equally the home
tasks between women and men as well as better public services for child care. The ideal of
mothers staying at home and the lack of female political clout in many capitalist world
countries has meant that progress toward equal sharing of domestic work and public
support for child care are limited. Perhaps a lesson to be learned from the history of
women as productive workers is that it is easier to change the status of women in law or the
workplace than it is to change female and male roles.
Because of lack of support services, lower-class women working for wages in the Third
World are frequently severely overworked. On the other hand, availablility of domestic
workers and the extended family ideal have meant that some highly educated women in the
Third World are free to pursue careers.
WORK AS REPRODUCTION
Reproductive work is associated with domestic work and child care.
Reproductive work is generally undervalued, non-paid, and overwhelmingly associated
In many world areas, subsistence fanning and food preservation are seen by women and
men as extensions of housework therefore as reproductive tasks.
The capitalist solution to the undervaluing of reproductive work has been to glorify
motherhood and the home. In the 19th century, for example, upper-class women in
Europe and North America were often seen as the protectors of the home while men
sacrificed and tainted themselves by working in the "evil" outside world of business.
Women were seen as the moral force of the family and their roles as wives and mothers
were venerated. (Barbara Welter, "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860," American
Quarterly, Vol. 18 (Summer, 1966), p. 151-66.
More recently women have been encouraged to work for wages but the attitude toward
their productive work has been ambivalent, particularly in the United States. Child care
facilities, for example, have lagged far behind need, partly because the family ideal has
continued to be a mother staying at home to care for her children.
The socialist solution to undervaluing of reproductive work was to provide women with
productive (wage) labor and take care of domestic work communally. Therefore, Lenin
called women "'household slaves,' for they are overburdened with the drudgery of the
most squalid, backbreaking and stultifying toil in the kitchen and the family
household."...The solution is the "emancipation of woman, her liberation from 'household
bondage' through transition from petty individual housekeeping to large-scale socialized
domestic services." (N. Lenin, speech for International Woman's Day, 1921, in, Collected
Works, Vol. 32, p. 161-63.)
Most Third World societies put heavy emphasis on women as mothers. High infant
mortality, lack of social security, preference for boys, and other factors encourage large
families and a focus on motherhood for women. Women are valued as mothers but
women's reproductive roles are also seen as "natural" ones and often appropriate
technology to relieve the domestic labor of women is not given high priority.
Both the capitalist and socialist solutions have been unsuccessful in solving the problem of
undervaluing. The capitalist solution of honoring motherhood and encouraging women to
stay at home has only been applicable to a small group of upper-class women whose
husbands could afford dependent wives and children; the solution does not acknowledge
economic problems that frequently accompany divorce or widowhood; it assumes that all
women find satisfaction in domestic work.
The socialist solution to undervaluing of domestic work has not successfully addressed the
difficulties in setting up a system of "large-scale socialized domestic services." Women
continue to do double duty in the Soviet Union and other socialist states. Even in an
idealistic communal setting such as the kibbutzim in Israel, women still tend the "baby
houses" and few men are assigned to what is seen as "women's work" such as laundry or
food service. Here, as elsewhere, the tasks associated with women, such as child care,
have less prestige than those associated with men, such as using farm machinery.
(See: Rae Lesser Blumberg, "Kibbutz Women" in, Lynne Iglitzind and Ruth Ross, eds.
Women in the World, 1976.)
The idea that men and women are equally responsible for child care and domestic work -
that female/male roles have to change has only recently been forwarded as a necessary
element in solving the problem of acknowledging and valuing reproductive work.
WORK AS INTEGRATION TASKS
According to American economist Kenneth Boulding, the concept of "integry" contrasts
with the idea of economy and polity. As explained by sociologist Jessie Bernard, integry
"served the function of holding the parts of a society together, of preventing the economy,
for example, from self-destructing. The rules which govern the way the economy and the
integry operated were almost polar opposites. The economy governed the production of
goods and services for the market; the integry did the integrating work, that is, it built
morale in the community; it 'stroked,' supported, tempered griefs, disappointments, and
failures;..." (Bernard, The Female World, p. 16.)
Tasks associated with integry are primarily assigned to women.
Many integration tasks are accomplished in the private sphere of home and family but have
important implications for the public sphere. Integration tasks often involve life stages, as
mentioned earlier, and making arrangements for these crucial rituals and religious
observances have usually fallen to women. The care of the elderly and disabled individuals
may be seen as integrative tasks (and reproductive).
Integration tasks also involve the creation of community the formation of bonds that hold
groups of people together and create loyalties and provide needed services to individuals in
times of trouble. These tasks are often important in preventing the alienation of
individuals, therefore, may prevent criminal or violent acts against the group or community
Integration tasks have been invisible as work worldwide. They have been valued in
themselves as entertainments or significant events marking traditional holidays or life
stages. They have also been valued for their economic importance as in arranged
marriages involving dowry or brideprice. But their importance as integry has not been
fully recognized. As important and time-consuming tasks primarily of women, integration
tasks are generally unacknowledged as work.
STATUS ENHANCEMENT TASKS
These tasks are associated with both sexes but more frequently are women's work.
Status enhancement tasks are generally undervalued as work and may be viewed as leisure.
Status enhancement tasks are usually seen as the result of economic privilege. Symbolic
messages are one important result of this work. For example, purdah restrictions placed
upon women in the Third World are seen as demonstrating a family's affluence and power.
Purdah restrictions on women become a symbolic expression of a family's increased
status. Work, however, in other categories may continue to be done by women with the
added burden on family women of keeping purdah restrictions.
In the capitalist world, status enhancement tasks frequently involve consumerism and
shopping mainly by women. Consumerism is intended to emphasize the importance of
the family or individual by "conspicuous consumption." A display of expensive consumer
items or the giving of gifts may enhance the power and prestige of a family in both the
capitalist and Third Worlds and can contribute to the upward social mobility of individuals
or families. This is probably also true in many socialist societies although officially denied.
Other status enhancing tasks involve volunteer work. These tasks may also be seen as
integrative. Frequently, however, wives (especially in the capitalist world) are expected to
carry out certain kinds of volunteer work that can be status enhancing for the family or
husband. In the capitalist world, volunteer work often involves public acknowledgment of
the status enhancement work being done a charity ball, for example. These time-
consuming volunteer commitments can only be accomplished by wives with the time to do
them so they are a public acknowledgment of the ability of the family or husband to
support the activity. In addition, entertaining such as giving dinner or other parties
arranged for and carried out mainly by women may involve status enhancement
Capitalist societies may swing from eras of consumerism, where symbols of affluence act
as strong status enhancers, to eras of belt tightening, where conspicuous consumption is
deprecated. The idea of the "social climber" is generally scorned, but social occasions are
frequently used for status enhancement purposes.
In the socialist world, party activities and meetings may be important to the status
enhancement of individuals. Soviet women are less able to do this kind of volunteer work
because of domestic, reproductive chores that they are expected to do along with their
productive, wage jobs. With this "double duty," they have significantly less time than men
for the party activities that might develop into leadership positions. (See Alena Heitlinger,
Women and State Socialism, 1979, p. 147-165 and Gail Lapidus, p. 5-6, 323.)
Socialist societies strive to eliminate many of these activities as class symbols but
encourage volunteer tasks and other status enhancement activities involving party
In the Third World, women are frequently in charge of social obligations. For example,
one researcher found that women in the Sudan village she studied spent much time and
their own earnings on cultural and social obligations rites such as birth, marriage,
circumcision, death and the gift giving involved women's money and labor.
(Lina Fruzzetti, "Farm and Hearth: Rural Women in a Farming Community," in, Haleh
Afshar, Women, Work, and Ideology in the Third World, 1985, p. 50.)
One way to think of work is to consider "how one fills one's time" and then
make a distinction between work and non-work. Non-work is perhaps more easily defined
than work. Non-work can be seen as activities involving personal maintenance
(specifically sleeping, eating, exercise, and physical grooming) and leisure activities of
one's choice done for pleasure.
Work is not all disagreeable and not all non-work is done for pleasure. Personal
maintenance tasks can be quite dull, for example. In fact, it is noteworthy that wealthy or
powerful persons often hire others to do most of their non-work but not all of their work.
The line between work tasks and what is considered leisure may be unclear.
Work may be a concept so narrow (only productive) or so general (all four areas equally
considered) that it is not particularly useful concept as a category of human endeavor.
However, since our value or worth as human beings is partly dependent upon the work we
are perceived as doing, it is essential to discuss the concept "work" when thinking about
For large group discussion and summary:
1. Suggest reasons that you think certain types of work may not be included in national
statistics? Be undervalued?
2. If you include all four categories as definitions of work, what is non-work? Do you
agree with the authors' definition of non-work? Why or why not?
3. Is work a useful concept? Why or why not?
"Getting at Women's Work A Day in the Life of Third World Women"
To get at the reality of women's work, the usual measures that emphasize productive, wage
work have had to be revised or abandoned. Official definitions of those who are
"economically active" frequently do not count women who support themselves and their
families by working in the informal sector of the economy.
In near subsistence societies women's labor is often crucial to family survival but
frequently is not counted in the gross national product of the country. According to the
United Nations definition, the poorest countries have a per capital income of $125 or less a
year. Survival for many people in these societies obviously does not depend upon cash
expenditures but on subsistence activities.
Time-use studies (or time-budget surveys) have been one way to get at women's work.
Many of these studies are elaborate, statistical analyses of a number of households in one
particular area. (See: Mayra Buvinic, Margaret Lycette, and William McGreevey, Women
and Poverty in the Third World, 1983; Nural M. Islam, Richard Morse, and M. Hadi
Soesastro, Rural Energy to Meet Development Needs, 1984, for examples of time-use
This exercise does not attempt to replicate time-use studies. The following are descriptions
of a few typical "days in the life" of women in a variety of world areas and times.
Directions for the Participants:
First quickly read over the descriptions of the day in the lives of five women described in
Think back on a recent, typical day in your life and account for how you filled your
time. Try to be as accurate and complete as possible.
* Looking at your list, categorize each activity as: Reproductive, Productive,
Integrative, Status Enhancing, Leisure, or Personal maintenance.
* What percentage of your time was spent in work that would be
counted in the GNP Gross National Product? (The total monetary value of all
goods and services produced in a country in one year.)
* List specific problems you had accounting for your time.
Do some activities fall into more than one category?
In small groups discuss:
* The similarities and differences between your work and those of
women in the descriptions of the daily activities of the women in this handout?
* The ways that work in the informal sector or non-wage work -
could be accounted for.
* Compare ideas in a large group discussion.
Women's Long Working Day
From: Madhu Kishwar and Ruth Vanita, In Search of Answers, 1984, "Women's
Condition and Family Life Among Agricultural Laborers and Small Farmers in a Punjab
Village," data collected by Berny Horwitz, p. 89-90.
"Women's activities were centered on a continuous round of domestic and/or field labor.
Their working day was much longer than that of the men of the household. The survey
was carried out during the cotton picking season, a time when most women from both
agricultural laborer and Jat land owning households were heavily involved in field labor.
Among the 13 agricultural laborer women who went to the fields to pick cotton (only one
80-year-old blind agricultural laborer woman did not go), the average length of the
workday reported by these women was 15.5 hours every day.
"On an average, they spent almost six hours a day on domestic work. Typically, they got
up at 4 or 5 AM, did cooking, cleaning and other household work until about 8 AM,
reached the fields by 9 AM and picked cotton till about 6 PM. In the evening, they returned
home between 6 and 7 PM, and then spent the next few hours till 9 or 10 PM doing
*See glossary for Jat.
A Day in the Life of A Tamil Woman of Sri Lanka Yogamma
From: Else Skjorsberg, A Special Caste: Tamil Women of Sri Lanka,
1982, p. 56-59.
Yogamma is a woman who belongs to the Hindu Palla caste. The Palla caste is considered
to be the lowest of Sri Lanka Hindu Tamils they are outcastes. She is 28 years old and
has five children. She is a comparatively well-off for an outcaste woman. Her husband, a
healthy and strong man, taps toddy [palm trees tapped for their sap to make a fermented
drink] for wages.
"By six o'clock AM she is already up, has washed, and gone to the field to do her toilet.
This is the timetable for the rest of her day:
6:00AM She sweeps the kitchen and makes breakfast.
6:20 The whole family eats bread and drinks tea.
6:35 Yogamma goes to look for a cup that has been lost.
7:00 She washes up after last night's dinner.
7:25 She helps her older girls get dressed and off to school.
7:40 She washes her infant and prepares herself for going out.
8:00 She is at the Thoppukadu health center to get milk powder which is distributed to
underweight infants. The child is fed there.
9:30 She is back home, where she sweeps the kitchen (which is a separate building),
living quarters, and the yard.
11:10 She washes herself, hands and feet
11:25 She comforts her baby, who is crying.
11:35 She goes to get water which is brought to Main Street in a tanker lorry, because the
village wells have dried up. The water is rationed because of the drought. She is entitled
to only two pots or 36 litres of water.
11:55 She goes with a neighbor to an uncultivated area to pick green leaves.
12:30 She starts making lunch: fish and "spinach."
1:35 She washes up and sweeps the kitchen.
2:00 She pounds chilies for the dinner.
3:00 She prepares her baby and herself for going to the health center again.
3:10 She goes to the health center to get milk powder for the afternoon feed and feeds the
3:30 She is back home again. She leaves the baby with her elder daughter and collects
3:40 She goes to the well where she washes clothes, helped by her second daughter.
4:40 She arrives back home and spreads out the clothes to dry.
4:50 She lights the fire, makes tea for her father-in-law, and drinks tea herself.
5:00 She goes to Main Street to see if she can find some cheap vegetables to buy.
5:30 She goes to the well to get water (not drinking water.) The pot she carries weighs
18 kg [about 40 points] when full.
5:55 She cleans the lamp, fills it with oil and lights it.
6:10 She cooks dinner: rice and fish.
6:55 She cooks milk porridge for her baby.
7:00 She gives her children dinner.
7:20 She puts the children to bed.
7:30 She sits outside the house and makes a basket from palmyra leaves, chatting with
her neighbors while she works. The basket whe will try and sell.
8:30 She serves dinner for her husband and father-in-law.
8:45 She eats dinner herself and washes up.
9:00 She rests.
9:30 She goes to sleep.
Timetable of Yogamma's Husband's Day
Rajendran gets up shortly after 6:00 AM. Then -
6:20 He eats breakfast which is served by his wife.
7:00 He goes to work at Kayts [a neighboring island].
8:00 He starts his job building fences, plowing, watering, building houses, or whatever
work he may be put to.
12:00 He goes home.
12:30 He goes to the men's well to wash himself.
1:15 He eats the lunch prepared by his wife.
1:30 He rests.
2:00 He returns to Kayts.
2:30 He resumes work.
5:00 He leaves when the working day is over and goes home in the company of friends.
5:30 He drinks tea at home.
5:35 He goes to Main Street to be with friends, play cards, and chat.
8:30 He eats dinner.
8:45 He chats, listens to the radio or rests until bedtime.
How a Miner's Wife Spends Her Day
From: Domitila Barrios De Chungara, Let Me Speak!, 1978, p. 32-33.
This is the testimony of a Bolivian woman who reported at the International Women's Year
Tribunal at the United Nations meeting in Mexico in 1975. She is the wife of a miner,
mother of seven children, and represented the "Housewives' Committee of Siglo XX" an
organization of wives of workers in the tin mines of Bolivia.
"My day begins at four in the morning, especially when my companero
[husband] is on the first shift. I prepare his breakfast. Then I have to prepare the saltenas
[Bolivian meat pie], because I make about one hundred saltenas every day and sell them in
the street. I do this in order to make up for what my husband's wage doesn't cover in
terms of our necessities. The night before, we prepare the dough and at four in the
morning I make the saltenas while I feed the kids. The kids help me: they peel potatoes
and carrots and make the dough.
"Then the ones that go to school in the morning have to get ready, while I wash the clothes
I left soaking overnight.
"At eight I go out to sell. The kids that go to school in the afternoon help me. We have to
go to the company store and bring home the staples. And in the store there are immensely
long lines and you have to wait there until eleven in order to stock up. You have to line up
for meat, for vegetables, for oil. So it's just one line after another. Since everything's in a
different place that's how it has to be. So all the time I'm selling saltenas, I line up to buy
my supplies at the store. I run up to the counter to get the things and the kids sell. Then
the kids line up and I sell. That's how we do it...
"Well, then, from eight to eleven in the morning I sell the saltenas, I do the shopping in the
grocery store, and I also work at the Housewives' Committee, talking with the sisters who
go there for advice.
"At noon, lunch has to be ready because the rest of the kids have to go to school.
"In the afternoon I have to wash clothes. There are no laundries. We use troughs and have
to go get the water from the pump. I've also got to correct the kids' homework and prepare
everything I'll need to make the next day's saltenas...
"The work in the committee is daily. I have to be there at least two hours. It's totally
"The rest of the things have to get done at night...I generally go to bed at midnight."
A Day in the Life of An African Woman
From: 1984 Church World Service Third World Calendar,
New Internationalist Publications, Ltd.
According to studies of the Church World Service and the United Nations, the following
would be a day in the life of a typical rural African woman.
4:00 AM Wakes up, washes, eats some leftover food.
5:00-5:30 AM Walks to her fields.
5:30 AM to 3:00 PM Plows, hoes, weeds her fields.
3:00 to 4:00 PM Collects fire wood and comes home.
4:00 to 5:30 PM Pounds and grinds corn.
5:30 to 6:30 PM Fetches water (2 kilometers each way).
6:30 to 7:30 PM Lights fire and cooks for family.
7:30 to 8:30 PM Serves food to family and eats.
8:30 to 9:30 PM Washes children, the dishes, and herself.
9:30 PM Goes to bed.
(Child care chores accompany these activities.)
"A Day in the Life of an Illinois Farm Woman"
From: Gerda Lerner, The Female Experience, 1977, p. 128-129.
This article was submitted to a journal, The Independent, anonymously, in 1905.
"Any bright morning in the latter part of May I am out of bed at four o'clock; next, after I
have dressed and combed my hair, I start a fire in the kitchen stove,...sweep the floors and
then cook breakfast.
"While the other members of the family are eating breakfast I strain away the morning's
milk (for my husband milks the cows while I get breakfast), and fill my husband's dinner
pail, for he will go to work on our other farm for the day.
"By this time it is half-past five o'clock, my husband is gone to his work, and the stock
loudly pleading to be turned into the pastures....I now drive the two cows a half-quarter
mile and turn them in with the others, come back, and then there's a horse in the barn that
belongs in a field where there is no water, which I take to a spring quite a distance from the
barn; bring it back and turn it into a field with the sheep....
"The young calves are then turned out into the warm sunshine, and the stock hogs, which
are kept in a pen, are clamoring for feed, and I carry a pailful of swill to them, and hasten
to the house and turn out the chickens and put out feed and water for them, and it is,
perhaps, 6:30 AM.
"I have not eaten breakfast yet, but that can wait; I make the beds next and straighten things
up in the living room, for I dislike to have the early morning caller find my house topsy-
turvy. When this is done I go to the kitchen, which also serves as a dining room, and
uncover the table, and take a mouthful of food occasionally as I pass to and fro at my work
until my appetite is appeased.
"By the time the work is done in the kitchen it is about 7:15 AM, and the cool morning
hours have flown, and no hoeing done in the garden yet, and the children's toilet has to be
attended to and churning has to be done.
"Finally the children are washed and churning done, and it is eight o'clock, and the sun
getting hot, but no matter, weeds die quickly when cut down in the heat of the day, and I
use the hoe to a good advantage until the dinner hour, which is 11:30 AM. We come in,
and I comb my hair, and put fresh flowers in it, and eat a cold dinner, put out feed and
water for the chickens; set a hen, perhaps, sweep the floors again; sit down and rest and
read a few moments, and it is nearly one o'clock, and I sweep the door yard while I am
waiting for the clock to strike the hour.
"I make and sow a flower bed, dig around some shrubbery, and go back to the garden to
hoe until time to do the chores at night....
"I hoe in the garden till four o'clock; then I go into the house and get supper...when supper
is all ready it is set aside, and I pull a few hundred plants of tomato, sweet potato, or
cabbage for transplanting...I then go after the horse, water him, and put him in the barn;
call the sheep and house them, and go after the cows and milk them, feed the hogs, put
down hay for three horses, and put oats and corn in their troughs, and set those plants and
come in and fasten up the chickens....It is 8 o'clock PM; my husband has come home, and
we are eating supper; when we are through eating I make the beds ready, and the children
and their father go to bed, and I wash the dishes and get things in shape to get breakfast
quickly next morning...."
"Division of Labor By Sex
Gender Issues and Work Cross-cultural Examples"
The following questions and points for your consideration are meant to highlight the family
or household unit and relate it to the division of labor by sex.
Read over these examples and then discuss the "Points to Consider" on page 48 in small
groups and compare ideas in a large group discussion.
I. Who makes up the household?
Wife, husband, and children? Husbands, wives, grandparents, and children? A woman
and her child? A woman alone never married, divorced, or widowed? Man alone?
Issues for your consideration:
A. In many regions, the extended family makes a definition of "household"
In one area of Africa, the definition became "those people who eat from the same pot" or
"use the same cooking fire." Relatives even distant relatives may live for months or
even years in a household because family obligations extend far beyond immediate family
(As told by Mary Rojas, assistant director of International Development, Virginia Tech.)
In the biography of his mother, the Indian author, Ved Mehta, described how "most of
Daddyji's relatives in Lahore moved [into our house] so that the new house became the
home of a traditional Indian joint family. [Mamaji] and Daddyji now had living with them
four of Daddyji's younger brothers; three of his sister Bibi Parmeshwari Devi's teen-age
children; and one of Daddyji's first cousins."
(Ved Mehta, Mamaji III, New Yorker, July 23, 1979, p. 35.)
B. Female heads of households need to be counted.
In many parts of the world it is a matter of honor that a man be counted as head of
household even though he may be absent because of death, divorce, migration, or
abandonment. Those collecting data often automatically assign a man as "head of
household" even if he is not present. One study in Kenya concluded that "survey data
show that 30 percent of the family heads were absent.." with no recognition that a "head
of household" must be the person in charge in these cases women.
(Quoted in, Barbara Rogers, The Domestication of Women, 1979, p. 66.)
More difficult to discern is the case of a man classified as "head" when he
might more accurately be described as a dependent or co-head. In a study of women
workers in Morocco, it was found that women as single heads of households, or
households where an adult male was present but the woman's earnings were the family
mainstay, accounted for almost one-third of the women workers sampled. Yet women
machinists who work side by side with men were paid 70 percent of the male wage
partly because the assumption was made that women were "working for lipstick." (Haleh
Afshar, ed, Women, Work, and Ideology in the Third World, Susan Joekes, "Working for
Lipstick? Male and Female Labour in the Clothing Industry in Morocco," 1985, p. 205-
Women in a Sri Lankan village, Ralahamywatta, obtained small loans to set themselves up
as cashew nut processors in their own homes. High male unemployment in the formal
economy meant that the women's profits from their production in cashew nut processing
became the major source of family income. When a husband was present, would these
women normally be listed in statistics and for purposes of law as the family head of
household? (Rex Casinader, et al, "Women's Issues and Men's Roles: Sri Lankan Village
Experience" in, Momsen and Townsend, Geography of Gender, p. 309-322.)
C. Different forms of living arrangements should be considered.
Different forms of living arrangements single women living alone or in a family,
monogamy, polyandry, polygyny, and consensual arrangements have different
implications for different family members, depending on age and sex. A first wife, for
example, may have privileges of land tenure in a polygynous marriage that a third wife
does not have.
Polygyny has been outlawed in many African countries. In Zaire, although polygyny was
outlawed by decree in 1951, the practice of clandestine polygyny is still widespread with
the result that only the first wife is officially acknowledged and other wives have no legal
standing. (Maria Rosa Cutrufelli, Women of Africa, 1983, p. 59.)
The rights of widows in Zambia depend on a written will. If the husband dies intestate a
common occurrence the property will be transmitted according to customary law. The
result is that the widow may be deprived of all her property by her husband's family.
(Ibid., p. 62.)
The common practice of consensual arrangements in Latin America puts many women in an
economically precarious position. In their study of Andean women, Susan Bourque and
Kay Warren found that women preferred formal marriages to consensual ones. The
disadvantages of consensual unions included abandonment and the possibility that a wife
might not be able to inherit her husband's property or animals if he died. They described
the case of Lourdes. She was forced out of her home after 30 years of a convivencia or
consensual marriage and three children. The only possessions that her wealthy consensual
husband allowed her to take with her were two cows. (Susan C. Bourque and Kay Barbara
Warren, Women of the Andes, 1981, p. 100-101.)
D. A knowledge of the ages and life stages of women as well as other
considerations are important in determining women's status in the
In most world areas a woman's freedom and decision-making power may depend on her
stage in the life cycle, to whom she is married, and the number and sex of her children. In
places in the Middle East, for example, the division of labor among women is by status;
"esteem-carrying" tasks are carried out by women with higher status. According to
Vanessa Maher, who studied women in a village in Morocco, the most important criterion
in the allocation of status is the woman's relationship to the "head of the household.*"
This gives a man's mother priority over his wife but his wife priority over her mother if the
context of activity is his own household. Women performing esteem-carrying tasks like
cooking can call on others to help them and can "distribute tasks."
(Vanessa Maher, Women and Property in Morocco, 1974, p. 121.)
*Notice that in this study of Moroccan women from the 1970's the author uses "head of
household" as "male head of household." This is an example, in our view, of the misuse
of this term which causes confusion in describing households. The irony here is the
misuse of "head of household" in a generally balanced and insightful study focusing on
II. What household tasks are performed and by which family members?
Cooking? Gathering fuel wood? Provision of water? Child care? Health care?
Wage earning tasks? Exchanges of goods and services? Farming chores? Care of
Issues for your consideration.
A. Recognition of who does what tasks may have implications for planning
of Third World aid projects.
In the hill areas of Nepal, men are responsible for house and furniture construction that
depend on one specie of tree. Women who collect fuel wood for cookstoves and fires
depend on another specie. Both species are essential to household tasks and must be
considered in aid projects. (John J. Hourihan, "Consultant's Report: Gender Issues in the
Preparation and Implementation of Forestry Projects," unpublished paper submitted to the
Asian Development Bank, Manila, Philippines, March, 1987.)
In Haiti, many men interviewed concerning community needs identified no
household problem with hauling water or collecting fodder. Only by
interviewing the women in the household was it learned that the women walked five
kilometers each day in search of both. (Related by P. Howard Massey, Department of
International Agriculture, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia.)
B. Advances which are overwhelmingly positive still may add another
burden to already overworked women.
Oral Rehydration Therapy is an inexpensive medication of salts, sugar, and sterile water
given to babies suffering from diarrhea. This simple technique has saved the lives of
thousands of Third World children. Mothers, however, are overwhelmingly in charge of
children's health care in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. The administration of the
life saving rehydration salts needs to be done at regular intervals over a period of a few
hours to over a day. One U.S.A.I.D. official said, "We are creating a Third World version
of Supermom," with women feeling guilty if they are too exhausted to carry out all the
family tasks and stay up all night to give a sick child the medication.
(Elayne Clift, "US AID Burdens Mothers" in, New Directions for Women,
C. In many world areas, cooking and serving food is women's work and
can be a way to control the behavior of men.
A wife, for example, may refuse to cook if she is angry with her husband. Among the
Woyo peoples of the Congo River area, it is the custom for husbands to eat with other male
friends, separate from their wives, but for the wives to do all the cooking. When a wife
has a disagreement with her husband, she sends him a message in the form of a carved
wooden pot lid. Normally the clay pots of food are covered with leaves by the wife to keep
the food warm until served in the men's dining area. However, when displeased with a
husband (or male family member), a wife replaces the leaves with the wooden pot lids. In
carved symbols, each lid tells what is bothering the woman by use of a proverb. When a
woman marries she receives various pot lids from her mother and mother-in-law that give a
number of different standard messages. It is embarrassing to men to be confronted by
women in public, in front of their male friends. Therefore, this custom is one way Woyo
women can control the behavior of their husbands or male family members.
(Marjorie Bingham and Susan Gross, Women in Africa of the Sub-Sahara, Vol. L 1982,
Tanzanian school children were asked what the Swahili words "amepata jiko" meant. All
said "wife." However, literally translated, these words mean "I married a stove." Does
this idiomatic expression for "wife" reflect a low status for Tanzanian women or an
acknowledgment by men of the important role of women as cooks in a society where there
are strong social norms against men cooking?
(As told to Mary Rojas by Mary Materu, Tanzanian woman attending Virginia Tech, 1988).
D. The sexual division of labor in livestock, farming, and food gathering
has important implications for power within the family.
For the Hima of Uganda subsistence was by cattle raising only and milk was frequently
the only food available; yet married women were not allowed to herd, water, or milk cattle -
a powerful form of social control for the men who thus determined whether married
women had access to food. (Yitzchak Elam, The Social and Sexual Roles of Hima Women,
1973, Chapter II.)
Among the Shona in Zimbabwe, cattle are used to enhance male status, for manure and
plowing, and as payment to a bride's father. Seldom are cattle used for beef. (Sharon
Lynn Deem, "A Study of Veterinary Services and the Women of Zimbabwe," Unpublished
paper submitted to the Program for Women in World Development, Virginia Tech, 1986.)
With the Fulani in West Africa, each wife in a polygynous family arrangement is allocated a
number of cows and she has control over the milk produced. If beef production is
emphasized, this has a negative impact on women's income and family position.
(Helen Henderson, "Case Study in Gender Issues and Agricultural Development: A West
African Example," slide presentation, University of Arizona, 1984.)
E. Tasks associated with agriculture can be gender-specific.
In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, women are responsible for certain crops and have
their own fields, often these are subsistence crops cassava, millet, vegetables. Men are
more involved with cash crops, rice, coffee, and tea. However, at times both grow
subsistence crops in parts of Nigeria women grow cassava and men concentrate on yams.
(Helen Henderson, Ibid.)
Both men and women are active in agriculture in Sri Lanka. Men, however, are primarily
responsible for land preparation and chemical application, whereas the women dominate in
other tasks seeding, transplanting, weeding, harvesting, and processing.
(John J. Hourihan, "Gender Issues in the Preparation and Implementation of Forestry
Projects," Unpublished paper submitted to the Asian Development Bank, March, 1987.)
In one region of Peru, women have few tasks in the field. However, decisions on what to
grow often are shared by the man and woman. One reason is that the type of bean grown
for export does not have the flavor or cooking characteristics demanded by the farm
woman. She is responsible for feeding the hired agricultural labor and their meals are a
part of their salary. If the food is not good, the laborers will not come and crops are not
harvested. (Jacqueline Ashby, "Case Study: Production and Consumption Aspects of
Technology Testing" Unpublished paper submitted to the Population Council
Interhousehold Allocation and Farming Systems Research Project, IFDC/CIAT, Cali,
The usual definition of work as reflected in gross national product statistics of nations and
in everyday speech (at least in industrialized countries) is usually restricted to paid or
"productive" work. Much of women's work worldwide is not counted in these statistics
and is ignored or discounted in everyday speech.
In world areas where subsistence activities count heavily, the daily tasks of women like
those discussed here (Domitila Barrios de Chungara of Bolivia or Africa or Asian women
agriculturalists) make major contributions to their families' well-being.
To understand and appreciate the economic contributions of women:
* Work must be defined to include non-wage and income generating activities.
* Women's work must be made more visible by adapting methods of
collecting data to the reality of women's work in a variety of cultural areas.
* The stereotype of women as primarily consumers and of households as places
where goods and services are consumed must be overcome.
* The division of labor by sex must be considered; there must be a realization that
tasks for men and women may differ, depending on time and place, but that most
societies divide tasks according to gender.
Points to Consider
1. Within most groups and societies historically and in the contemporary world work
has been assigned according to gender.
List reasons why you think women's labor has been less visible than that of men in most
time periods and societies.
2. In her opening remarks at the final meeting of the United Nations Decade for Women at
Nairobi, Kenya, Leticia Shahani, Secretary General of the official meeting, said that the
major focus and purpose of the conference would be to discuss how women can take their
"rightful place in society, on an equal basis with men."
Thinking back on the readings on women and work, why do you think most observers feel
that accounting for women's work is critical for enabling women to take their "rightful
3. A major problem for women worldwide is that of "double duty" or the "double day."
Although women in the past have overwhelmingly been in charge of children and domestic
work, what conditions of modem life seem to have contributed to the burden of double
duty? How can this problem for women best be addressed?
4. List all the reasons you can think of that the division of labor by sex and specifically
women's work must be made more visible in the Third World if economic and social
development projects are to be effective.
"Women Organizing For Change"
Europeans and North Americans usually think of reform movements for women -
education, suffrage, and the recent women's liberation movement as originating in
Europe. Feminist reforms are traced to the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, and
to thinkers such as Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Other cultural areas, however, have had their own histories of reforms for women. These
movements were indigenous ones that developed out of the historical events of a particular
group, society, or cultural area. In justifying modem reforms for women in India,
reformers looked to ancient Vedic times for models of liberated women. In the history of
many African groups there were role models of powerful women religious leaders,
queens, dual rulers of queen-mothers and sons, female chiefs, and consensus rule by
groups of men and women to emulate. Latin American women can look to the first
feminist in the Americas as their role model. Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a 17th century
Mexican nun, was a distinguished philosopher, poet, and scientist who called for the end
of a sexual double standard and a full academic education for women. Feminism, then,
was not a movement in European and North American history reforms for women have
been part of the history of many world cultures.
Women, however, have supported each other's struggles for reforms through
international networks. In 1871 Empress Haruko of Japan sent five Japanese girls to the
United States to be educated. One of these was eight-year-old Tsuda Umeko. She
graduated from Vassar and Bryn Mawr, returned to Japan and founded the first women's
college in Tokyo. Huda Shaarawi of Egypt returned home from an international women's
meeting in Italy in 1923. She publicly unveiled and later founded the Egyptian Feminist
Union that worked for Egyptian nationalism and women's rights. Pandita Ramabai, a late
19th century Indian reformer, traveled to England and the United States and was aided in
her efforts to help Indian widows by friends in the United States.
But contacts with European and North American culture have frequently been detrimental to
women's status in other societies. For example, although colonial powers might feel they
were improving the status of African women by the introduction of European style
education and Christian values, traditional roles that gave authority to women were often
lost under the colonial powers. Powerful roles for women in many African groups were
not recognized by colonial administrators. The queen-mother of the Swazi, for example,
had equal and balanced powers with her son, the king. The British sent the king to Oxford
University in England but did not similarly educate the queen-mother. She lost power as
the need to manipulate a European bureaucracy required a European education.
(Hilda Kuper, An African Aristocracy: Rank Among the Swazi, 1947, p. 54-56.)
One insightful British officer noted that the colonial administrations in the 1920s did not
recognize the power of these women rulers. "Today the Queen-Mothers are unrecognized
by us and their position and influence are rapidly passing away." (Robert Rattray, Ashanti,
1923, p. 84.)
Similarly, women's organizations and networks were often unrecognized in
traditional historical and anthropological studies. In the last two decades
scholars have begun to investigate women's organizations. As a result, the extent of
women's collective influence in Third World cultures is becoming more visible.
The following examples give some idea of the types of women's organizations
that have been present in Third World cultures that have worked to protect and promote
Historical Examples of Women's Organizations
Lelemama Associations Mombasa, East Africa
(Communal dance festivities that became women's improvement associations).
"Lelemama was brought from Zanzibar to Mombasa at least eighty years ago.
Women in their mid-eighties recall watching it as children and claim that their mother's
generation danced it. Although the associations changed during the colonial period, certain
features characterized lelemama throughout these years. Married women danced lelemama
at weddings or other special occasions. At times cattle or goats were slaughtered at a
member's farm for a picnic that culminated in a lelemama dance. Dancers from one
association lined up in two groups on two benches with members of each group wearing
similar attire. The women danced sedately while singing songs that revealed the misdeeds
of people in the community, publicly shamed individuals, or challenged rival lelemama
associations by ridiculing their dancing abilities....Lelemama networks are utilized to
mobilize women for today's political struggles."
(Margaret Strobel, Muslim Women in Mombasa, 1890-1975, 1979, p. 156-57, 181.)
"Sitting on a Man" Igbo Women, Nigeria, West Africa
Igbo women had a significant role in traditional political life. As individuals, they
participated in village meetings with men. But their real political power was based on the
solidarity of women, as expressed in their meetings, their market networks, their kinship
groups, and their right to use strikes and boycotts to force change.
"Sitting on a man" or a woman, boycotts and strikes were the women's main weapons. To
"sit on" a man involved gathering at his compound, sometimes late at night, dancing,
singing scurrilous songs which detailed the women's grievances against him and often
called his manhood into question, banging on his hut with the pestles women used for
pounding yams, and perhaps demolishing his hut or plastering it with mud and roughing
him up a bit. A man might be punished in this way for mistreating his wife, for violating
the women's market rules, or for letting his cows eat the women's crops. The women
would stay at his hut throughout the day, and late into the night, if necessary, until he
repented and promised to mend his ways. Although this could hardly have been a pleasant
experience for the offending man, it was considered legitimate and no man would consider
(Adapted from, Judith Van Allen, "Sitting on a Man," Canadian Journal of African Studies,
Vol. IV, (1972), p. 169-70.)
Women Organizing in India
"Two women's organizations, the Women's Indian Association (WIA) formed in 1917,
and the All-India Women's Conference (AIWC) formed in 1927, sought to bring women
together to advance their status through education, social reform, and politics....
"When the AIWC discussed ways in which social problems could be attacked, they
mentioned four strategies: propaganda, protest meetings, legislation, and vigilance
committees. [The issue of purdah the seclusion and veiling of women was one such
social problem.] Purdah, they decided, needed to be 'treated' with propaganda. In Bihar
and Bengal, where purdah was observed by the majority of Hindu women, there were
attempts to break the custom with massive doses of propaganda. In Pama, women planned
'anti-purdah' days. At one of these, the speeches delivered gave various reasons why
women should abandon purdah: Women needed to gain physical and mental strength so
they could defend themselves; Gandhi was opposed to the custom; it had not been observed
in ancient times; and it led to illiteracy and bad health. The message was loud and clear:
Women would have to seize the initiative and come out of purdah....
"In Calcutta, Marwari women had begun to celebrate an annual anti-purdah day in the
1930s. By 1940, their Anti-Purdah Conference attracted 5,000 women. At the conference
itself, the Chairwoman of the Reception Committee, Rukmini Devi Birla, told the women
that there could be no reform or progress until purdah was abolished. She urged social
workers to help, and a resolution was passed to boycott weddings where purdah was
practiced by women of the household. All who attended were impressed with the success
of the anti-purdah day."
(Geraldine Forbes, "The Indian Women's Movement: A Struggle for Women's Rights or
National Liberational Liberation?" in, Gail Minault, The Extended Family, 1981, p. 54,
Family Networks of Urban Upper-Class Women in Mexico
"In 1970 [researchers Larissa Lomnitz and Marisol Perez-Lizaur] began a study of kinship
structure in an upper-class family in Mexico City that ranged over five generations of men
and women, including 118 nuclear families. These were the descendants of Carlos Gomez
"Information, the most elementary and basic type of exchange within the clan, involves a
wide spectrum of facts, ranging from family gossip to knowledge about relatives and
ultimately to clan ideology. Women have always played a large role in the transmission of
such information, which is one of the main mechanisms of clan solidarity. Prominent
female figures, who devoted their lives to creating and transmitting a clan ideology,
established information networks over certain branches of the family kindred, often across
generational and socioeconomic boundaries. The personal prestige of these 'centralizing
women' was based on their authoritative knowledge of the family history, including the
personal backgrounds and relationships among individuals members.
"Women are prominent in the organization and promotion of all [family]
reunions, as well as of informal parties, games, theater parties, and so on.
The kind of gossip exchanged during such events is not restricted to personal
affairs; on the contrary, business gossip is prominent....Women are conversant with a
wealth of details concerning the business affairs of family members, past and present,
which constitutes vital background information of those deals initiated or formalized during
family reunions. These 'centralizing women' often also act as brokers for needy relatives
or relatives looking for jobs." (Larissa Lomnitz and Marisol Perez-Lizaur, "Kinship
Structure and the Role of Women in the Urban Upper Class of Mexico," Signs, Vol. 5,
No. 1, (Autumn 1979), p. 164-67.)
The above four historical examples suggest some of the types of women's networks and
organizations that have operated in Third World cultures. They range from formal
organizations legally recognized and publicly visible like the All-Indian Women's
Conference to informal family networks like that of the women in the Gomez family of
Mexico. Recent studies like these of women's organizations and networks reveal that
women have had considerable authority gained through organizing and networking.
The history of Third World cultures, then, demonstrates that these societies have
had their own struggles with reforms for women and a diversity of roles and
status for women, depending on many factors such as time period, life stage,
class, and individual talents.
Reform movements for women differ depending on the world area but have in common a
desire for more equitable treatment for women and a greater recognition of their
contributions to their societies. At this time in history the women's organizations in India,
Kenya, or Peru may be seen as more active even militant than those in the United States
Contemporary Examples of Women's Organizations
This Indian women's magazine and organization was founded in 1978 as "a medium for
women to speak out, to help raise questions in their own minds,...to generate a widespread
debate about ways of bringing about change...[to] bring women's organizations ...in touch
with each other,..."
The magazine staff sometimes goes further than describing and advertising women's
problems. On March 4, 1985, Manushi organized a demonstration at a court room in
Delhi protesting judgments that acquitted a husband (along with his sister and mother) of
murdering his wife by burning her to death.
Editor Madhu Kishwar writes letters to officials supporting the cause of women and
petitions courts on their behalf. The magazine has worked to help tribal women to regain
their land rights; has protested against dowry payments; has worked for better education for
women and for better working conditions for women in factories.
(Madhu Kishwar and Ruth Vanita, In Search of Answers, 1984, p. 301-311.)
Mobile Creches India
Founded by Meera Mahadevan in 1969, after she saw the children of construction workers
playing in the mud at a building site in New Delhi. "She began with a tent, a handful of
well-intentioned volunteers, no theories, no money, and unswerving determination," wrote
Ms. Swaminathan, the author of a recent study of Indian day-care facilities.
The organization grew rapidly with volunteers and government and private funding. In the
past 18 years Mobile Creches has opened 162 day-care facilities moving these with
construction sites as needed.
Today the organization runs about 50 centers, serving about 4,000 children on a particular
day. Other voluntary agencies have been inspired to offer similar services serving
200,000 children. The Mobile Creches idea was an imaginative solution to help some of
the neediest people in India female construction workers and their children.
(Christian Science Monitor, May 18, 1987, p. 25.)
Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) India
SEWA works primarily with rural women who have migrated to the Ahmedabad area (in
the state of Gujarat, west central India) often on a temporary basis as a survival technique
in times of famine or drought
SEWA was organized in 1972 by Ela Bhatt as a union for the city's many female street
vendors of vegetables and used clothing, manual laborers, and pieceworkers.
Before SEWA, these women had led a miserable existence, eking out a livelihood walking
miles around the city selling goods or fighting over a place on the pavement. Capital to buy
the goods they sold came from money lenders who usually charged 50 percent per day
SEWA members established their own cooperative bank. They also have a day-care center
for members. Other projects include providing information and courses to members on
family planning, yoga, money management, and sex education.
In 1977 Ela Bhatt and SEWA. received the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation award, the
Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize, for "fostering development where it matters most,
among the poorest and the weakest..."
(From, Terry Alliband, Catalysts of Development: Voluntary Agencies in India, 1983,
Women's Action Forum (WAF) Pakistan
WAF is a lobbying and pressure group organized to further women's civil, political, and
economic rights. Considering the repressive military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq and his
push for the Islamization of Pakistan, WAF has had considerable success.
Although it has had internal organization problems, WAF chapters have been founded in
major cities in Pakistan. In May 1982 the Lahore chapter of WAF held ajalsa an event
between a rally and a meeting with a central topic, speeches, poems, humorous skits,
songs, and resolutions.
"Recognizing that most women live a life of oppressive drudgery and are well aware of
their oppressed state, WAF started from the premise that to call them to meetings where
privileged women would tell them how miserable their lives actually were would be to add
insult to injury. Hence in the jalsa speeches were kept to a minimum and the skits
presented deliberately humorous...inviting the audience to laugh along with the organizers
and performers at the absurdity of various policies..." The Lahorejalsa was so successful
that other WAF chapters have held similar meetings and even rival organizations have
replicated jalsas throughout Pakistan.
Just how successful WAF has been is still in question. The military government supports
(some say even started) a rival, more conservative women's organization. Perhaps this
indicates that the government feels threatened by WAF. One observer commented that
"WAF has provided a name around which those concerned with women's rights can rally."
(From, Khawar Mumtaz and Farida Shaheed, eds. Women of Pakistan, Two Steps
Forward, One Step Back?, 1987, p.123-24, 135, and 141.)
Peru Mujer Peru
Peru Mujer is an association that works for equal rights and opportunities for women and
men in Peru. Their projects have included educating poor women in urban slums of their
legal rights and providing information for rural people, especially women, on family
health, domestic violence, and family planning.
Peru Mujer is one of several feminist groups dedicated to education in Peru. Others are
"Flora Tristan" Peruvian Woman's Center, and the "Manuela Ramos" Movement. Both of
these also work with women in the slums, promoting workshops on health, sexuality, and
education. The "Aurora Vivar" Association works with female workers and the CESIP-
Woman directs its actions towards organizing Peruvian women through workshops and
courses on women's struggles.
Centro de Orientacion de la Mujer Obrera (COMO) Mexico
This organization was founded in Juarez, Mexico to deal with the exploitive conditions for
women in many of the maquiladora or export-oriented border assembly plants. Women,
who made up 80 percent of the plant employees, frequently did not know their rights under
Mexican law, which led to abuses by the plant managers.
COMO was the result of the vision, determination and drive of a group of concerned upper-
class women led by Dr. Guillermina Valdez de Villalva, a social psychologist. After they
met with working women, COMO was founded as an organization to provide guidance,
support, and advice to single working women in the Juarez area.
COMO has been involved in literacy programs for adults, health campaigns, and provided
on-the-job training to workers. In addition, COMO provided psychological counseling,
legal aid, and referred women to family-planning services. Eventually COMO expanded
into consumer cooperatives as well.
After a period of organizational difficulties, COMO regrouped with a new director an ex-
obrera (woman factory worker). COMO now provides leadership and organizational
training to women of all social classes. Although it is not the widespread organization that
it once was, it has had a lasting impact for women in Mexico. One staff member
commented, "We go against so many traditional systems; our only arm, our only defense,
is to present positive results." (Sally W. Yudelman, Hopeful Openings, 1987, p. 17-31.)
Federacion Hondurena de Mujeres Campesinas (FEHMUC) Honduras
FEHMUC grew out of rural housewives' clubs established by the social action arm of the
Catholic Church in 1967. FEHMUC is now made up of 294 peasant women's groups
with over 5,000 members. Many members are single mothers and most are landless the
poorest of the poor.
The long-term goals are to integrate peasant women into the social, economic, and political
life of Honduras. The FEHMUC program aims at working with diembers in four major
areas: consciousness-raising and organization; health and nutrition; agriculture; and crafts
and clothing production. Each area has a diverse group of projects offering services and
FEHMUC's health program has been particularly successful. FEHMUC also addresses
issues of women's rights and has worked to change the image of Honduran peasant
women from passive and inactive to that of strong and capable women who play an
important role in development.
Although the organization presently faces major institutional problems, development
consultant Sally Yudelman who studied FEHMUC, claims that "there is cause for optimism
[about the future of FEHMUC]. Over the years, FEHMUC has demonstrated its resiliency
and capacity to survive, to overcome setbacks, to grow."
(Yudelman, Hopeful Openings, p. 35-46.)
African Association of Women for Research and Development (AAWORD) -
The African Association of Women for Research and Development was founded in 1977
by African women scholars and development professionals. The focus is on having
African women research their societies and formulate their own theories and development
In 1986 AAWORD started publishing a quarterly newsletter, ECHO, in English and
French. Projects that have been launched by AAWORD include a 1985 meeting of the
AAWORD working group on women and reproduction. The meeting reviewed research
papers, and proceedings and bibliographies were made available. Similar meetings and
seminars are a major goal of AAWORD. (Write for more information: AAWORD B.P.
11007 CD Annex, Dakar, Senegal.)
Zambian Association for Research and Development (ZARD) Zambia,
ZARD is a non-governmental organization of women which is concerned with furthering
action-oriented research on women's issues. A recent project was to compile an annotated
bibliography of research on Zambian women. The directors of the project were faculty
members of the University of Zambia and funding was provided by a number of sources,
but ZARD initiated and sponsored the project.
The rationale for the bibliography serves also as the rationale for ZARD: "Zambian women
are increasingly becoming aware of their own status and of gender inequalities which
structure their opportunities in the wider society. All too often it has been foreign agencies
which identify problems, such as the lack of integration of women in development, and
propose solutions. This work arises from local initiative and will argue that women are
integrated in Zambian development, but unequally so."
THE WOMEN'S GROUP MOVEMENT Nyanza Province, Kenya
The Women's Group Movement in Nyanza was organized to focus on the special needs of
women. There are now many of these groups in the Nyanza area of Kenya. Since
independence, women found that they had common problems which could not be met or
solved by individuals. For example, after independence, Kenya introduced universal
educational opportunities, but women frequently were not given adequate educations
because they often dropped out of school to get married or their families favored sons for
higher levels of schooling.
In recent years women often found themselves living alone in rural areas and providing for
their families by their farm labor while husbands went to urban areas for white-collar jobs.
Even when husbands were present, they often assumed that women should do the farming
and provide for the family. Most of the Women's Groups, therefore, started with farming
activities. Issues of land ownership, decision making, division of family labor, and
technology which is appropriate for the needs of farm women are some of the issues
addressed by these groups.
The St. Joseph Women's Group, for example, was started mainly to aid widows of the
Luo ethnic group. To earn money for this and other projects, the women's group built a
poultry house and started to keep hens. Each member bought three hens, sold the eggs and
then bought more hens. The group also started keeping bees and farmed several acres of
land together as a group project. Although they have encountered setbacks from time to
time, they say they have achieved a higher standard of living, improved schools, clinics
and decent housing.
These examples are only a few of the hundreds of contemporary women's organizations
that have been formed in the Third World in the last few decades.
Several historical reasons have led to the increasing attention by Third World women to
The realization that development projects often were not
The disillusionment felt by women when newly acquired political
independence in their various countries had usually not led to
equality for women in new laws and policies.
The need to take control of their own destinies. Fatma Alloo
and Sumati Nair wrote in AAWORD's newsletter, ECHO, that
"it is time we women from Third World countries develop an
understanding of our own situation and then prepare the
grounds for a dialogue with white feminists--on our terms. We
are the ones to change our situation.."
The traditions of Third World women's organizations and
networks that could be called upon and expanded to fit modem
needs has meant that women have an organizational structure
to work within.
The declaration of the United Nations Decade for Women that focused on
the needs of women worldwide and the final meeting of the Decade for
Women in Nairobi which emphasized the organizational abilities and
activism of Third World women.
POINTS TO CONSIDER
1. The following statement concerns women in two Peruvian villages:
"The analysis of [the lives of women of Chiuchin and Mayobamba] clearly shows that
women are not hapless victims, immobilized in the face of the forces of an economy and a
political system marshaled against them. Rather, our material suggests that women
mobilize a variety of resources to help them cope with their limited and restricted
(Susan Bourque and Kay Barbara Warren, Women of the Andes, 1981, p. 9.)
Mention a few ways that women have mobilized to cope with the realities of their lives.
What indications are there in the materials you read that women's influence is restricted
when compared to that of men?
Do you see exceptions to this in these materials?
2. What advantages might women have in organizing informal networks when compared
to men? Formal organizations?
3. In these examples, what problems did women have in forming organizations? What
problems might they encounter as their organizations become larger and more involved
with changes for women?
4. Women frequently organize around issues that can be considered domestic ones -
extensions of their roles as housewives. For example, when there were food shortages
during the time of Salvador Allende's presidency in Chile in the 1970s women protested
food shortages by beating on pans in mass demonstrations. In recent years Japanese
women have protested high rice prices by organizing parades carrying rice-paddle banners
with slogans written on them. As pointed out earlier, women in many areas of Africa
refuse to cook as a way to protest what they see as the misbehavior of men. "Mother's
Clubs" were formed in many Latin American countries. Women in several world areas
have organized around environmental issues such as deforestation and pollution.
Why do you think women's public protests often center on food, environmental, or health
"Planning With Women in Mind The Example of the Grameen Bank"
The Grameen Bank Project, launched in 1976 in the Bangladesh village of Jobra, was
based on what might have been seen as a radical idea. The Grameen Bank Project aimed at
loaning money to poor, landless, rural people in Bangladesh. These men and women had
no collateral and none would be required for the loans. But the loans were to be secured;
the persons receiving loans would be responsible for their repayment with interest. The
method of securing loans without collateral helps to explain why the Grameen Bank Project
has become a model for similar programs throughout the Third World and in the United
The idea for the project came from Professor Muhammad Yunus, Director of the Rural
Economics Program at the University of Chittagong in Bangladesh. The intention was to
extend banking privileges to poor women and men; to eliminate the exploitation of money
lenders; to provide disadvantaged people with a financial support system based on sound
banking principles; and to reverse the vicious cycle of "low income, low savings, low
investment, low income." Women who applied for loans would not need the approval of
their husbands or other family members to receive loans in their own names. This
provision was a radical departure from traditional custom. As one man wrote, "all this has
occurred in a Moslem society where women traditionally have few individual rights to say
nothing of being able to borrow money for their own business enterprises. To do this, no
laws were passed or changed and the husband's permission is not required. Grameen bank
managers simply went ahead and made loans to women because it was sound business to
do so even though it violated custom and tradition." (Richard Saunders, ZATPID
memorandum to Dr. Muleya, MAWD, memorandum, "Sound Money for Small Farmers,"
January 5, 1988, Lusaka, Zambia.)
The loans would be small ones averaging $US 60.00. However, these small loans to poor
villagers could mean flexibility and opportunity for starting small income-generating
projects. Although normal interest rates would be charged, borrowers would be protected
from the enormous interest rates of moneylenders rates that often kept them in a cycle of
The first step in starting the Grameen Bank Project in Jobra, was to reach poor villagers
and help them to understand the program. To reach women in a predominately Muslim
country such as Bangladesh was a particularly formidable task.
Because Dr. Yunus was known and respected in the village of Jobra, he was allowed to
hold a meeting with village women at night when they would be able to attend after the
day's work. The women, however, maintained a distance by taking their places at the
meeting in a hut while Dr. Yunus sat outside in the yard talking to them through two female
aides. The women in the hut were not seen or heard. As the discussion began (through the
interpreters), it also started to rain. Dr. Yunus was given shelter in a hut but not the one
where the women were sitting. As the discussion continued, it became obvious that direct
communication was needed to make the program clear to the women.
Finally, the women understood that Dr. Yunus was trying to explain something in their
interest that he was speaking of bank loans available to them. They moved to his hut,
taking their place behind a partition so they could hear him and he could hear them without
seeing each other. After a long session, the women were convinced of the benefit of taking
out loans from the Grameen Bank so they could participate in small income-generating
projects. (Bank Credit for Rural Women Report on Study Tour of Grameen Bank in
Bangladesh, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific,
Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world, according to ordinary statistics that
rely on an accounting of the formal economic sector. According to the 1981 Bangladesh
census, only 40 percent of the population over ten years of age participated in economic
activities and for women the figure is four percent. However, virtually all adults and
majority of children are engaged in some form of economic activity in the informal sector.
The Grameen Bank Project focused on credit because having access to credit greatly
increases the economic strength and flexibility of poor people. The project quickly
expanded and by 1987 over three hundred thousand loans had been given the large
majority of these loans had gone to women.
How does this banking system for the poor work?
* Each Grameen Bank branch is headed by a manager who commands a field staff of three
male and three female bank workers. All staff members are required to live in the villages
in which they are assigned to work.
* Bank workers visit the villages and talk informally to villagers explaining the rules and
benefits of the bank.
* Any person who owns less than 0.5 acre of cultivable land and has a severely limited
income is eligible for a loan for any income-generating activity.
* To get the loan, the individual must form a group of five similar people. Each group
elects its own chairperson and secretary and holds weekly meetings. Several groups meet
at the same time in a village; this group of meetings is called a Center. The Center elects a
Center-Chief who conducts the weekly meetings and is responsible for the observance of
all rules prescribed by the bank.
* Loans are given to individuals or groups; only the person receiving the loan is
responsible for his/her loan.
* All loans are for one year and are paid back in weekly installments.
* Each week every group member deposits one Taka (Bangladesh currency) as personal
saving. This fund is operated by the group. In addition, each member pays a "tax" into a
group fund. The group also must set up an emergency fund to which all group members
contribute as insurance against default, death, or disability of members.
The formation of the groups are a key to the bank's success. An individual poor person -
particularly a woman may feel exposed and powerless but group membership makes her
feel protected and less alone. Peer pressure helps to keep members in line with the
Grameen Bank rules and assures repayment of the loans.
Discipline, unity, courage, and labor are the four principles of the Grameen
Bank. The Grameen Bank is more than an economic system for loans and credit, it is a
social system as well. Therefore, along with the loans, each member promises to:
* Repair old and construct new houses.
* Cultivate, eat, and sell vegetables annually.
* Plant as many trees as possible.
* Plan their families.
* Educate their children.
* Drink tube well water.
* Introduce physical exercises in Centers.
* Refuse to pay dowry in their children's marriages. [Dowry payments have been a
serious financial drain on families when arranging marriages for daughters. The
undervaluing of girls in South Asia can partly be traced to demands for dowry payments
from the bride's family upon marriage of daughters.]
* Undertake social activities collectively.
* Participate in joint activities for earning higher incomes.
* Fight injustice and oppression.
The results of the banking program:
Since 1976 the Grameen Bank has lent an average of $60 to a total of 300,000 people.
Eighty percent of the borrowers were women. The repayment rate is 97 percent much
higher than the repayment rate of bank loans secured by collateral.
The focus has increasingly been to encourage women borrowers. Mohammad Yunus
commented in a recent interview that "in the case of a man, too often the beneficiaries are
himself and his friends. A loan to a woman results in more benefits to the family." (Kristin
Helmore, "Banking of the Poor: Changing the Face of Foreign Aid," Christian Science
Monitor. September 30, 1987, p. 16.)
Case Studies of Grameen Bank Borrowers
Samina An Interview with Grameen Bank Manager Abdur Rashid Khan, Rangpur.
"A small path winding through the green of paddy fields takes you to Samina's house in
Mirjapur....Looking at this 32 year old woman in her tattered sari, I knew what kind of life
she was living; a life of relentless struggle with poverty ...
"There were no windows in Samina's hut The sky was very heavy after the rain. It was
difficult to see anything distinctly in the fading light of the evening... I asked Samina,
'What do you eat your meals in?' In earthen plates, Sir,' she said shyly 'Since we have
very few of them, we let our children eat first. My husband and I eat afterwards. She
then showed me an earthen jug, a very old glass of aluminium, and a spoon. 'These are
gifts from my mother. I have preserved them with care.'"
Samina told Abdur Khan about her life. Perhaps the worst period was during the famines
of 1974. "In that winter [Samina's family] had no means to buy rice at.... They sustained
themselves by eating boiled banana leaves. Sometimes they had nothing at all to eat for
days. Her eldest daughter Mannara would cry for rice. Samina herself felt like crying
because she could not give the hungry little girl any."
In 1983 Samina received a loan from the Grameen Bank Taka 1000 (US $36.45). With
the money, her husband Matiur and she set up a rice husking business. Matiur went to
other villages to buy the rice and collect fuel while both carried out the rice husking
business at home.
"This is how Samina, working on a capital of US $18.50 [half of the loan was stolen] and
hard work and determination was able to pay off the entire loan of Taka 1,000 ($US 36.45)
on the 17th of April 1984. Apart from the extreme hard work and the attendant physical
exhaustion, Samina was now free from worries about food for the family. They had just
enough to eat; not a day of starvation in the whole of that year. The children even had new
clothes and books. A few necessary domestic articles were bought....
"Samina has paid her installments and her special savings account money very regularly.
So far she has never missed a weekly group meeting, not even when she has been sick. 'I
would feel very bad if I ever missed a meeting.'...
"I asked her about her feelings when she first received the loan from the Bank. 'I felt very
happy, Sir. It was like having a new friend.
"Samina has applied for a second loan from the Bank. It has been approved...Her plan is
to continue in rice husking with part of the money and put the rest into setting up a grocery
shop." (Bank Credit for Rural Women, 1984, p. 108-111.)
Bhagya Rani The Results of A Loan, An Interview with Grameen Bank Manager
Bhagya Rani's husband was disabled by illness. Bhagya Rani eked out a living for the
family "winnowing by day as well as by night. The payment was made in
kind;...Recalling her experience of that part of her life Bhagya Rani said, through tears,
'you know, Sir, those people with money just didn't think we were human beings. They
would use most horrible language if I was ever late by a minute. However, I never
protested. I thought I owed my life to them, otherwise I would just be without work and
"'I do not have words to tell you how I felt [when I got my bank loan from the Grameen
Bank]. I came back home with the money, a thousand Taka ($US 36.40).... I had never
been able to send my children to school or buy them clothes at the puja [village shop]. I
could not even arrange for my husband's [medical] treatment. I set out in search of rice...I
dried the parboiled rice in four days and got it husked at a rice mill...I made a profit [from
the husked rice] of Taka 184 ($US 6.70). I wept in sheer joy'" [This meant Bhagya Rani
realized an average of Taka 150 ($US 5.40) profit each week.]
"I requested Bhagya Rani to tell me something about the difference she had evidently
experienced in the condition of life before and after joining the Bank.
"'Well Sir,' she said 'Before joining the Bank, I just could not think of myself as a human
being. What have I not done to manage two bare meals for myself and my family. As I
have already mentioned, I was thrown out by my father because my husband could not do
anything. He was forced to ignore his fatal condition [tuberculosis] and beg along the
streets of Galachipa for work and trying to get something for the hungry children. I myself
went to work at the rice-mill, though I know well enough what nasty things people might
say of me. Even then I could not get enough food for my children. I could not think of
giving them an education or buying them new clothes. Because I was poor, nobody cared
to know what I was living through. But now things have changed. And the change is as a
result of the Grameen Bank...We now eat three meals a day. My husband is having the
kind of medical treatment tuberculosis calls for. He doesn't have to work. My children are
going to school. Before this Bank business, my parents did not bother to enquire after me.
Now my neighbors love to come to me and have a chat. I am the chief of my Center....My
luck had abandoned me for want of money. Now it has returned to me due to the Grameen
Bank.'"(Bank Credit for Rural Women, p. 105-107.)
Sultana An Interview with A.S.M. Mohiuddin, Branch Manager.
"Sultana was hard working and practical minded right from her childhood. She became a
wage income earner from the age of 12...
"Impressed with Sultana's business ability [peddling wares in the village] her uncle Abdur
Rahman expressed a desire to bring her into his house as his daughter-in-law. Her father
was delighted and at the age of eighteen Sultana married Chand Miah and moved to his
"Sultana's mother-in-law had not been too enthusiastic about the marriage. However,
Chand Miah gave her a sari, blouse, petticoat, and a nose ring. Her father gave Sultana a
pair of gold earrings [and promised to pay Taka 1000 ($US 36.40) in dowry for his
daughter]. Due to his pecuniary condition he could not immediately make the payment.
However, after the wedding he paid Taka 400 ($US 14.58) in two installments.
"Chand Miah worked in a shoe shop. He was not pleased at the fact that his father-in-law
had not met his end of the bargain of paying Taka 1,000 ($US 36.40) as dowry for
marrying his daughter. While he could do nothing to the father, Sultana had to bear the
brunt of his anger as well as that of her mother-in-law. They insulted her at every
opportunity, humiliated her by abusing her father. And often they would beat her
mercilessly and afterwards send her to her father's house for the remaining amount of
"[The last time] her father accompanied her to explain to his son-in-law. On reentering her
husband's house Sultana saw some festivities going on. Realization dawned on her with
horror. Chand Miah was getting married again and this time with even a bigger
dowry ....Her mother-in-law was triumphant. Seeing Sultana and her father in the midst of
her festivities she became enraged....this lady refused them entry into the house and told
them never to return again. Seeing the commotion Chand Miah also entered the scene. The
sight of his wife and the father-in-law was like a red rag to a bull. He pulled Sultana by her
hair, dragged her in the mud, beat her mercilessly, and with a final vicious kick ...he
shouted these dreaded sentences. 'I divorce you,' clearly three times by which any
[Muslim] man can dissolve his marriage just like that and proceed on with another
Sultana's second marriage was also unfortunate. Her husband was totally idle the spoiled
only son in a family with seven daughters.
She was told about the Grameen Bank by an employer and friend, "Sultana did not take
him seriously in the beginning. What could she offer to the Grameen Bank as collateral or
guarantee. A poor, hopeless woman with nothing to her name, with the exception of the
clothes she had on her back. What bank would take her seriously?"
Sultana formed a group and was approved for a loan. "The first thing the group was taught
was to sign their names....The first time Sultana signed her name on a receipt of the Taka
800.00 ($US 29.16) loan her hands shook visibly. So much money in her hands was like
a tonic for Sultana." She bought $US 30.00 worth of goods before returning home.
"Early the next morning Sultana set out on her rounds to sell her goods...The profits of the
first day truly excited Sultana...[After a week] her profit had been on the average Taka
55.00 ($US 1.46) every day...Her reputation spread far and wide as she would not sell
below standard articles, nor would she ever cheat anyone. Her next task was to set up a
small grocery and variety store for her husband...Next to the shop Sultana constructed a
tiny house for her family. She was a proud woman..." (Bank Credit for Rural Women,
The Grameen Bank Project has been imitated worldwide as a successful way to reach the
poor and encourage development The Prodem credit program in Bolivia and Finca -
Foundation for International Community Assistance are two such projects. The World
Bank, United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the United
States Agency for International Development now earmark funds for credit programs for
poor people in the Third World.
This is one indication of a change in thinking about foreign aid from a "macro" approach of
investing in large-scale industrial projects to investing in "micro" ones that concentrate on
small-scale projects for poor individuals. Large scale programs often did not help poor
Third World people to improve their standard of living the "trickle down" effect did not
occur. This negative impact of large scale projects was often particularly harmful to
Credit is seen as a central way of improving the living standards for the very poor.
"Money lenders charge between two and 25 percent interest per day," says Maria Otero,
regional director of a credit program in Honduras. "More than anything, this [charging of
high interest rates] hampers individual economic growth and perpetuates poverty."
(Christian Science Monitor, September 30, 1987)
Barbara Rodey, Executive Director of Finca, reported,"We estimate that in Latin America
[alone] there are approximately 140 million people living in life-threatening poverty. These
are the poorest of the poor...." "We try to guide the money into the hands of women,"
says Finca's director John Hatch. "If the money is available to the wife, she will spend it
on rapid-turnover investments like buying and selling vegetables, raising chickens or pigs.
She knows what to do with her $50 [loan]....It's ironic that the woman has traditionally
seen herself as a nobody, now, with access to credit, she's empowered." (Ibid.)
"We [at Finca] believe that when you give somebody something as charity, you lower their
self-esteem," says Barbara Rodey "But when they feel that what they have done has been
through their own efforts, it changes their lives."
Particularly for women, direct loans made to them for projects that they devise are critical in
raising their feeling of having power over their lives and futures. Dr. Yunus commented
that the Grameen Bank Program "builds up the dignity of human beings while building up
a country's economy." (Ibid.)
POINTS TO CONSIDER
1. "In most third-world countries more than half the workers belong to the 'informal
sector.' These are people who survive, often marginally, through self-employment,
outside the economic structures. They are fruit vendors in Cartagena, Colombia;
ragpickers in India; basketmakers in Accra, Ghana. In India, for example, a country of
770 million, more than 80 percent of workers are in the informal sector." (Kristin Helmore,
Christian Science Monitor, September 30, 1987)
Why do you think small loans particularly benefit these informal sector workers?
Why might women particularly benefit?
2. Look back at the two lists of promises (economic and social) that borrowers make
before receiving loans from the Grameen Bank. What criteria would seem to be ones that
could be applied in the United States for similar programs for the poor? What ones would
seem to apply only for the Third World or would be difficult to implement in the United
3. Recently a similar program of making small loans to the poor was begun in the Chicago
area. What things might we learn from Third World experiences that could be applied here
in the United States?
4. A study of women borrowers who had participated in a government-sponsored program
in India of bank loans to poor in the Bombay area showed a wide range of repayment rates.
After isolating several variables, the study showed that women who were organized into
women's organizations with requirements similar to those of the Grameen Bank had a
repayment rate of 90 percent. Those that were not organized and had only a "social
worker" (an intermediary who might be a politician, slum leader, or raw materials supplier)
or a state agency called the BCC (Backward Classes Corporation) as their loan agency had
a rate of repayment that ranged from a low of 44 percent to a high of 71 percent.
Even accounting for the possibility that the women's organization (Annapurna Mahila
Mandal) recruited borrowers with a better chance of carrying out successful enterprises,
this study showed the positive effect of the women's organizations in encouraging loan
(Jana Everett and Mira Savara, "Bank Loans to the Poor in Bombay: Do Women
Benefit?," in, Barbara Gelpi, et al, eds., Women and Poverty, 1986.)
Why do you think that women's organizations or similar groups might be a key to the
success of these projects for providing poor women with loans?
When teachers are asked to include new perspectives and materials in existing curriculum
and courses, they frequently raise a number of concerns about these changes. When the
discussion involves integrating women's history and culture into social studies courses,
teachers frequently raise these questions:
1. I have too much to teach already and I need to teach to standardized tests that are
important in the evaluation of my teaching and my student's learning. How can I make
room for these new materials in my social studies courses?
2. Where do I start? The enormous amount of recent scholarship and new curriculum
on women's history and culture is overwhelming.
3. How do I know this new curriculum isn't just a "trendy" new angle but a genuinely
needed new perspective?
4. My students are often hostile to new materials and boys particularly don't want to
study about girls and women. How do I overcome this hostility?
"TEACHING WOMEN'S HISTORY AND CULTURE
IN A GLOBAL SETTING"
A fifth question frequently posed by teachers about incorporating women's history and
culture into global education curriculum and courses is:
"How do I teach students to respect and understand other cultures while
discussing customs and conditions that have a negative impact on girls and
Women as a class have had less economic and political clout than men in virtually every
world area. This lack of power often translates at the family level into an uneven
distribution of resources within the family unit. Similarly, from the village to national
levels economic and political agendas and policies are usually set by men and priorities
often reflect male perceptions of what is valuable.
A discussion, then, of women's history and culture will inevitably deal with what is
unequal or oppressive in a particular society or culture as well as what is positive,
beautiful, and uniquely valuable. How does a teacher find a balance between teaching
respect for other cultures and discussing women's concerns?
Teachers must discover their own ways to deal with this difficult question. The following
exercise, however, presents two commonly held but opposing views of the "proper"
way to approach the teaching of global issues especially controversial ones. Used as a
conceptual framework, these two approaches may suggest to teachers ways to balance their
curriculum between two opposing positions.
In a small group discussion complete Problem 1.
Problem 1: Perhaps because women have generally had less political clout than men and
are seen as upholding traditional values in many cultures, some customs or actions that
affect women in many world areas can be seen as unfair, oppressive, or offensive. A few
examples of such customs or actions are:
Differences between the wages paid to women and men in many countries.
Rape of women in all world areas.
Veiling and seclusion of women in the Middle East.
Female genital mutilation in parts of Africa and the Middle East
Restriction of women from jobs and careers in many
world areas because of their sex.
Wife beating and abuse worldwide.
The "double day" with women working much longer hours than men
particularly in the Third World.
Property rights and other laws that often favor men in many countries.
Prostitution including sex tours of men to Third World countries.
Uneven distribution of resources within the family that favor men and boys.
In a small group discussion first decide which of these issues should be included in a
discussion of women and contemporary global concerns. What factors influenced your
decision about which issues to include? What issues do you feel should be excluded, if
any? Justify your answers.
If your group agrees that a particular issue should be included, discuss:
how you would fit this issue into the global studies curriculum.
problems that you might encounter, and give suggestions for
overcoming these problems.
When your group has finished Problem I1 read HANDOUT 9_ and then complete
Problem 2: After reading HANDOUT 9 decide where you feel you fall on the continuum
below and why. (What issues you feel should be taught and how these should be taught
might influence where you would place yourself philosophically.)
Cultural Relativism Ethnocentrism
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Share additional small group conclusions in a large group discussion.
In large group discussion compare your small group solutions to Problem I and your
individual conclusions of your philosophical position as represented by where you placed
yourself on the continuum.
"Cultural Relativism vs. Ethnocentrism
Two Philosophical Positions on Teaching Global Issues"
The labels given to two approaches to teaching global issues are "cultural relativism" and
Those that advocate a "cultural relativist" approach take the position that, although world
cultures are very diverse, they are equally valuable. Therefore, when discussing other
cultures, teachers must use extreme caution not to denigrate customs, laws, or attitudes
which are different from our own. Aspects of other societies or cultures that might cast
them in a bad light should be avoided when teaching world studies.
Those that take an ethnocentricc" approach claim that "Western" (European and North
American) culture is superior in most ways to those of socialist and Third World countries.
Global education (and foreign policy including foreign aid) should demonstrate the value
and necessity of spreading European and North American culture particularly democracy
and capitalism worldwide.
The "cultural relativist" view developed from the liberal left tradition of
post-colonialism in which the industrialized world began to question the morality and
benefits of colonialism. With the formation of the United Nations after World War II there
was also a growing appreciation of Third World cultures.
European and North American educators increasingly felt that they should use extreme
caution when criticizing the customs, standards, or mores of other cultures, societies, or
nations. Cultural relativists strongly support learning about other cultures, but customs that
might be perceived negatively by outsiders should be played down, ignored, or only
discussed when similar examples from their culture, society, or nation are used. According
to this view, people in different times and places do different things, and it is improper for
outsiders to make value judgments about these things that others do.
For women's issues, however, taking a cultural relativist approach may mean that critical
problems are avoided or ignored. Women as a class have had less public, political power
in most world areas. Women have frequently suffered because of asymmetrical laws and
customs that restricted their life choices and even physical movement.
Women's work has tended to be more invisible than that of most classes of men and thus
less rewarded. Important topics for women will include aspects of the sexism present in
varying degrees in the overwhelming majority of human societies.
Suggested ways to avoid cultural relativism.
1) Discuss with students the distinction between propaganda and analytical scholarship.
Teachers can point out that we in the United States, for example, no longer find it
acceptable to teach only positive aspects of our own history and culture. Textbooks that
overemphasize the positive and ignore past and present injustices are seen as presenting
simplistic views; propaganda rather than history.
In the case of Third World cultures, avoiding all subjects that might be perceived as
negative by North American or European standards assumes that other peoples are so
powerless that they cannot stand up and argue effectively for things they may feel are
uniquely valuable in their own societies. It also assumes that these societies are too fragile
to withstand outside criticism and are unable to change things they come to perceive as
damaging. Looked at in this way, such an unbalanced treatment would, in actuality, be a
form of ethnocentrism.
2) Emphasize differences within societies or cultural areas.
When studying the continent of Africa, individual countries or ethnic groups should be the
focus of discussion rather than continued references to "Africa." If the African continent is
presented as a complex area with over 40 countries and 1000 ethnic groups, the diversity of
customs can be discussed as they differ from group to group. For example, seen from the
view of specific ethnic groups, practices such as polygyny or female genital mutilation can
be viewed as part of the diversity of African life some groups may practice these customs
while others reject them.
The Kikuyu of Kenya practiced female genital mutilation while the Luo, their neighbors,
did not President Daniel Moi, a member of the Luo minority, banned the practice of
female circumcision in Kenya in 1982 after the reported deaths of 14 girls as a result of
genital operations. President Moi declared, "I will not allow children to die when I am the
leader of this country." (Quoted in: WIN News, Vol. 8, no. 4, p. 34, Autumn 1982.) As
a member of a Kenya minority group that did not practice this custom, his declaration
banning these practices was a daring political move.
An issue of serious concern in India is the unbalanced sex ratio favoring men. However,
although the sex ratio imbalance favoring boys and men (a probable indication of neglect of
female infants and babies) is pronounced in areas of North India, South India has
approximately the same sex ratio as North American countries and those of Africa.
While footbinding was a custom that severely restricted women in traditional China,
various minority groups in China did not practice footbinding for girls.
In India some tribal groups resisted the commonly accepted practice of female child
marriage by marrying their girls to objects such as trees, arrows, or wheat paddles then,
at a more suitable age, married them again to a young man.
Cultural areas or particular societies are not monolithic. Many are very diverse in their
peoples and geography. Customs depend on area, class, and time period. Comparisons
and contrasts can be made from within a society. Statistical comparisons can be made
within a cultural area or country that indicate diversity depending on internal conditions.
Historical processes can then be traced that indicate some of the reasons for these
differences. Pointing up internal differences provides a way to avoid "us" vs. "them"
ethnocentrism while discussing a variety of cultural norms.
3) Cultures and societies change through time.
Few people in the United States would like to reinstate slavery or take the vote away from
women. We now are ashamed of conditions such as slavery and the denial of basic
political rights to classes of citizens that we tolerated at other times in our national history.
But we are proud of reformers who worked to change these practices.
Similarly, reformers both men and women in other countries and cultures have worked
to eliminate customs they thought were harmful or outdated.
Emperor Shun-Zhi in the 17th century tried to outlaw footbinding in China by decree. As a
Manchu emperor he was seen as an outsider and was unsuccessful; he was afraid to use
more forceful measures as these might have incited rebellion. Chinese author Li Ruzhen
wrote a famous satire criticizing the custom in about 1800, and the empress-dowager Ci Xi
finally outlawed footbinding in China 1907.
Many reformers in Indian history worked against the practice of widow burning (sati or
suttee), child marriage, and the forbidding of widow remarriage. D. K. Karve, a 19th
century reformer, set up homes for widows. He and other men married widows at great
personal cost their families or villages often treated them as outcasts. Women like
Pandita Ramabai, Muthulakshmi Reddi, and Ramabai Ranade also worked against child
marriage, the restrictions on widow remarriage, and for women's education in India.
Latin American women writers faced much criticism and scorn in the late 19th and early
20th century as poets, journalists, and prose writers. They followed in the tradition of the
first feminist of the Americas poet, scientist, and philosopher-nun, Sor Juana Ines de la
Cruz. She was eventually silenced by the Roman Catholic Church for her scientific studies
and her writings that advocated the equality of the sexes and the need to get rid of the
sexual double standard.
Each world area and society has had reformers who were agents of change. These
reformers were sometimes aided by outsiders but their accomplishments are as much a part
of the history of their society as the conditions that brought about the need for their
reforms. This is equally true today. As seen in this unit, women and men throughout the
world are working for reforms to improve the living conditions of people in their societies -
particularly reforms for women.
4) Sometimes a push from the outside is useful.
Although it may be painful to national honor, outside criticism is not necessarily
In 1893 a French aristocrat, the Duc d'Harcourt, visited Egypt and returned home to write a
highly critical book of his observations particularly about the inequality of Egyptian
women. Outraged, an Egyptian jurist, Qasim Amin, wrote a rebuttal in French. But in
doing so he slowly gained a new view and six years later he published The Emancipation
of Woman in which he called for reforms in family and property laws to improve the legal
and social position of Egyptian women.
From 1938 to 1942 Gunnar Myrdal, a Swedish economist and sociologist, conducted a
study for the Carnegie Foundation entitled, "The American Negro Problem in America."
From this study he wrote The American Dilemma. This book was a benchmark in the
modem Civil Rights movement in the United States. Many people in the United States
awoke to the evils of "Jim Crow" and the treatment of Blacks as second-class citizens after
seeing these conditions from the view of an outsider.
The ethnocentricc" approach to teaching world studies arose in recent United States
history. It was a response to "United States bashing" by some Third World countries'
representatives in the United Nations, the conservative swing in United States politics and
foreign policy, and a revival of patriotism and nationalism in the United States in the post -
Ethnocentrism is a view that declares that the United States is the "City on the Hill" a
model to the world with the duty to impose our values on other societies. In this view the
customs, standards, and even "pop" culture of the United States rightfully should be spread
throughout the world. European and North American cultures are seen as superior. Taken
to the extreme it is a neo-colonialist outlook.
This view assumes that improvements and positive traditions for women have come from
the "Western" world. It ignores the many positive role models for women present in the
history of other cultures that may not be present in European or North American cultures.
Suggested ways to avoid ethnocentrism:
1) Comparisons between the Third World and the United States (or European) should be
made with care.
Conceptual labels describing the Third World and the industrialized countries such as
Western, developed, underdeveloped, primitive, and civilized should be used with great
care. For example, is "Western" culture being confused with technology and industrial
output? Does our unfamiliarity with other cultures diminish our appreciation of them? Do
we confuse military might with superiority in all areas? Does underdeveloped mean
industrialized countries' views of what constitutes "development"?
Comparisons between Third World societies and the United States or European cultures
generally should favor the other society or culture. This is a matter of good international
manners and does not mean that outsiders cannot criticize other societies or cultures.
Historical comparisons can be useful. Property rights of women in the United States in the
19th century were severely restricted while at a similar time period Islamic states, following
Koranic law, provided women with guaranteed property rights of inheritance, upon
divorce, and within marriage.
Students may feel less distant from Third World women hauling water if they know that in
the 1920s over 50 percent of women in farm states such as Minnesota had to haul water
from wells or streams to their homes.
(University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin #234, June 1927.)
2) Allow students to have and express their feelings about other people's customs and
values to even feel that customs in other cultures are "weird" or strange. The idea of
differences between peoples and cultures can pique the interest of students. After they have
expressed their surprise or even disgust they can slowly be introduced to human values,
needs, and aspirations that are universal. World history and culture teaches the diversity of
the human condition, the complexity of causation, and the fact that customs and values
change over time in all cultural areas.
3) United Nations standards and statistics can be used as an internationally accepted guide
to issues such as human rights, health issues, and equity. Other international organizations
such as the Red Cross or the YWCA provide almost universally accepted standards to
guide national human rights and customary practices. The use of these standards avoids
"us" vs. "them" divisive comparisons.
The Declaration of Human Rights was accepted by all the nations that signed the United
Nations charter and each can be held to that standard. As of July 25, 1985, 105
countries, including the United States, have signed the "Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Discrimination Against Women." The United States has not yet ratified the
Convention, but 78 countries have and, therefore, can be held to its provisions.
The World Health Organization, at a 1979 international conference at Khartoum, Sudan,
declared that genital mutilation was a dangerous and medically valueless practice.
The presence of United Nations personnel in the United States after World War II helped to
end the practice of Jim Crow in the South when delegates from African countries objected
to the treatment that they received in public accommodations.
RESOURCES AND SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
Sources of Information About
Women's History and Women in Development*
Association for Women in Development
P.O. Box 66133
Washington, D.C. 20035
Canadian International Development Agency
Public Affairs Branch
200 Promenade du Portage
Hull, Quebec KIA OG4
EPOC: Equity Policy Center
4818 Drummond Avenue
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
American Home Economics Association
2010 Massachusetts Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036
Written to be included in home economics classes, units include slides and print materials
on family life, education, clothing, food production, etc. in Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Latin
America, and the Middle East
417 Queen's Quay West
Canada M5V 1A2
With the National Film Board of Canada they have developed a list of films on the United
Nations Decade for Women and women's issues. Catalog available.
*Organizations with instructional materials are annotated.
Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
Women, Public Policy, and Development Project
Arvonne Fraser, Project Director
301 19th Avenue So.
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Publications include "Forward Looking Strategies" an abridged version of the document
adopted by the United Nations Conference on Women at Nairobi, July 1985. Other useful
documents on women's concerns in a global setting. Price lists available minimal
International Center of Research on Women
1717 Massachusetts Avenue N.W.
Washingotn, D.C. 20036
ILO: International Labour Office
CH-1211 Geneva 22
1750 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006
An ILO brochure features women and development materials. Also available is a free
pamphlet "Equal Rights for Working Women" available upon request.
INSTRAW: International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women
Cesar N. Penson 102-A,
P.O. Box 21747
Focus is on "improving the collection and analysis of statistics and data so they will
adequately reflect women's often invisible productive activity."
Posters and other publications projects include Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
International Tribune Center
777 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
C/00 Ann Walker
Many excellent materials, graphics, posters, post cards, particularly on Third World
women. Free catalog available.
ISIS Women's International Information and Communication Services
Via Santa Maria dell'Anima, 30
00186 Rome, Italy
United States address:
P.O. Box 25711
Philadelphia, PA 19144
Excellent newsletter and other publications available in Spanish and English.
National Public Radio
2025 M Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
Audio cassette "A Global Gathering of Women: The Decade of Women Conference,
Nairobi HO-85-09-04, 1/2 hour, $9.95. Other tapes on women's issues available.
National Women's History Project
P.O. Box 3716
Santa Rosa, CA 95402
C/O Molly MacGregor
Many resources for women's history K-adult. Excellent catalog. Yearly poster for
National Women's History Month, March. Emphasis is on United States women's
Development Education Program
1815 H Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006
Excellent videotape "Seeds of Promise" on Third World women's development projects
and print materials available. Write for free brochures.
Office of Women in Development
Agency for International Development
Washington, D.C. 20523
The resource center of the Office of Women in Development (WID) has bibliographies,
some articles, and a book list available free of charge.
P.O. Box 3923
Grand Central Station
New York, NY 10163
Booklets available on specific new projects that have had a positive impact on women.
Sisterhood is Global, Robin Morgan, ed., 1984.
501 Franklin Avenue
Garden City, NY 11530
Country-by-country information on women very useful.
Available at bookstores $12.95.
TABS: Aids for Equal Education
744 Carroll Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Many excellent posters particularly for younger students. Catalog available.
United Nations Development Fund for Women
304 East 45th Street, Room 1106
New York, NY 10017
Margaret Snyder, Information Officer
Women Associated for Global Education (WAGE)
C/O The Immaculate Heart College Center
10951 West Pico Blvd. Suite 2021
Los Angeles, CA 90064
A nationwide network of female educators and administrators founded to remedy the lack
of emphasis on gender-related issues in global education.
The newsletter of the Immaculate Heart College Center, Global Pages, is an excellent
resource emphasizing women's issues through the WAGE PAGE,
WEAL: Women's Equity Action League
805 15the Street, N.'W.
Washington, D.C. 20005
WEAL publications are concerned mostly with issues for women in the United States but
cover a wide variety of topics that may be useful in cross-cultural comparisons. Catalog
C/O Fran Hosken
187 Grant Street
Lexington, MA 02173
A journal of excerpts from world newspapers and magazines on women's concerns.
Excellent for current issues.
WIRE: Women's International Resource Exchange Service
2700 Broadway, Room 7
New York, N.Y. 10025
Catalog of many useful publications on women worldwide. Reprints of articles and books.
Women: A World Report, Debbie Taylor, ed.
Methuen London Ltd.
11 New Fetter Lane
London EC4P 4EE
Women...A World Survey, Ruth Legar Sivard
Washington, D.C. 20007
Easily reproduced graphs, etc. for classroom use. This publication is included in a kit of
materials from the Population Reference Bureau, (see below.)
Women in Development:
A Resource Guide for Oganizations and Action, 1984.
New Society Publishers
Philadelphia, PA 19143
$14.95 plus $1.50 postage.
Very useful, materials, charts, statistics on women in a world context.
Women in World Area Studies and
Women and Development Issues in Three World Areas
C/O The Upper Midwest Women's History Center
6300 Walker Street
SL Louis Park, MN 55416
The WWAS program has developed curriculum materials on the history of women in eight
cultural areas for secondary to adult. 13 books, 9 sound filmstrips, teachers guides. New
curriculum units are being developed for Women and Development Issues in Three World
Areas. Workshop manual, filmstrips/slide programs on women and development issues.
Write for free catalog from Glenhurst Publications at the above address. Brochures and
newletters on these projects also available from the Upper Midwest Women's History
Women in the World Atlas, Joni Seager and Ann Olson, Touchstone Book, Simon and
Schuster, Inc., New York, 1986.
Excellent source of statistics and charts on women in a geographic setting. Original and
pertinent graphics used. Available at book stores for $12.95.
Women in the World: Annotated History Resources for the Secondary
Student, compiled and edited by, Lyn Reese and Jean Wilkinson,
The Scarecrow Press, Inc., Methuchen, NJ, 1987.
Available from Glenhurst Publications, 6300 Walker Street,
St. Louis Park, MN 55416.
An important new book of sources well annotated, publishers listed useful and
appropriate. $19.50 prepaid postage included.
Women of the World: A Chartbook for Developing Regions,
United States Agency for International Development
Office of Women in Development
From: Superintendent of Documents
United States Government Printing Office
Washington, D.C. 20037
"The World's Women: A Profile"
Population Reference Bureau, Inc.
2213 M Greet N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037
Wall chart on women worldwide. Kit of materials on women also available includes
Women...A World Survey listed above.
WOMEN IN THE CONTEMPORARY THIRD WORLD
Afshar, Haleh, ed. Women, Work, and Ideology in the Third World. New York:
Tavistock Publications, 1985.
Beneria, Lourdes, ed. Women and Development: The Sexual Division of Labor in Rural
Societies. New York: Praeger, 1982.
Bernard, Jessie. The Female World from a Global Perspective. Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1987.
Blumber, Rae Lesser. Stratification: Socioeconomic and Sexual Inequality. Dubuque:
Wm. C. Brown Company, 1978.
Borooah, Romy, Barbara Yates, and Jean Treloggen Peterson. "Women and
Development: An Interdisciplinary Seminar," Curriculum Guide No. 7 and Annapurna
Shaw, "Women and Agricultural Production in the Third World," Curriculum Guide no. 1.
Available from the Office of Women in International Development, University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign, 324 Coble Hall, 801 So. Wright Street, Champaign, IL 61820,
USA. **Other unpublished papers available list available upon request.
Boserup, Ester. Woman's Role in Economic Development. New York: St. Martin's
Bourguignon, Erika, ed. A World of Women. New York: Praeger, 1980.
Buvinic, Mayra, Margaret A. Lycette, and William Paul McGreevey. Women and Poverty
in the Third World. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983.
Boulding, Elise. Women in the Twentieth Century World. New York: SAGE, 1977.
Charlton, Sue Ellen M. Women in Third World Development. Boulder: Westview Press,
Chipp, Sylvia A. and Justin J. Green, eds. Asian Women in Transition. University Park:
Pennsylvania State University Press, 1980.
Davies, Miranda, compiler. Third World Second Sex. London: Zed Press, 1983.
Dixon, Ruth B. Rural Women at Work: Strategies for Development in South Asia.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978.
Eberstadt, Nick, ed. Fertility Decline in the Less Developed Countries. New York:
Eck, Kiana L. and Devaki Jain. Speaking of Faith: Global Perspectives on Women,
Religion and Social Change. Philadlphia, PA: New Society Publishers, 1987.
Etienne, Mona and Eleanor Leacock, ed. Women and Colonization. New York: Praeger,
Farley, Jennie, ed. Women Workers in Fifteen Countries. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 1985.
Fawcett, James T., Siew-Ean Khoo, Peter C. Smith. Women in the Cities of Asia.
Boulder: Westview Press, 1984.
Gelpi, Barbara et.al., eds. Women and Poverty. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
Giele, Janet and Audrey Smock. Women Roles and Status in Eight Countries. New York:
John Wiley, 1977.
Huston, Perdita. Message from the Village. New York: The Epoch B Foundation, 1978.
Third World Women Speak Out. New York: Praeger, 1979.
Iglitzin, Lynne B. and Ruth Ross, eds. Women in the World. Santa Barbara: Clio
Jayawardena, Kumari. Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World. London: Zed
Kelly, Gail P. and Carolyn M. Elliott. Women's Education in the Third World:
Comparative Perspectives. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982.
Leacock, Eleanor and Helen Safa, Women's Work: Development and the Division of
Labor by Gender. South Hadley, MA: Bergin and Garvey, 1986.
Lindsay, Beverly, ed. Comparative Perspectives of Third World Women: The Impact of
Race, Sex, and Class. New York: Praeger, 1980.
March, Kathryn S. and Rachelle Taqqu. Women's Informal Associations in Developing
Countries Catalysts for Change? Boulder: Westview Press, 1986.
Momsen, Janet Henshall and Janet G. Townsend, eds. Geography of Gender in the Third
World. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987.
Morgan, Robin, ed. Sisterhood is Global. NY: Anchor Books, 1984.
Newland, Kathleen. The Sisterhood of Man. New York: W.W. Norton, 1979.
Overholt, Catherine, et.al, eds. Gender Roles in Development Projects A Case Book.
West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press, 1985.
Raphael, Dana, ed. Being Female Reproduction, Power, and Change. The Hague:
Mouton Publishers, 1975.
Reiter, Rayna R., ed. Toward an Anthropology of Women. NY: Monthly Review Press,
Rogers, Barbara. The Domestication of Women Discrimination in Developing Societies.
NY: St. Martin's Press, 1979.
Rohrlich-Leavitt, Ruby, ed. Women Cross-Culturally. Change and Challenge. The
Hague: Mouton, 1975.
Rosaldo, Michelle Zimbalist and Louise Lamphere, eds. Woman, Culture and Society.
Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974.
Sanday, Peggy Reeves. Female Power and Male Dominance On the Origins of Sexual
Inequality. London: Cambridge University Press, 1981.
Schlegel, Alice, ed. Sexual Stratification A Cross-Cultural View. New York: Columbia
University Press, 1977.
Scott, Hilda. Working Your Way to the Bottom: The Feminization of Poverty. NY:
Pandora Press, 1984.
Seager, Joni and Ann Olson. Women in the World Atlas. NY: Touchstone Book, 1986.
Sen, Gita and Caren Grown. Development, Crises, and Alternative Visions Third World
Women's Perspectives. NY: Monthly Review Press, 1987.
Staudt, Kathleen. "Women in Development: Courses and Curriculum Integration"
Working Paper #77, January 1985. This and many other women and development papers
available from: Office of Women in International Development, 202 International Center,
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1035.
Tinker, Irene, and Michele Bo Bramsen, eds. Women and World Development. Overseas
Development Council, 1976.
Women and National Development: The Complexities of Change. Edited by The
Wellesley Editorial Committee. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.
Women, Struggles and Strategies Third World Perspectives. ISIS International, 1986.
Women Workers, International Labour Office, Geneva, Switzerland, 1976. Introduction
by Helvi Sipila. (See address in "Resources").
Women Workers in Multinational Enterprises in Developing Countries. International
Labour Office, Geneva, Switzerland, 1985.
Women in World Area Studies. Thirteen books and nine sound filmstrips on the history
and culture of women in eight cultural areas for secondary level students by Marjorie Wall
Bingham and Susan Hill Gross. For information write: Glenhurst Publications, Inc.,
Central Community Center, 6300 Walker Street, St. Louis Park, MN 55416. (612) 925-
Yudelman, Sally W. Hopeful Openings A Study of Five Women's Development
Organization in Latin America and the Caribbean. West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press,
Berrian, Brenda. Bibliography ofAfrican Women Writers and Journalists. Washington,
D.C., Three Continents Press, 1985.
Buvinic, Mayra. Women and World Development: An Annotated Bibliography. Overseas
Development Council, n.d.
Byrne, Pamela and Suzanne Ontiveros, eds. Women in the Third World: A Historical
Bibliography. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 1986
Dasgupta, Kalpana. Women on the Indian Scene: An Annotated Bibliography.
New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1976.
Duley, Margot and Mary I. Edwards, eds. The Cross-Cultural Study of Women. New
York: Feminist Press, 1986.
Fenton, Thomas P. and Mary J. Heffron. Women in the Third World: A Directory of
Resources. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1987.
Rihani, May. Development as if Women Mattered: An Annotated Bibliography With a
Third World Focus. Overseas Development Council, 1978.
Sakala, Carol. Women of South Asia: A Guide to Resources. Millwood, NY: Kraus
International Publications, 1980.
Saulniers, Suzanne Smith and Cathy A. Rakowski. Women in the Development Process:
A Select Bibliography on Women in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Austin:
University of Texas Press, 1977.
Caplan, Patricia. Class and Gender in India: Women and Their Organizations in a South
Indian City. London: Tavistock Publications, 1985.
Chen, Martha Alter. A Quiet Revolution: Women in Transition in Rural Bangladesh.
Cambridge, MN: Schenkman Publishing Co., 1983.
de Sourza, Alfred, ed. Women in Contemporary India. New Delhi: Manohar, 1975.
Everett, Jana Matson. Women and Social Change in India. New Delhi: Heritage
Fruzzetti, Lina M. The Gift of aVirgin: Women, Marriage, and Ritual in a Bengali
Society. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1982.
Hartmann, Betsy and James Boyce. A Quiet Violence: View from a Bangladesh Village.
London: Zed Press, 1983.
Jacobson, Doranne and Susan S. Wadley. Women in India: Two Perspectives. New
Delhi: Manohar, 1977.
Kapur, Promilla. The Life and World of Call-girls in India. New Delhi: Vikas, 1978.
19___74. The Changing Status of Working Women in India. Delhi: Vikas,
Kaur, Inderjeet. Status of Hindu Women in India. Allahabad: Chugh Publications, 1983.
Kaur, Manmohan. Women in India's Freedom Struggle. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers,
Kishwar, Madhu and Ruth Vanita, eds. In Search of Answers: Indian Women's Voices
from Manushi. London: Zed Books, Ltd., 1984.
Mandelbaum, David G. Women's Seclusion and Men's Honor: Sex Roles in North India,
Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1988.
Mathew, P. M., and M. S. Nair. Women's Organisations and Women's Interests. New
Delhi: Ashish Publishing House, 1986.
Mehta, Rama. Divorced Hindu Woman. Delhi: Vikas, 1975.
Western Educated Woman. Delhi: Vikas, 1970.
Mies, Maria. Indian Women and Patriarchy. New Delhi: Concept Publishing, 1980.
Mies, Maria. Indian Women in Subsistence and Agricultural Labour. Geneva:
International Labour Office, 1986.
Mies, Maria. The Lace Makers of Narsapur: Indian Housewives Produce for the World
Market. London, Zed Books, Ltd., 1982.
Miller, Barbara D. The Endangered Sex. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981.
Mukhopadhyay, Maitrayee. Silver Shackles: Women and Development in India. Oxford:
Mumtaz, Khawar and Farida Shaheed, eds. Women of Pakistan: Two Steps Forward,
One Step Back? London: Zed Books Ltd., 1987.
Omvedt, Gail. We Will Smash This Prison! Indian Women in Struggle. London: Zed
Press, Ltd., 1980.
Raghuvanshi, Kalpana. Rural Women in Rajasthan. Jaipur: Kanchenjunga Publications,
Shah, Kalpana. Women's Liberation and Voluntary Action. Delhi: Ajanta Publications,
Sharma, Radha Krishna. Nationalism, Social Reform and Indian Women. Delhi: Ram
Brit Singh, 1981.
Sharma, Ursula. Women, Work, and Property in North-West India. London:
Tavistock Publications, 1980.
Shashi, S.S. The Tribal Women of India. Delhi: Sundeep Prakashan,1978.
Sinha, Rammesh P. Women's Rights: Myth and Reality. Jaipur, Printwell Publishers,
Skjonsberg, Else. A Special Caste? Tamil Women of Sri Lanka. London: Zed Books,
Towards Equality: Report of the Committee on the Status of Women in India.
Government of India, Department of Social Welfare, December 1974.
Vinze, Medha Dubhashi. Women Entrepreneurs in India. New Delhi: Mittal Publications,
Wallace, Ben J., et al. The Invisible Resource: Women and Work in Rural Bangladesh.
Boulder. Westview Press, 1987.
Abdalla, Raquiya Haji Dualeh. Sisters in Affliction: Circumcision and Infibulation of
Women in Africa. London: Zed Press, 1982.
Andreski, Iris. Old Wives' Tales Life-Stories of African Women. New York: Schocken
Ba, Mariama. So Long a Letter. London: Heinemann,1980.
Bernstein, Hilda. For Their Triumphs and Their Tears: Women in Apartheid South
Africa. London: International Defense and Aid Fund, 1978.
Bingham, Marjorie Wall and Susan Hill Gross. Women in Africa of the Sub-Sahara,
Volume I: Ancient Times to the 20th Century. St. Louis Park, MN: Glenhurst
Publications, Inc., 1982.
Women in Africa of the Sub-Sahara, Volume II: The 20th Century.
St. Louis Park, MN: Glenhurst Publications, Inc., 1982.
Cutrufelli, Maria Rosa. Women of Africa: Roots of Oppression.. London: Zed Press,
Creevey, Lucy E., ed. Women Farmers in Africa: Rural Development in Mali and the
Sahel. Syracuse, N.Y.:Syracuse University Press, 1986.
Dareer, Asma El. Woman, Why Do You Weep? Circumcision and Its Consequences.
London: Zed Press, 1982.
Davies, Carole Boyce and Anne Adams Graves. NGAMBIKA: Studies of Women in
African Literature. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, Inc., 1985.
Emecheta, Buchi. The Joys of Motherhood. New York: George Braziller, 1979.
Farah, Nuruddin. From a Crooked Rib. London: Heinemann, 1970.
Goodwin, June. Cry Amandla! South African Women and the Question of Power. New
York: Africana Publishing Co., 1984.
Gugler, Josef and William Flanagan. Urbanization and Social Change in West Africa.
London: Cambridge University Press, 1978.
Hafkin, Nancy J. and Edna G. Bay, eds. Women in Africa: Studies in Social and
Economic Change. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1976.
Jones, Eldred Durosimi, Eustace Palmer, Marjorie Jones, eds. Women in African
Literature Today. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1988.
Joseph, Helen. Tomorrow's sun: A Smuggled Journal from South Africa. London:
Side by Side: The Autobiography of Helen Joseph. New York:
William Morrow, 1987.
Kaberry, Phyllis M. Women of the Grassfields. London: Her Majesty's Stationery
Kitson, Norma. Where Sixpence Lives. London: Hogarth Press, 1987.
Kuper, Hilda. An African Aristocracy. London: Oxford University Press, 1961.
Leith-Ross, Sylvia. African Women: A Study of the Ibo of Nigeria. London: Faber and
Levine, Sarah. Mothers and Wives: Gusii Women of East Africa. Chicago: University of
Chicago press, 1979.
Little, Kenneth. African Women in Towns. Cabridge: Cambridge University Press,
Mandela, Winnie. Part of My Soul Went With Him. New York: W.W. Norton, 1985.
Michelman, Cherry. The Black Sash of South Africa. London: Oxford University Press,
Obbo, Christine. African Women: Their Struggle for Economic Independence. London:
Zed Press, 1980.
Palmer, Ingrid, ed. Women's Roles and Gender Differences in Development: Cases for
Planners. West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press, 1985.
Paulinme, Denise, ed. Women of Tropical Africa. Berkeley: University of California,
Richards, Audrey. Chisungu. London: Faber and Faber, 1956.
Robertson, Claire C. and Martin A. Klein. Women and Slavery in Africa. Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press, 1983.
Sacks, Karen. Sisters and Wives: The Past and Future of Sexual Equality. Westport, CT:
Schuster, Ilsa M. Glazer. The Women of Lusaka. Palo Alto: Mayfield Publishing, 1979.
Sikakane, Joyce. A Window on Soweto. London: International Defense and Aid, 1977.
Smith, Mary F. Baba of Karo: A Woman of the Muslim Hausa. London: Faber and
Spring, Anita. Agricultural Development in Malawi: A Project for Women in
Development. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988.
Strobel, Margaret. Muslim Women in Mombasa 1890-1975. New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1979.
Urdang, Stephanie. Fighting Two Colonialisms: Women in Guinea-Bissau. New York:
Monthly Review Press, 1979.
Wright, Marcia. Women in Peril. Institute for African Studies, University of Zambia,
Acosta-Belen, Edna, ed. The Puerto Rican Woman. New York: Praeger, 1979.
Agosin, Marjorie. Scraps of Life Chilean Arpilleras. Trenton, N.J: The red Sea Press,
Anion, Ferdinand. Women in Pre-Colombian America. New York: Abner Schram, 1973.
Barrios, Domitila de Chungara. Let Me Speak! Testimony of Domitila, a Woman of the
Bolivian Mines. New York: Monthly Review, 1978.
Bishop, Elizabeth. The Diary of Helena Morley. New York: Ecco Press, 1977.
Bingham, Marjorie Wall and Susan Hill Gross. Women In Latin America: From Pre-
Columbian Times to the 20th Century. Glenhurst Publications, Inc., 1985.
____Women in Latin America: The 20th Century. Glenhurst Publications,
Bourque, Susan C. and Kay Barbara Warren. Women of the Andes: Patriarchy and Social
Change in Two Peruvian Towns. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1981.
Bronstein, Audrey. The Triple Struggle: Latin American Peasnat Women. Boston: South
End Press, 1983.
Chaney, Elsa M. Supermadre: Women in Politics in Latin America. Austin: University
of Texas Press, 1979.
Deere, Carmen Diana and Magdalena Leon. Rural Women and State Policy: Feminist
Perspectives on Latin American Agricultural Development. Boulder, CO: Westview
Elmendorf, Mary Lindsay. Nine Mayan Women. New York: Schenkman Publishers,
Estrada, Alvaro. Maria Sabina, Her Life and Chants. Santa Barbara, CA: Ross-Erikson
Estudios e Informes de la CEPAL. Five Studies on the Situation of Women in Latin
America. United Nations Publication, June 1983.
Fraser, Nicholas and Marysa Navarro. Eva Peron. New York: W.W. Norton, 1980.
Fox-Lockert, Lucia. Women Novelists in Spain and Spanish America.. N.J.: The
Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1979.
Gonzales, Nancie L. Solien. Black Carib Household Structure. Seattle: University of
Hahner, June E. Women in Latin American History. Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American
Henderson, James D. and Linda Roddy Henderson. Ten Notable Women of Latin
America. Chicago: Nelson Hall, 1978.
Holt-Seeland, Inger. Women of Cuba. Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill and Co., 1981.
Herrera, Hayden. Friday: A Biography of Frida Kahlo.. New York: Harper & Row
Jesus, Carolina Maria de. Child of the Dark.. New York: Signet Books, 1962.
Latin American and Caribbean Women's Collective. Slaves of Slaves: The Challenge of
Latin American Women. London: Zed Press, 1980.
Kerns, Virginia. Women and the Ancestors: Black Carib Kinship and Ritual. Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 1983.
Lavrin, A. Latin American Women. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1978.
Lewis, Oscar. Four Women: Living the Revolution, An Oral History of Contemporary
Cuba. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1977.
Macias, Anna. Against All Odds: The Feminist Movement in Mexico to 1940. Westport:
Greenwood Press, 1982.
Martin, Luis. Daughters of the Conquistadores: Women of the Viceroyalty of Peru.
Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1983.
Meyer, Doris. Victoria Ocampo: Against the Wind and the Tide. New York: George
Martinez-Alier, Verena. Marriage, Class and Colour in 19th Century Cuba: A Study of
Racial Attitudes and Sexual Values in a Slave Society. New York: Cambridge University
Mathurin, Lucille. The Rebel Woman in the British West Indies During Slavery. Jamaica:
Kingston Institute of Jamaica, 1975.
May, Stella. Men, Maidens and Mantillas: Changing Role of Women in Latin America.
Bowling Green: Gordon Press, 1976.
Montgomery, Paul. Eva, Evita: The Life and Death of Eva Peron. New York: Simon &
Murphy, Yolanda and Robert. Women of the Forest.. New York: Columbia University
Nash, June. Sex and Class in Latin America. New York: Praeger, 1976.
Pescatello, Ann. Female and Male in Latin America: Essays. Pittsburgh: University of
Pittsburgh Press, 1973.
Randall, Margaret. Cuban Women Now. Toronto: Women's Press, 1974.
Sandino's Daughters: Testimonies ofNicaraguan Women in
Struggle. London: Zed Press, 1981.
Roberts, George. Women in Jamaica. Millwood, New York: Kraus, 1977.
Saffioti, Heleieth I. B. Women in Class Society. New York: Monthly Review Press,
Slater, Mariam. The Caribbean Family. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1977.
Schmink, Marianne, Judith Bruce, and Marilyn Kohn, ed. Learning About Women and
Urban Services in Latin America and the Caribbean. Washington, D.C.: The Population
Council, Inc., 1986.
Taylor, J.M. Eva Peron: The Myths of a Woman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
Turner, June, ed., Latin American Woman: The Meek Speak Out. Silver Spring:
International Educational Development, 1980.
Women in Latin America: An Anthology from Latin American Perspectives. Riverside,
CA: Latin American Perspectives, 1979.
HANDOUT 11: GLOSSARY
A person who works on another person's land for wages and is not involved in
supervision of other laborers or decisions about crops.
The science of soil management and production of field crops; scientific agriculture.
The recognition that much of modern technology does not benefit the greatest number of
needy people in the Third World has led to discussions of "appropriate technology."
Traditional technologies have not always produced the agricultural surpluses needed for
population increases. Modem technology may require skills and money to use and
maintain this same technology that are not available in the Third World. Intermediate or
appropriate technologies those between complex and traditional should improve
productivity but, at the same time, their introduction should not contribute to
unemployment since labor is a plentiful resource in the Third World. Specific questions
for women must be asked of any new technology: Will it add to women's work burdens?
Will women have access to the new technology? Will women be consulted about its
adoption? (Adapted from: Sue Ellen Charlton, Women in Third World Development.
1984, p. 85.)
Basic Needs Approach (or Basic Human Needs.)
Advocated by Mahbub ul Haq of the World Bank and publicly debated at the ILO
(International Labor Office) World Employment conference in 1976, this is one approach to
development in the Third World. Basic needs are defined as: food specified in terms of
calories and specific to age, sex occupation; potable water reasonably close to people's
homes; clothing and shelter adequate to the locality; medical care including preventive
medicine, sanitation, health services, nutrition, family planning; education; participation in
decision making; and human rights. BNA advocates claim that large-scale development
projects have failed to reach the poor and, instead, the aim of development should be
fulfilling the basic needs of all human beings. (See, James Weaver and Kenneth Jameson,
Economic Development: Competing Paradigms, 1981.)
Brideprice (or bride wealth)
Money or goods paid to the bride's family by the groom's at the time of the wedding or
soon afterward. Often the exchange takes place between the bride's father and the groom's
Ones in which an adult man and woman live together or have children together but their
relationship is not officially sanctioned by the church or state.
Agricultural laborers who work on land that they own or lease.
A view that discourages the criticism of other cultures as ethnocentric. Cultural relativists
believe that it is improper for outsiders to judge another culture's mores, standards, or
The activities of all human cultures can be divided roughly into six "cultural universals."
All human societies include activities in these six areas. Generally these six areas are
labeled: education, politics, economics, social arrangements, art, and religion.
Economic Development: Changes which include increased industrialization, using
technological advances, and increased national product
Social Development: Changes which involve widespread distribution of income and
"social goods" such as education, health services, adequate housing, recreation facilities,
and participation in political decision making among the population.
Cultural Development: Reaffirmation of national identity and traditions; a new and positive
self-image and the dispelling of second-rate feelings and external subordination. (Adapted
from Alejandro Portes "On the Sociology of National Development: Theories and Issues,"
American Journal of Sociology, July 1976, p. 56.)
Double day (double duty)
The entrenched division of labor by sex that views women as being in charge of children
and the home even when they work full or part time at subsistence or wage labor jobs.
This view has often led to women working far longer hours than men with little leisure time
available to them.
Payment in money, goods, or land to the groom or groom's family by the bride's family.
A belief in the inherent superiority of one's own culture or group with contempt for other
cultures and a tendency to view other groups in one's own terms.
A number of activities concerning the growing of food: planting, weeding, harvesting,
storing, transporting, delivering, preparing, and consuming. Food consumption
determines nutrition and affects participation in the cycle. Women's labor in the food cycle
has often been invisible when compared to that of men. (Adapted from Charlton, Women
in Third World Development, p. 61.)
That part of the economy that is counted in the Gross National Product, that involves paid
wages or returns from investments, and is regulated by labor and business laws. In many
Third World areas the formal sector accounts for less than half of those that are
The First World refers to industrialized countries of the West Europe and North America.
(See also: Third World)
Refers to social experience (while sex is a biological basis for distinction).
"A perspective that is sensitive to gender not only focuses on the categories of men and
women, but examines the origins and implications of the relationships between them. It
demonstrates how socialization creates gender distinctions and reveals inequities that stem
from patriarchal social organization." (Janice Monk and Jane Williamson-Fien,
"Stereoscopic Visions: Perspectives on Gender Challenges for the Geography
Classroom" in, Teaching Geography for a Bener World, Brisbane, Australia: Australian
Geography Teachers Association and the Jacaranda Press, 1986, 188.)
The term for agricultural developments such as the more efficient use of fertilizer and water
and the introduction of HYV (high-yield crop varieties) of grains particularly wheat and
rice into the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia in the 1960s. Norman Borlaug, the
agronomist who developed these seed varieties, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for
his work which was hailed as meaning the end of hunger in many parts of the Third World.
Unforeseen results, however, have occurred since. Generally the larger landowners were
able to take advantage of these innovations because the high cost of inputs (seed, fertilizers,
machinery) allowed them to borrow the money needed and use these technologies the most
efficiently. In general, for women the Green Revolution has meant the loss of traditional
farming roles and, because of the loss of family farms, poorer women have become
agricultural laborers rather than cultivators.
Gross National Product
The total monetary value of all final goods and services produced in a country during one
year. GNP is "widely used as an indicator of development. Usually it only includes
productive activities in the 'modern,' money economy an overwhelmingly male
environment excludes production and services provided by women in the home and in the
so-called "traditional" and "informal" economies." (Monk and Williamson-Fien,
"Stereoscopic Visions," p. 194.)
Involves activities outside of the formal economy (as defined above) such as trading done
by street vendors, selling of home-made food products, subsistence farming, home craft
production, flower selling, and other activities generally not enumerated in national
statistics and not counted in the Gross National Product (GNP).
Making whole a condition of organizing members of a community into an integrated
group. (For further explanation and origin see Part ElI- HANDOUT 4).
A group of Indo-Aryan peoples who live in northwestern India.
Male head of household in Bangladesh; master. (See filmstrip /slide presentation Women
and the Family in Three World Areas," Part II)
A cultural ideal common in Latin America. A masculine code where men are to be
personally brave, protective of family (especially women), able to operate effectively in the
outside world, and are usually quick to take insult.
A cultural ideal common in Latin America. A feminine code where women are to be
religious and pious, focused on family, secluded at home, and the moral force of their
The family of one's birth.
See Page 41 for an exercise on defining "patriarchy."
Historian Linda Gordon recently described "patriarchy" as follows:
"I find particularly ahistorical the use of the term "patriarchy" to mean a universal,
unchanging, deterministic social structure which denies agency to women. I prefer to use
the term ... in a narrower sense, referring to a form of male dominance in which fathers
control families and families are the units of social and economic power." For this manual,
the latter definition describes our use of the term patriarchy.
From Linda Gordon. Heroes of Their own Lives: The Politics and History of Family
Violence. 1988. p. vi.
A form of government or the condition of being organized as a state or organized
The practice of having more than one husband at a time.
Having several spouses at the same time.
The practice of having more than one wife at a time.
People who share the common characteristics of low income, poor health and nutrition, and
lack of basic needs. (Thomas Merrick and Marianne Schmink, "Households Headed by
Women and Urban Poverty in Brazil," in Mayra Buvinic, et al, Women and Poverty in the
Third World, 1983, p. 244.)
See Part l, HANDOUT 4.
Purdah (or Parda)
Comes from the Persian word meaning curtain. It refers to the seclusion, especially of
Muslim and Hindu women, by covering them with veils in public, restricting them to a
harem, zenana, or women's quarter in the home, and by generally discouraging contact
between the sexes except for close family members.
See Part ll, HANDOUT 4.
In the Middle East, South Asia, and parts of sub-Saharan Africa this, refers to the custom
of severely restricting the physical movements of women to home or, when in public,
women are veiled or in covered vehicles. Also a practice of certain classes in traditional
China and periods of Russian and Latin American history.
Refers to the communist or socialist countries, particularly the USSR and China. (See also,
Is a hero of the Hindu epic poem, the Ramayana, dating from ca. 500 BC. Married to
Rama the male hero, Sita was captured by the demon-king Ravana and taken to Ceylon (Sri
Lanka). Finally freed, Rama fears she has had sexual relations with Ravana. Although she
successfully undergoes an ordeal by fire to prove her innocence, Rama sends her away to
the forest There she bears his twin sons, raises them to be brave and good, and is
eventually welcomed back by Rama. Self-sacrifice, faithfulness, long-suffering,
uncomplaining (even when unjustly treated), and sexual purity are Sita's qualities that are
considered to be an Indian ideal for women.
See Part III, HANDOUT 4.
The "supermadre" model was described by political scientist Elsa Chancy as a woman
politician who stresses her motherly concern for her constituents. She does not confront
the male world by trying to fit into it. Instead, she carries her domestic role further into the
outer world of politics. (Elsa Chancy, Supermadre: Women in Politics in Latin America!,
1979, p. 22.)
A movement in the 1950s among nations who increasingly refused to align themselves with
either of the superpowers (United States or the USSR) "Originally, the term Third World'
characterized those countries that eschewed alignment with either the First World of the
West or the Second World of the East. Although the term now has an economic meaning
as well, the idea of the Third World is still most accurately described as a political concept."
(Quoted from Sue Ellen Charlton, Women in the Third World, p. 13, as she adapted it
from Wayne Clegern, "What is the Third World? Tichnos, Vol. 8 (January-December
1980). The term Third World is used here in preference to terms such as "underdeveloped"
or "developing" world as being a label chosen by people in these world areas.
Trickle down (or Oil stain)
A theory of development that proposed that prosperity in one sector of the economy or
among one class would eventually spread to other people and groups and that the general
population would eventually benefit.
A theory that "small is beautiful" in development projects. This theory claims that small
projects and loans at the individual, family, or village level that improve ordinary people's
lives are more effective in overcoming poverty in the Third World than large scale projects
to modernize the general economy.
Tube well water
Safe drinking water from wells dug in Bangladesh villages rather than water in surface
creeks or ponds. As the water must be brought from the well, it may be less convenient -
thus the Grameen Bank requires its use to encourage safe drinking water for villagers.
Refers to the large sector of economic activity which does not lie within labor legislation
and is, therefore, not counted in labor statistics. Comparable to "informal" but may mean a
widespread condition such as in India where perhaps 80 percent of all work takes place in
the "unorganized sector."
Products made within the family that are not assigned a monetary value or sold but have
economic value because they are consumed within the family unit.