S. HRG. 98-919 Pt. 2
WOMEN IN DEVELOPMENT: LOOKING
TO THE FUTURE
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
UNITED STATES SENATE
JUNE 7, 1984
Printed for the use of the Committee on Foreign Relations
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
39-805 O0 WASHINGTON : 1984
ADDITIONAL STATEMENT OF IRENE TINKER, EQUITY POLICY CENTER, WASHINGTON, DC
My name is Irene Tinker and I am founder and director of the Equity Policy
Center (EPOC), a multi-faceted non-profit organization focusing on issues of develop-
ment and public policy in both developing and industrialized countries, particularly
emphasizing the impact of those issues on women. As one of the group of women
involved with the conceptualization of the original Percy amendment, I wish to
commend Senator Charles Percy, not only for holding this hearing to mark a decade
of his amendment, but to thank him for his continual support for its implementa-
tion during these last 10 years.
My comments today are derived from a recent set of papers I wrote on the origins,
meaning, and impact of the Percy amendment. (The full text is available from our
office at 2001 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009.)
The Percy amendment stands today as a major symbol of the women in develop-
ment (WID) movement, which has had a fundamental influence on the thinking of
the development community. Proponents of WID trace their roots variously to the
academic and development communities, to the United Nations, and to the U.S.
women's movement. Each of these groups brought a set of goals for women's ad-
vancement. The early emphasis of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women
was on legal rights of women, that is, on equity. The U.S. women's movement was
concerned first with employment opportunities, an issue also reflected in many U.N.
resolutions. These women quickly recognized the importance of organizing to maxi-
mize their power, and began to urge the empowerment of women in developing coun-
tries. Finally, a group of women associated with the Society for International Devel-
opment set up a working group on WID. Comparing notes, they began to realize the
often adverse impact which development programs were having on women and
began to pressure for the inclusion of women in economic development.
During the last decade, as programs to integrate women in development have
been initiated by planners worldwide, the confusion over these four major goals of
equity, employment, empowerment, and economic development has often led to inad-
equately designed programs. It has also engendered debate as to whether separate
programs and separate offices for women were preferable approaches to ensuring
that women benefit equitably from the fruits of development.
Equity concerns, that is, equal access to the law, education, health, and other gov-
ernmental services, too easily became tied to the Basic Human Needs (BHN) ap-
proach to development. As disillusionment with BHN increased among supporters
who found social programming extremely difficult, and reaction solidified among
proponents of national growth first, emphasis on women's rights faced growing re-
sistance. To some extent, women's demands for more professional opportunities in
development agencies were seen by many as an equity demand unrelated to develop-
ment. Such critics overlooked the barriers facing men who try to reach or under-
stand women when designing or carrying out development programs. Whether due
to this reasoning or because of the worldwide depression, women's employment de-
mands have also been met with less and less receptivity.
Most proponents of WID today focus either on empowerment or on development.
Although today there is an increasing prediliction to combine both goals, these dif-
ferent emphases imply different approaches: separate or integrated. Is the goal to
integrate women into development programs, or is it to empower women to demand
their own integration into development?
In the earliest days of WID programming, the confusion between these two goals
was less understood. The debate over separate programming for women became a
major issue within the WID community. The issue relates not only to the program-
ming itself, but also to the administrative mechanisms set up to oversee the pro-
gram. Separate programs for women, usually run through local middle-class
women's organizations, have the advantage of ensuring participation of women at
the community level. Training in leadership both of the community and the organi-
zational women is an important aspect of separate programs. The disadvantages of
this approach are also clear. Most women's organizations are more experienced in
charitable activity than in development programming. Earnest attempts to intro-
duce income generating activities for groups of poor women have been less than sat-
isfactory. Even successful programs tend to have minimal effect on development
programming since they are generally run outside the development bureaucracy.
The result is that many excellent programs are ignored and women's projects are
marginal to development planning.
Note that the negative arguments for separate programming are all based on the
assumption that development is the priority. The positive aspects of separate pro-
gramming are due to its empowerment! Naturally, those women favoring separate
programs also emphasize empowerment as the major priority of WID. Opposing this
emphasis have been those women who believe that major development programs,
with their large expenditures and widespread influence, must take into account the
impact that such programs will have on women as differentiated from men. They
have argued that separate programs get planners off the hook: it is easier to give
small amounts of money to women's organizations than to program for women in
Even when women's concerns are part of a large development project, methods of
reaching women with services or of including them in community decision-making
may have to be separate from those utilized by men. In a sense, the whole concept
of community participation has had to be redefined to mean participation by women
as well as men. Intervening in a community by organizing women or any other dis-
advantage group affects the traditional power structures. Experience has shown
that any effort to realign community power structures through participation that
does not include long-term supports for the newly empowered groups at the commu-
nity level are extremely vulnerable; the indigenous middle-class women's organiza-
tions can and must help protect these fledgling groups. The stronger these middle-
class organizations are, the more they can succor and assist the village or neighbor-
hood groups. In this manner, the goals of empowerment and of development are
A second critical role which indigenous women's organizations can play relates to
interpreting values. Too frequently, development administrators both within the
donor agency and from the developing country, argue that WID is a western value
which is being imposed inappropriately on the recipient country. While it is certain-
ly true that the U.S. women s movement is peculiar to this country, the basic belief
that women should share in partnership with the men in any development scheme
is fundamental to WID: early proponents called for adapting programs to the situa-
tion in each country rather than imposing a single worldwide model. Nonetheless,
the argument of traditional values inhibits development planners. A strong pressure
group of women in the country is essential to overcome this value excuse.
The question of separate offices for women's affairs has also long been debated.
The U.N. Commission on the Status of Women has long urged governments to set
up "machineries" for women. The Women's Bureau of the U.S. Department of
Labor has been a model for many developing countries. When WID became an issue,
it seemed logical to set up separate offices. The arguments favoring such a choice
are similar whether the focus is on national or on development concerns of women.
The advantage of a separate office is its visibility: there is a place in government to
which women can turn. Such an office is expected to play an advocacy role within
government, representing women's concerns to appropriate ministries and depart-
ments. The effectiveness of the office depends on its location within the bureaucra-
cy. Positioning a women's office in social affairs whether of the government or of
the development agency sends a message about the government's view of women.
The strongest place for such an office seems to be attached to the top administrator:
in that case all subject matter of the agency or government is within the purview of
the women's officer.
There are disadvantages of having a separate office for women, however. Such of-
fices are generally small and underfunded, yet the rest of the bureaucracy may
claim that they do not need to address women's affairs since there is a women's
office to do that. This attitude may too easily lead to the ghettoization of women in
the bureaucracy. Instead of having claims on half of all government resources and
programs, women's issues are concentrated in a single office with a limited financial
base. Further, there is the implicit assumption that such an office will only be
staffed by women. Since the qualifications for serving are based more on sex than
ability, many professional women hesitate to accept such an assignment for fear
that their personal professional standing will be denigrated. To avoid these pitfalls
some agencies have set up interdepartmental committees charged with oversight of
the programs for women. While such committees serve both informational and con-
sciousness-raising functions, they require a lead person if they are to influence
policy; and such a person becomes a WID program officer in fact if not in title. Simi-
lar efforts to require the attention of all agency offices include the use of a checklist
or the writing of an impact statement when designing a new program. Once again,
however, someone must monitor these mechanisms.
A combined administrative arrangement may have the greatest impact on the bu-
reaucracy. Under such an arrangement an advocacy office also staffs an interdivi-
sional working group which focuses on substantive programming issues. Administra-
tively, then, a system which takes cognizance of the multiple goals contained in the
concept of WID and responds bureaucratically to them, has the greatest chance of
success. No doubt, the choice of administrative arrangement for dealing with
women's issues will depend largely on the particular bureaucracy and its internal
history for dealing with special concerns. The one consistent feature of a successful
women's office-whatever the title, wherever its block in the table of organization-
is the visible and consistent support of the boss.
The concern that women professionals rightly have toward serving in a women's
advocacy position is symptomatic of the problems facing any implementation of pro-
grams for women. There is no way that this topic can be treated completely dispas-
sionately. The enthusiasm and prejudices of the players generally intercede in
and frequently interfere with decisions made and actions taken. It is in this manner
that the history of the women's movement in the United States impinges on pro-
grams not only in AID, but also in international agencies and foundations situated
in this country.
To strengthen the hand of supporters within aid agencies-particularly the
women-becomes an important activity of non-governmental organizations. This
interplay of insiders and outsiders is a familiar part of the U.S. political process.
The understanding of women leaders of this symbiotic relationship may help ex-
plain the leadership of U.S. women in influencing U.N. bodies. The parliamentary
system with its party voting patterns is less open to NGO influence. (For a descrip-
tion of how women have influenced U.S. governmental policy during the last two
decades, see Women in Washington: Advocates for Public Policy, I. Tinker, ed., Bev-
erly Hills, Californina: Sage Publications, 1983.) It should be no surprise, then, that
much of WID funding in AID, especially when the WID coordinator was an astute
politician, Arvonne Fraser, was meant to enlarge the outside WID constituency.
Over the last decade a great deal has been learned about WID programming. Sup-
porters from its various constituencies have begun to understand the complexity of
the term and to analyze the wide variety of demands made in its name. This knowl-
edge had led to a new approach for programming that combines the goals of econom-
ic development and empowerment, of separate and integrated programs. This com-
bined approach reenforces the need, on the one hand, for an advocacy office to re-
spond to women's organizations. It also underscores the importance of a mechanism
to infuse the entire development agency with a concern for better development by
recognizing that including women is an essential element in societal improvement.
Any review of women's programs over the past decade is bound to turn up fail-
ures. It is too easy to focus on them. Indeed, much criticism of the aid assistance
program in general is based on anecdotes and studies that show unexpected and
often detrimentral effects of development programs. This, in turn, has often led to a
romanticizing of the past. The truth is that social programming is much more diffi-
cult than infrastructure projects. Further, early development theory was wildly opti-
mistic. As the developing countries themselves have recognized the intractability of
underdevelopment, they have turned to systemic solutions. What is perhaps most
amazing is not the number of problems remaining in developing countries, but
rather how fast many countries have become newly industrialized. Similarly, with
regard to women's programs, it is important to emphasize the successes and to rec-
ognize the ground-swell of womem's empowerment worldwide which is leading to
significant changes in the way that governments and donor agencies deal with
How important was the Percy amendment in all this? Is the passing of an amend-
ment a useful method of affecting public policy in the United States or abroad?
First and foremost, the ability of the women in Washington to conceptualize and
draft the amendment, and then to mobilize pressure on Congress to assure passage
was an indicator of the growing power and sophistication of the women's movement.
However, many laws have passed Congress and then have not been implemented.
Senator Percy's lasting contribution to this amendment has been his visible and
continuous support for the ideas that led to the framing of the amendment. His es-
pousal of WID legitimized the issue in the minds of many skeptics in the Congress,
the administration, and the development community. His additional amendments to
the law clarified and enlarged its scope. And, within AID, the power of congress-
sional oversight energized the bureaucracy. Senator Percy's speeches and resolu-
tions in U.N. bodies signaled to the male hierarchy of that system that some power-
ful men did take women and women's issues seriously.
Secondly, the combining of women and development into a single concept took the
subject of women out of its earlier separate offices and committees into the broader
economic milieu of development agencies and into the political morass of the United
Nations. In many respects it was the energy created as new groups of women and
men organized to insert the recognition of women's economic, political, and social
roles into all manner of development issuers that so quickly put WID onto the world
agenda. To a large extent, these groups were dominated by Americans, both because
of the empowerment influences of the women's movement and because of the tradi-
tion of inside-outside symbiosis. Because many American women were not sensitive
to the very different circumstances of the lives of women in developing countries,
Third World women began to organize themselves and join the debate.
A major lack of data inhibited extensive programming for women. This need and
the growing interest in women's studies has produced a rapidly growing body of
scholars studying women's lives and activities in every country in the world. In-
sights from this literature have altered the designs of many development programs.
The international network created by all these new women's organizations and
research groups has produced a powerful pressure group. Perhaps the most impor-
tant aspect of the three world conferences which have been or will be held in con-
nection with the U.N. Decade of Women is the strengthening of this network among
the official delegates the representatives of recognized NGOs, the new women's or-
ganizations, and individual women everywhere.
Would events concerning WID have been different without the Percy amendment?
No doubt about it. The amendment provided both a symbol and some access to
power. These were critical elements in the impact on public policy of women in de-