WOMEN IN DEVELOPMENT
ELSA CHANEY, EMMY SIMMONS,
BACKGROUND PAPERS FOR THE
UNITED STATES DELEGATION
WORLD CONFERENCE ON AGRARIAN REFORM AND
RURAL DEVELOPMENT FAO ROME 1979
WORKING GROUP ON WCARRD
AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20523
The views and interpretations
in this publication are those
of the author and should not
be attributed to the Agency
for International Development.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
WOMEN IN DEVELOPMENT
Objectives and Strategies................................... 1
Women Agricultural Producers 2
Off-Farm Employment 3
Access to Land and Water........................ ........ 5
Agricultural Inputs, Credit and Services.....................12
Women's Limited Access 12
Examples of Limited 14
Education, Training and Extension..........................16
Improving Access: Some Possibilities 17
Sex Segregation in Extension 18
Opportunities for Non-Agricultural Employment ..............21
Organization and Participation.............................24
The Relationship of Organization to Government 25
Networks Among Women 26
Organizational Support From Where? 27
Building Organizations on Women's Existing Roles 27
Separate or Integrated Organizations 28
Women in Development is Development..........................29
Bibliography ............................ ................ 31
Women's work in agricultural crop production, storage and
crop processing, and off-farm income-earning is increasingly
recognized by planners and project designers. Yet women's access
to land, agricultural extension, and non-agricultural employment
is limited--often undermined even furt.;er by agrarian reform and
rural development policies which assume men are the sole producers
and providers in societies. Making womven partners in development
is consistent with concerns for equity as well as with tenets of
economics. The underutilization and underemployment of women does
not make economic sense. Development interventions have been and
can be further redesigned to build on women's productivity, strengths,
Women in Development is not a separate issue, but is integral to
all discussions relating to agrarian reform and rural development.
This paper amplifies this perspective by systematically discussing
the items on the U.N. FAO World Conference on Agrarian Reform and
Rural Development agenda: Access to Land and Water; Agricultural
Inputs, Credit, and Services; Education, Training and Extension;
Nonagricultural Employment; and Participation. Existing studies
are reviewed, policy-relevant research questions are posed, and
possibilities for improved project intervention are provided.
omen's access to resources such as land, agricultural inputs,
and training, as well as women's work incentives are highlighted.
Until more rational and even-handed planning prevails, male
preference in institutional support is expected to take its toll
on women's productivity, program effectiveness, and ultimately,
WOMEN IN DEVELOPMENT
OBJECTIVES AND STRATEGIES
Enhancing women's capacity to participate in the larger
rural and urban economies as well as within the domestic
household sphere has become an increasingly important focus
for development planners. Recognition of women's' substantial
Participation in the agricultural labor forces of Asia, Africa
and Latin America grows as field studies are done, statistical
reporting systems are revamped to note whether respondents are
men or women, and qualitative evidence accumulates.
Making women full partners in development is consistent
not only with oft-stated concerns for equity but with the
tenets of economics as well. Underutilization or underem-
3loyment of half the potential labor force does not make
economic sense, especially when increasing human productivity
is a major objective of development efforts. In many parts
of the world, women's responsibilities include growing,
processing and storing the family food supply; building and/or
repairing the shelter; providing clothing, rudimentary health
care and the children's first education. Yet women's resource
bases may shrink while their obligations grow--particularly
in those regions where heavy out-migration of men leaves women,
seasonally or sometimes for longer periods, as de facto heads
of households. Their access to land, agricultural inputs and
opportunities to participate in financially remunerative tasks
(even if only to market their small surplus in the nearest
town) often are further eroded as programs of mechanization,
commercialization, and institutional and social change are
designed and implemented.*
* Boserup makes many arguments in this regard on an inter-
national basis. Staudt, Jelin, Mernissi, Salazar, Smock, and
Elmendorf present evidence from several countries supporting
While the development process is not inherently sex-
biased, it appears that development programs and policies
certainly may be (Boserup 1970, Clark 1975, Deere 1977,
Staudt 1978). In spite of increased awareness of the
negative impacts which development may have on women's
abilities to fulfill their economic and social roles, there
are many obstacles to designing specific programs for
bringing about desirable outcomes and avoiding adverse
effects. Simply knowing that concentration of land ownership
will increase if farm mechanization is encouraged, for example,
does not automatically mean that a land redistribution
program or a prohibition on machinery imports will follow.
The adverse impact of increasing inequity of land ownership
may be seen as a necessary cost of achieving a desirable
outcome such as increased production per unit of labor.
Similarly, in order to address women's needs and potentials,
competing interests must be satisfied, and practical problems
of program design, execution and.financing solved before
"enhancing women's participation" can be translated from an
objective to a development strategy.
This section sets forth some of the critical issues on
women in development. The remainder of the discussion will
be devoted to reviewing each of the conference agenda items
with an eye to possible concrete strategies for incorporating
women in every aspect of agrarian reform and rural develop-
Women Aoricultural Producers
Women in the rural areas are becoming "visible." It
has been discovered that women's labor contributions to
agriculture exceed those of men in many countries.* Some-
* Clark, Deere, de Wilde, Spencer, Weil, and the U.N. ECA
document a number of cases quantitatively.
times women also control the disposal of the products of
their labor (Simmons 1976, Smock 1977, Well 1973). Yet in
many cases, women grow the low-value food crops destined
for household consumption, while men control the return
from high-value cash crops -- even though women may contrib-
ute large amounts of labor time to weeding, cultivating'and
harvesting the produce destined to be sold.*
Agricultural statistics consistently undervalue women's
agricultural labor -- both in terms of hours invested and
economic return. By including women as "unpaid family.
workers," a zero valuation often is assigned to their time
in the fields.
Women increasingly are seeking earning opportunities
off the farm in the rural areas, or in the nearby towns or
the cities. Even the most hearty advocates for improving
women's opportunities for wage employment recognize the thorny
difficulties involved in creating full or part-time cash-
earning opportunities. Low pay, unsafe and unsanitary work
places, few promotion possibilities, job insecurity and
exploitation in terms of wages and hours are characteristic
of working conditions for both women and men in the
developing world. Yet there is both historical and current
evidence to indicate that women are found in greater pro-
portions in the lowest-level, least well-paid jobs and that
they have much less occupational mobility than do men.
In nonagricultural employment, for example, women are
said to be particularly well-suited to the "feminine"
detailed and repetitive work tasks of the textile and
* Van Allen's classic account of the Aba riots is amplified
by reports from Deere, Okala and Mabey, and a host of other
electronics industries, to the "traditionally female" food
processing activities, or to the "role-compatible" handi-
craft or cottage industry production on a small scale
(Dixon 1978, Elmendorf 1977, Lim 1979, Mernissi 1976,
Salazar 1975). Such sex-stereotyping of jobs may increase
the number of women's opportunities created at certain
stages of industrial development, but it may also work to
keep women out of potentially more rewarding jobs as
industrialization proceeds (Chaney and Schmink 1976).
The informal sales and services sector jobs in mapy
countries are open to wide participation of women (Arizpe
1977, Boserup 1970, Leis 1974, Smock 1977). The power and
high profit margins of rich West African women traders are
renowned, but even here studies indicate that women's
opportunities in this area have an upper limit (Mintz 1971,
Robertson 1975-76). There are, moreover, probably
thousands of women engaging in petty or small scale retail
trade who receive a minimal return for long hours spent on a
sidewalk or in a crowded market stall for every one who has
"made it big." And the services that many women provide
are the most menial and low-paid that any society offers -
domestic work without job security or possibilities for
advancement (Arizpe 1977, Bryant n.d., Chaney 1977,
Salazar 1975). Yet insofar as women's access to more or
better agricultural and industrial jobs is limited, these
sales and service sectors will be expected to provide
increasing opportunities for women.
So far as specific strategies are concerned, no strict
guidelines can be applied and guaranteed to promote, or at
least not to inhibit, the achievement of women in develop-
ment objectives in a given country. The issues which might
be relevant to developing such strategies or considering
whether they are explicitly needed are, therefore, often
posed here as questions. References to research are cited
to indicate the evidence leading to the questions and, in
some cases, as sources for speculative answers in given
ACCESS TO LAND AND WATER
The productivity of both men and women farmers depends
to a major extent on their access to land and water
resources. Women, like men, cultivate land in a 'variety
of institutional arrangements -- as landless laborers, as
tenants, and as owner/operators -- and in some cases they
even act as landlords. Legal rights, either "traditional"
or established through a written modern legal code, condition
women's status and determine whether or not women may own
land as individuals. Social and cultural traditions often
lead to different patterns of ownership and cultivation for
men and women. Women's obligations to provide food for the
household in the Gambia, for example, result in women
controlling the flood-irrigated land next to the river for
production of the staple rice. Men grow cash and supplemen-
tary food crops on rain-fed upland as well. A project
intended to raise productivity in agriculture would have
to recognize the resources currently allocated to members of
each sex; for example, a suggestion to facilitate women's
cultivation of rain-fed uplands or to involve men in
irrigated crop production could be expected to encounter
resistance since traditional land use rights would have to
be changed drastically.
In many developing countries, women's access to land
for farming is contingent upon their husband's, father's, or
other male kin's access to land. Women generally cultivate
land identified as "belonging to" related men. Women may,
in fact, carry out all decision-making as well as physical
work tasks on this land and control the disposition of the
product or they may, as many of the statistics on farm
management indicate, simply furnish "unpaid family labor."
Where women clearly have use rights, but do not have
legally recognized ownership and inheritance rights, it may
be helpful, in considering the need for or the dimensions
of a possible land reform, to think of women as 'ttenants"
on their men's land. In this light, a woman's tenancy
security and sharecropping rates would be considered in
relation to production incentives and her willingness to
make permanent investments in the land. A woman working a
husband's land in a society where marriage can be broken
relatively easily might be less secure than, for example, a
woman who "rents" land from a brother or natal kin group
member. Similarly, a woman who has no control over the
product of the land would have less incentive to increase
her labor and enhance her productivity through improved
farming methods and inputs if her allocated share of the
output would not increase. The possibility that a husband
may take a second wife and then reduce the first wife's
land (Correze 1976, Curley 1973) may also be a deterrent to
a woman's investing a great deal of capital or labor in
making permanent improvements on land allocated to her. If
insecure tenancy is recognized as a deterrent to tenant
cultivator incentive and thus to increased productivity
among male cultivators, then to the extent that women are
also in the position of insecure tenants, their incentives
and productivity may also be constrained.
In order to determine whether women's access to land
and water resources in any given situation is sufficient to
enhance their participation and productivity in agriculture,
several different aspects of the current situation can be
examined as a first step. Only then will reasonable and
feasible measures to enhance women's productivity through
increased access be devised.
1. Do women.have legal rights to own and inherit land
The incentives for increased production which are
assumed to apply to male owner/operators could
also be assumed to apply to women. To make an
analogy with the appropriation of surplus, several
observers have noted a decrease in women's produc-
tivity when men, through membership in cooperatives,
control the fruits of women's labor marketed through
those institutions (Apthorpe 1971, Hanger and
2. Does a redistribution of land in a proposed land
reform take into account women's traditional access
to land as well as their access in the modern
This may be especially important to consider when
a reform facilitating a transition from traditional
to modern tenure forms is involved. If in theory
"all citizens" may secure title to land under a
modern legal code, but if in traditional practice
women only secure land use rights through male
relatives, it is likely that women will not
interpret "all citizens" to include them. Their
participation may not be enhanced as envisioned by
the reform designers. Even in a matrilineal area
where a settlement scheme was created, patrilineal
land rights were introduced (Brain 1976).
3. In more general terms, are there grounds for women
participating in land redistribution schemes in
their own right? Two specific possibilities might
(1) Where women are members of household'units
with no active male members, can these women get
access and/or title to land and water rights?
(2) Where women participate in household production
units which also contain active male members, will
women's productivity be increased if they also -have
legal access to land in their own right?
4. Under what conditions does the introduction of cash
crops sour competition for the land used for food
In many countries, production of cash crops is the
province of men while women concentrate on food
crops. By developing cash crop opportunities,
women's access to quality land for food crop
production may be restricted with a consequent
drop in food crop cultivation seen.
5. A related question on current status may be posed
from a slightly different perspective: What propor-
tion of cood agricultural land is held or controlled
by women? Are they consigned to marginal land, i.e.,
characterized by rockiness, or hillsides or slopes,
with poor access to water, at long distance from
home, or conversely, confined to the worn out soils
near home? Are women Door farmers because they have
6. Do cultural taboos work to deny women access to
land and water? Or do the stereotypes of "weak-
ness" and sexual "vulnerability" prevent women
from participating in certain agricultural tasks,
thus limiting their productivity?
A study in Peru notes that women are not allowed,
for cultural reasons attributed to their sex, to
open the main sluice gates for irrigation. Nor
can they go out if irrigation takes place at night
because of cultural perceptions that being abroad.
at night is "dangerous." This limits their
abilities to adopt irrigated agriculture techniques
independently and their access to irrigated land.
The same study in Peru also shows that women are
not allowed to touch the plow for reasons of sex
in certain regions (Bourque and Warren 1976).
In some areas of China, a country which has
stressed the integration of women in agricultural
production, menstruating women are not allowed to
work in fields, reducing their total number of
work days as well as rewards in the form of work
points (Diamond 1975).
7. Do women's competing demands for time bar them from
effective access to use or ownership rights in land
and water resources?
Women in most developing countries have many domestic
tasks in addition to any remunerative tasks outside
of the home which they may undertake. In some cases,
a considerable amount of time is often needed to
complete land registration -- time to go to the
provincial capital to see people, to fill out
papers, and to secure necessary documents. Men
spend many fewer hours on domestic tasks and are
thus able to afford to take the time needed to
acquire land rights. In a situation of land
scarcity, women may be confined to tenant or land-
less cultivator status even though they in theory
have equal access.
AGRICULTURAL INPUTS, CREDIT, AND SERVICES
In more subsistence-oriented societies, women play an
active role in agricultural production that is equal to or
greater than that of men (Boserup 1970, Martin and Voorhies 1975,
Mynttie 1978, Spencer 1976, Whyte 1978). According to U.N.
estimates, women undertake a major part of cultivation in
over half of all societies, and an equal part in a quarter
of those societies. In India it is estimated that female
labor accounts for a fifth of family labor and a third of
agricultural labor, though case studies suggest women
contribute not less than half of all labor (Ashby 1979).
Women tend to plant, weed, harvest, store, and process
crops, while men clear land, as well as plow.
The commercialization of agrarian societies, concen-
tration of land ownership (and concomitant scarcity of
land), and extension of agricultural information and
support services appear to be associated with a marginali-
zation of women's agricultural roles (Boserup 1970,
Garrett 1976, Hull 1976, Staudt 1975-76). moreoverr there
appears to be an inverse relationship between rising economic
status and women's contribution to household maintenance
(Deere 1977, Stoler 1977). Men increasingly take responsibility
for growing cash crops, which has, in densely settled areas,
intruded on scarce land available for food production. In
some areas, this has adversely affected family food consump-
tion (Correze 1976, Nash 1970, Rubbo 1974, Stavrakis and
Marshall 1978). In many parts of Africa, commercialization
has also drawn men away from agricultural areas, thus
increasing women's work responsibilities as they take on
what were formerly men's tasks.
Women's Limited Access
As growing documentation demonstrates, rural development
planners and staff neglect not only the economically dis-
advantaged and politically less powerful segments of rural
society, but most women as well. Male preference in
institutional support to farmers, such as in extension,
credit, and cooperative membership, reduces women's access
to such support. This may have an adverse impact on female
heads of households and on women living in disadvantaged
households. Like any other farmers, women farmers are
motivated to participate in and expand productivity by
stake, return and need. Over time such systematic exclusion
from institutional support is expected to take its toTl on
women's productivity and, ultimately, on program effective-
A variety of reasons explain such neglect. First,
program assumptions are made that information and benefits
will trickle down from men to women within households, an
assumption impossible to sustain in female-headed households.
Moreover, very little is known about the degree to which
husbands transmit information to wives, though one study
in Tanzania indicates divergent information levels between
husbands and wives in households reached by extension (Fortmann 1977).
Second, staff are primarily men, and in many societies there
is a reluctance to initiate contact between unrelated men
and women. Finally, institutional procedures and legal
restrictions may make it difficult or impossible for women
to obtain loans. One study found that the percent of house-
holds with a man present was fourteen times as likely to have
detailed information about loans than the percent of house-
holds headed by women (Staudt 1975-76).
Women farmers' exclusion from the mainstream of
agricultural extension not only compromises the principle
of administrative equity, but administrative effectiveness'
and efficiency as well. Women often have independent
income-earning sources, such as from trading or beer
brewing. Women heads of households, numbering what some
estimate to be a third of rural households in the developing
world* constitute a varied group -- some widows, some
abandoned by migrant husbands (a category in which sex and
poverty intersect quite visibly), and others who receive
cash support from migrant husbands. In this latter category,
there are available cash resources with productive invest-
ment possibilities if there were appropriate institutional
Examples of Limited Access
Two studies in Kenya illustrate that women's potential
productivity goes unrealized because of early presumptions
orienting services both to men and to cash crops, staff
prejudice, and institutional biases preventing most women
from getting access to credit. The relationship of land to
credit is worthy of added mention. Credit is usually
available to those with sureties for loans, and land reforms
which place individual title deeds in men's names have the
effect of limiting farmers with migrant or disinterested
husbands from obtaining loans.
In one study, the maize output per acre of women farm
managers was compared to that of men managers. Women
managing farms constituted a third of the sample -- about the
same proportion estimated to be in the population of Kenyan
* Tinker, Boulding, and Buvinic, et al, note that the lack
of standardized definitions of household head make compara-
tive analysis difficult.
households. Women's output equalled men's, but when access
to education and extension was controlled, women's output
surpassed men's (Moock 1976). In another study comparing
two administrative units, women farm managers (two-fifths
of the sample) were earlier adopters of maize and had a-
more diversified set of crops on their land than on farms
with a man present. This was an area with minimal, but
typical, levels of agricultural services. In the other area,
with historical and contemporary advantages in agricultural
services, staff members, and cooperative activity, women's
timeliness of adoption and diversification was less than
men's. Ironically, more services and support (virtually
always meaning more services and support channelled to men)
may reduce women's productivity relative to men's (Staudt
Over time, the systematic neglect of one group at the
expense of others results in lower productivity, whether it
be among nations, ethnic and racial groups, or women and
men. A structurally-induced lowered productivity over time
becomes increasingly difficult to correct. It is exactly
this kind of problem that planners and staff face in some
parts of the world where women's productivity has been
undermined over the course of several generations or decades
of time. In such cases, questions of remedial, special
attention to women may be raised. Such attention had greater
administrative costs and, initially, less return. Ultimately,
however, it equalizes opportunity and enhances productivity
of all persons for development.
FrDUCATIOn TRAINING AND EXTENSION
Rural women's access to channels of information and to
training is not the same as men's. Although administrative
services are ostensibly provided to farmers without regard
for their sex, in practice, as the discussion above
demonstrated, women have less access to male-staffed
extension systems or to extension systems which focus on
cash crops rather than food crops (Bond 1974, Boserup 1970,
deWilde 1967,Fearn 1961, Fortmann 1978, Reynolds 1975,
Smithells 1972, Staudt 1975-76, U.N. ECA/FAO 1976). Dis-
crimination is partially explained by cultural inhibitions
about contact between unrelated men and women, separate-sex
communication networks, and staff inattention to, or nonpro-
vision for, women's other work responsibilities which
affect the extent of time available for training.
Two examples illustrate the latter observations. First,
male agricultural staff frequently speak directly to men
about training or other opportunities, often at community
meetings which men have historically attended, or at male
gathering places (or in the case of one project in Guatemala
where information is transmitted by radic programs, the title
of the program is "Let's Talk, Mr. Farmer:"). Information
transmitted in this way will reach women only to the extent
men communicate the information within the household, and
there is little documentation about the extent to which this
occurs, or the rapidity with which this occurs. A study in
Tanzania found that in households where a given recommendation
was known, the percent of husbands aware of it ranged from
1 to 5 times the percent of wives with the same knowledge
(Fortmann, cited in Ashby 1979). In any case, whatever
information reaches women is secondhand, and vital facts may
be lost in the indirect transmission process. Second,
extension programs do not always take into account women's
added work responsibilities which affect access to training
and opportunities. Agricultural training centers offering
short, one-week courses are not likely to be well attended
by women with pressing child care or agricultural seasonal
In societies with large numbers of female household
heads, a woman head's absence may mean the farm is unattended,
unlike farms with two or more adults. It is estimated that
one-third to two-fifths of all rural households are headed
by women. The labor burdens and responsibilities of female-
headed households often go unrecognized in training program
designs. One study in Kenya documented that farms with a
man present were four times more likely to have had a
household member trained than women-headed households (Staudt
Improving Access: Some Possibilities
To begin to improve women's access to services, some
extension systems have concentrated on group extension,
(either to mixed-sex groups or to separate groups of each
sex) as well as on increasing tne numbers of female exten-
sion agents. The Weir Commission in Kenya illustrated that
only two percent of the agricultural staff were women, not
surprising since women were excluded from intermediate
agricultural colleges until the late 1960s. Women
constitute only 16% of the extension service in Indonesia
(Milone 1978). One recurring problem in recruiting more
women into extension results from sex disparities in access
to education, as well as from sex-stereotyped education.
In many societies, women's illiteracy rates are twice those
of men's, and reach as high as 80 percent or more in parts
of the developing world (major exceptions include Latin
America, Sri Lanka and the Philippines).
Given these inequities, extension systems staffed pre-
dominantly by men must consider ways to design projects so
that women are reached, as well as to induce male staff to
serve farmers more equitably. At the same time,-attention
to sex disparities in literacy, educational achievement,
and incentives to draw more women into agricultural extension
work are required to address inequitable extension delivery.
According to UNESCO figures published in 1977, the pro-
portion of women who are agricultural graduates range from
none (in countries which do not provide agricultural
training for women) to nearly 30 percent in Thailand (Ashby
1979). More information is needed on the extent to which
male staff contact women, female staff contact men, and one
sex group contacts members of their own sex group. The
quality of contacts needs attention as well. Under what
conditions, and with what kinds of programs, is the sex of
an intended beneficiary important for explaining access
Sex Seorecation in Extension
Ironically, the very attention to building us female
staffs and specialized extension for women has often
resulted in a sex-segregation of extension services into
home economics, either compartmentalized in the Ministry of
Agriculture or lodged in a completely different ministry.
A focus on women's domestic role in extension is pervasive
(UNESCO studies cited in Ashby 1979). According to one study
comparing programs in Africa, "the goal of extension services
has frequently been not the increase in farm level produc-
tivity of women but rather finding ways to reduce tneir
participation in agriculture through promotion of more
homebound activities (Lele cited in Ashby 1979)." The com-
partmentalization is in part a product of the wholesale
transfer of a U.S. extension model to many parts of the world,
despite the distinctly different sexual division.cf labor,
as well as the small proportion of women available for
recruitment into an extension system. Although home
economics has undergone some transformation in parts of the
world, it has all too often promoted an image of women based
on ideals of Anglo-American Victorianism. Remnants of such
a thrust are found in emphases on table decoration, embroidery,
and sewing in areas of the world where income-earning
prospects for such products are virtually nil (Lele 1975).
One part of this image involved removing women from the
fields and agriculture altogether and into home and
domestic specializations. Such an image cannot either be
assumed as desirable or preferred from the perspective of
both development needs and peoples' .obligations and
preferences, nor is such an image practical for alleviating
poverty or making best use of all human productive resources.
This is particularly true in many areas where women have the
responsibility by custom and practice to provide the family
food supply, and often children's clothing and school fees
as well. Nevertheless, the home extension service may be
the only outreach program reaching women, and efforts to
improve the service and incorporate more agricultural content
may be in order.
Home economics programs tend to be sparsely staffed,
,operating with few resources and focusing on domestic train-
ing. One study found that one to two percent of all
agricultural field staff in a Kenya district were women and
all, save one, were home economics assistants, with a geo-
graphic area and set of job responsibilities that contrasted
greatly from ordinary agricultural staff (Staudt.1975 -76).
The 'Women's programs" are often relegated to low status (Ashby
1979). Home economists are responsible for teaching women a
wide variety of subjects, including sewing, nutrition, prenatal
care, and gardening, among others. This broad range of
subjects matches the kind of training women farmers receive
when attending a short course at the farmer training centers.
An examination of course content revealed that only one-third
of class time was devoted to agricultural subjects. Men
farmers who attended the farmer training center, in contrast,
are provided with concentrated and specialized subject
material relating to, for example, cattle care or coffee
production (Staudt 1975-76).
Ultimately, an integrated extension system that is based
on peoples' economic needs without regard to the sex of
intended beneficiaries or of staff would appear to offer the
best prospects for development and equity. In the meantime,
however, sensitivity to separate communication networks and
sex-divided work responsibilities is necessary for designing
extension systems that reach women as well as men.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR NONAGRICULTURAL EMPLOYMENT
It was assumed by development planners in the 1950s that
members of the rural labor force who could not be absorbed
productively into agriculture (because of increased mechani-
zation, rapid population growth, excessive pressure on a
limited stock of physical resources, etc.) would move gradually
into urban areas and be absorbed into the manufacturing and
tertiary (trade, sales, services) sectors. This transition
has been neither complete nor painless. Some urban areas
(e.g., Nairobi) are coping with a large number of unemployed
job-seekers; and in other countries (e.g., Sri Lanka) the
unemployed rural labor force has grown to include major
proportions of certain age groups. There is an increasing
concern with developing opportunities in nonagricultural
employment (e.g., World Bank, UNIDO). A search for strategies
for increasing labor-intensive industrial job openings has
begun in earnest (Dixon 1978). The development of the
"appropriate technology" perspectives is one part of this
For women, the move to develop nonagricultural employ-
ment opportunities has special dimensions. First, there is
much less specific information about women's current
participation and productivity in nonagricultural than in
agricultural jobs. It is therefore more likely that a
development program which substitutes visible, unemployed
male labor for unseen, employed female labor may be mounted.
Second, women generally are less literate than men and fewer
are enrolled in schools and training programs which give them
salable nonagricultural skills. Their competitive position
is thus somewhat weaker than men's for the more skilled, more
profitable jobs. Third, women's abilities to accept and
benefit from enhanced nonagricultural employment opportuni-
ties are to some extent conditioned by the compatibility
of such opportunities with their roles as wives, mothers
and housekeepers. The costs of producing a job vacancy for
women may also be higher if facilities which increase role
compatibility are included in the job creation costs -- day
care centers, maternity benefits, etc. (Boserup 1970,
Chaplin 1970). Fourth, a focus for improving productivity
of those nonagricultural jobs which women already hold may
demand a technology ladder or organizational approach which
differs from those which would be developed if the
participants were all male. If women are restricted in
their movements outside of their houses for religious
reasons, for example, technology must be very divisible if
they are to adopt it in the very small-scale firms operated
out of their houses. Skill teaching must be done almost on
an individual basis, and/or basic social and cultural changes
implemented. Opening a second or night shift for women in
an electronics factory already employing women in the day
shift may be possible only if transportation is provided. A
technological change to increase production efficiency which
requires an increase in firm size and a separate work place
may be simple for a male entrepreneur to adopt. For a
woman trying to combine domestic and entrepreneurial roles,
this technological change may be impossible to adopt with-
out a major reorganization of her domestic life. Finally,
women may be consigned to the less-skilled, lowest-paid
jobs in the service sector because of beliefs that they
cannot be entrusted with highly complicated machinery (Chaney
and Schmink 1976).
In sum, the effective enhancement of rural nonagricultural
employment opportunities for women has to be based on analysis
of the answers to three questions:
1. What nonagricultural jobs do rural women'currently
2. What factors will facilitate women's abilities to
take advantage of nonagricultural employment
3. What factors work to prevent women from improving
productivity of current nonagricultural jobs or
from taking newly-created opportunities?
ORGANIZATION AND PARTICIPATION
Participation includes involvement in the decision-making
processes, implementation, benefits and evaluation of develop-
ment programs. Unless local people are involved in the
process, committed to its goals, and able to develop a stake
in the outcomes, development is not likely to be successful
or self-sustained. Participation is increasingly recognized
as a basic right, because development interventions affect
peoples' life chances, standard of living and access to
other resources. Participation is also recognized as a
tool which allows better planning and implementation, as
knowledge of local conditions is incorporated into develop-
ment programs. From an administrative point of view,
organizations as vehicles of development represent a cost-
effective means to implement projects. Moreover, extension
contact with groups rather than individuals will, in all
likelihood, extend the distribution of services.
Organizations provide a context in which people can solve
their own problems in self-sufficient and self-sustaining
ways. Organization facilitates the use of size, scale and
cohesion to build on, and enhances economic resources which
translate into political resources.
In political institutions, decisions are made which
affect the value of work and the distribution of resources,
and women's virtual exclusion from international, national
and community decision-making partly explains the
invisibility and undervaluation of their work and their
exclusion from development benefits (Staudt forthcoming,
Boulding 1975, Putnam 1976, Bourque and Wtrren 1976).
Ultimately, women's access to land and water, to agricultural
inputs, to productive training, education and extension
opportunities, and to compensated nonagricultural employment
which takes their special needs into account, depends on
broad and representative participation in decision-making
Women form a substantial portion of the intended
beneficiaries of all rural development programs; in many
areas women are the primary food producers and thus
constitute part of the farm clientele. As growing documen-
tation demonstrates, planners and staff not only neglect the
economically disadvantaged and politically less powerful
segments of rural society, but the majority of women as
well, both as spouses and particularly as female household
heads. This occurs for various reasons: a reluctance to
initiate contact between unrelated men and women, inadequate
knowledge of women's work, prejudice, and program implemen-
tation that assumes information and benefits will trickle
down within households from men to women. The tenuous and
indirect nature of the relationship between staff and women
is perpetuated by regarding women only as wives and mothers,
rather than also as farmers, traders and cooperative members.
One AID agricultural information program, for example, is
built around a radio program called "Se'or Agricultcr" Mr.
Farmer. Household structures around the world are neither
uniform, nor universally equitable. Assumptions made about
trickle-down effects are increasingly hard to sustain.
The Reiationshio of Oroanization to government
Distinctions can be made about women's organizational
mobilization for development, both as autonomous from govern-
ment and as interacting with government programs. On the
latter, women's organizations can activate direct relationships
with development staff, or, through pressure, create contexts
in which staff have more incentive for and greater stake in
interaction with women as well as men. It might be argued
that women are indirectly represented as members of-households,
yet documentation of development's adverse impact on women
suggests that women's interests have been unreflected or not
represented at all. On the former distinction mobilization
autonomous from government women's self-help organizations
have many precedents in all areas of the world. Various
organizational activities and organizational structures
provide numerous examples of development possibilities (and
actualities) already existing, ranging from credit societies
to communal agriculture, and mutual aid societies (Brana-
Shute 1976, Hull 1976, Kaberry 1952, Klingshirn 1971, Seibel
and Massing 1974, Leis 1974, Watchel 1975-76). Autonomous
sometimes by preference, these organizations are often
invisible to persons outside a community.
Networks Amona Women
In societies with long histories of female exclusion
from overtly productive activities or with tendencies toward
female social exclusion, communication &mong women may flow
in an informal network pattern where ideas, information and
resources are exchanged. Though research on informal net-
works is limited, worthy questions might be raised about
the way in which ideas spread within networks, how spread
in women's networks differs from that in men's networks, and
the implications those findings have for development. In
some societies, the near-universal subordination of women,
separate communication networks for the sexes (and exclusion
of women from community decision-making), and the possibility
of multiple wives suggest a greater degree of egalitarianism
among women than men (Correze 1976, Curley 1973, Rosenfield
1975). A more rapid, equitable diffusion of development ideas
among women is a strong probability in certain contexts. A
study in Botswana supports this assertion (Bond 1974).
Organizational Support From Where?
Another issue is whether, or to what extent, organizations
can or should be supported with resources external to the
community, also termed "built from above." Women, like. other
subordinate groups, face obstacles when mobilizing for
collective action; the essence of subordination is less access
to economic resources, contacts, and information that foster
successful collective action. With a long-standing tradition
of exclusion from community participation, some catalyst may
be necessary to foster both men's and women's acceptance of
women's organizational activity and provide support for its
sustenance. Consideration must also be given to the effects
of external support on the character of groups, as well as
to whether external intrusion either preempts or provides a
context in which locally generated leadership and awareness
Building Organizations on Women's Existino Roles
The lines along which women organize, and who defines
those lines -- be it outsiders to the community, an elite
within the community, or members -- are crucial issues to
consider as well. Building roles unacceptable to a
community appears counterproductive as Soviet strategy in
Central Asia demonstrates (Massell 1974); yet building on
and strengthening roles which exist in societies with marked
sex disparities may simply perpetuate inequity. Past home
economics programs which emphasized women's domestic roles
to the exclusion of others illustrate this prospect.
Depending on the local context, some combination of.building
on acceptable roles and providing income-earning opportunities
appears to offer greatest prospects for success. Women's
cooperatives in India and Bangladesh, and Mother's Clubs in
Korea illustrate some of these possibilities (Dixon 1978,
Kincaid, et al n.d). Issues defined by elite women can, be
just as external to the needs of members as outsider-defined
issues. Just as the recurrent male elite capture of local
participatory institutions constitutes an obstacle to
equitable development, so also do similar processes and blocks
occur among women.
Separate or Inteorated Oroanizations
Questions are invariably raised about the issue of
whether women's organizations ought to be separate from men's,
or whether organizations should be sexually integrated. In
societies with existing, separate-sex communication networks,
continuing the tradition of separation would allow skills
and resources to be built for eventual integration. Separa-
tion also forestalls confrontation with cultural patterns
found in some societies opposed to mixing unrelated men and
Early organizational integration of the sexes may mean
a submergence of women's interests, or participation by a
minute proportion of women, with dim prospects for either
representation or integration of key issues. Numerous
committees have a lone representative of women, an individual
facing as many obstacles to representation as did the lone
African on colonial committees in Kenya or the lone tenant
on land committees. In one peasant union, ostensibly
"integrated," calculations of the proportion o` women involved
figured to less than one percent; these women are furthermore
confined to a women's program within the union. (Salvadoran
Communal Union, cited in Staudt,forthcoming). Frequently,
a cooperative with "household membership," considered an
ideological advance over male-only membership, is simply a
continuation of male appropriation of cooperative benefits
(Apthorpe 1971, de Wilde 1967, Hanger and Moris 1973). It
cannot be assumed that the benefits of cooperative membership
are shared equally or according to labor inputs. When men in
Ujamaa villages were questioned about whether women should
have part of the cash proceeds from the communal plot on which
women labored, three-fourths of the men said women should
receive at least ten percent (Brain 1976). Unless steps are
taken to involve women, or recruit individual women, the
fruits of women's labor may be appropriated by others with
eventual negative implications for women's work incentives
Women in Develooment IS Development
There is a certain cost to establishing separate-sex
organizations and institutions. The cost is the difficulty
of mainstreaming and wideningwhat are too easily seen as
"women issues." In many cases, terming something a women's
issue simply reflects a semantic problem. The need for
increased food production and potable water, as well as for
more equitable access to resources, credit and work opportuni-
ties based on need, skill, and interest are development
issues. If all development is to be accomplished by women's
efforts alone, then they may be called women's issues.
But insofar as women are to share in the development process,
and separate-sex organizations appear to facilitate the
mobilization of women's contributions, then the objective
of the organizations is clearly not the solving of women's
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