Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Women in the third world: Paths...
 Women in third world cities: Paths...
 Rural women in development: Paths...
 Back Cover

Group Title: Paths to the future : women in Third World development
Title: Paths to the future
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00080524/00001
 Material Information
Title: Paths to the future women in Third World development
Alternate Title: Women in third world development
Physical Description: iv, 106 p. : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Jenkins, Jerry
Sequoia Institute
United States -- Agency for International Development. -- Bureau for Program and Policy Coordination
Publisher: Agency for International Development
Place of Publication: Washington D.C
Publication Date: 1985]
Subject: Women -- Social conditions -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
Women -- Economic conditions -- Developing countries   ( lcsh )
Women in rural development   ( lcsh )
Women in community development   ( lcsh )
Genre: federal government publication   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Bibliography: p. 102-106.
Statement of Responsibility: prepared by the Sequoia Institute, with contributions from Jerry Jenkins ... et al. for the Bureau of Program and Policy Coordination, Agency for International Development.
General Note: May 1985"--Cover.
General Note: "Contract PDC-0092-I-03-4047-00."
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00080524
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 001824822
oclc - 16261260
notis - AJP8857

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title Page
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents 1
        Table of Contents 2
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Women in the third world: Paths to a better future by Jerry Jenkins
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
    Women in third world cities: Paths to a better future by Brigitte Berger
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
    Rural women in development: Paths to a better future by Shelley Green
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
    Back Cover
        Page 107
Full Text

Paths to the Future

Women in Third World Development

May 1985

Agency for International Development
Washington, D.C. 20523





by the Sequoia Institute
May 31, 1985

with contributions from

Jerry Jenkins

Brigitte Berger
Grace Goodell
Shelley M. Green
Marjorie Morris

Contract PDC-0092-I-03-4047-00

For the Bureau of Program and Policy Coordination
Agency for International Development
Washington, D.C. 20523

The views and interpretations in this publication are those of
tie authors and should not be attributed to the Agency for
International Development or to any individual acting in its


I. Preface by Jerry Jenkins,
Sequoia Institute ...................................... i

II. Women in the Third World:
Paths to a Better Future
by Jerry Jenkins

An intepretive-summary paper drawing freely, without
customary citation, upon the two background papers which
conclude this brief.

Chapter 1
Introduction................. ....................... .. 1

Chapter 2
The Origins of Anti-Development Policies............... 2

Chapter 3
The Nature of Anti-Development Policies................ 3

Chapter 4
Implications of Anti-Development Policies
for Women in the Third World.......................... 5

Chapter 5
Identifying Anti-Development Policies.................. 7

Chapter 6
Explicating the Disproportionate Burdens
Imposed by Anti-Development Policies
on Women in the Third World............................ 9

Chapter 7
Deviations from the Rule............................... 13

Chapter 8
Prospects for Development Policies:
Paths to a Better Future for Women in
the Third World........................................ 16

III. Women in Third World Cities:
Paths to a Better Future
by Brigitte Berger,
Wellesley College

Chapter 1
Introduction: Integrating Women in Development........23

Chapter 2
Women in Third World Urbanization:
Establishing the Context.............................. 27

Chapter 3
Women in Urban Migration: The Why and the How......... 32

Chapter 4
The Social Contexts of the Urban Experience:
Family, Neighbors and Voluntary Associations..........36

Chapter 5
Women in the Urban Economy The Processes of
Adaption, Accommodation and Integration................41

Chapter 6
Lessons Learned Lessons to be Learned:
A Shift in Paradigm for Paths to a
Better Future..........................................51

IV. Rural Women in Development:
Paths to a Better Future
by Shelley M. Green

Introduction ...........................................64

Chapter 1
Out of the Past and into the Future: Shifting
Institutional and Policy Paradigm......................66

Chapter 2
An Appropriate Action Model for Meeting Basic Human
Needs by Building Self-Sustaining Local Institutions...85

Chapter 3
Regional Case Studies: Increasing the Level of Rural
Women's Productivity in Self-Directed Institutional
Settings ................................................ 88

Chapter 4
Summary: The Effect of Government Policy on the
Productivity of Women Farmers and the Macroeconomic
Consequences ...........................................99


In the 1970s, a growing awareness that women's contributions

to international development were poorly understood and

often ignored yielded the concept of Women in Development, and

significantly contributed to the declaration, in 1975, of the

United Nations Decade for Women.

In July of this year, the concluding UN conference of the

Decade for Women convenes in Nairobi. Among the thousands of

evaluations and recommendations which conference participants

will encounter are those contained in the three papers of this

brief. Though having different emphases, it is what these papers

have in common that is most likely to distinguish them during the

conference and beyond.

One attribute of these papers is their focus upon but one of

the three themes established by the Decade for Women. But their

concentration on development, rather than on equality and peace,

is less distinguishing than are the reasons for this emphasis.

,To the extent that equality of opportunity among individuals

is confused with precise, mathematically equal distribution of

resources, stress placed on the latter demeans the value of

the former. Should the confusion in principle be realized in

practice, the ensuing equality of minimal opportunity among

individuals assures but one other equality--poverty among

all individuals.

And the most desirable peace--borne of expression, not

repression--can only be approximated in those societies where

no individuals--regardless of their sex, race or poverty--

are systematically denied opportunities to attain those things

deemed most desirable in the respective societies. Otherwise,

people's aspirations are denied positive outlets, and the

potential for expressive peace is sacrificed to resentment and


Given the reasons for the focus on development by the three

papers of this brief, it is not surprising to find foremost among

the elements they share an appreciation that unlimited

development--economic, political, individual--requires limited

government. Evident in each of the papers is a fundamental

understanding that no government is going to produce the

development of its people. Instead, they recognize in common

that governments must allow people to develop themselves. And

that, in order for this to occur, individuals must be accorded

both primary responsibilities for their own successes and the

corollary rights necessary for succeeding.

When governments and other organizations seek to increase

the resources of the poorest of people, they should seek to focus

their assistance on the aspirations and plans of the individuals

they intend to aid. Otherwise, individuals learn to respond to

the plans of others, perhaps increasing their short-term

"benefits," but depriving their own development. This emphasis

is perhaps most evident in the emphasis on "micro-level" projects

in Shelley Green's paper, but it is also inherent in Brigitte

- ii -

Berger's call for increased recognition of "household economies"

and of the leading role which women and their families play in a

truly remarkable, if largely unrecorded, story of development in

the Third World.

One theme of Professor Berger's paper--that Third World

governments can find their burgeoning "informal," or

"underground," economies to be particularly instructive for

revamping their macroeconomic policies with respect to their

total economies--is more extensively elaborated in the paper by

Jerry Jenkins.

The reciprocity of individual rights and responsibilities in

underground economies is seen by Dr. Jenkins' paper as a natural

corollary of the fact that the interests of their participants

are vested in individuals' ownership of property within the

confines of the respective economies. That informal economies in

the Third World are characterized by the leadership of women, by

their expansion of opportunities for poor people to attain their

goals, and by governments which are necessarily limited, are all

viewed as predictable consequences of individual ownership in

free market economies. The government of such a constituency

must be limited. If it is representative, it will be limited; if

it is not representative, it will not survive. Such limited,

democratic government strengthens itself by the strength of its

constituents' assent.

Each of the papers in this brief provide valuable

illustrations of this process at work in the Third World. Each

- iii -

finds women to be as central to their working as are men, if not

more so. Thus, each finds women in the Third World to be already

embarked upon paths to a better future. In addition, each finds

that governments have much to learn from their citizens; as this

occurs, the destination can be considerably closer and the

journey far less turbulent. Finally, each would most surely

concur with Brigitte Berger's assessment that "allowed open

access in the total economy to do what only a part now enjoys,

women will be integrated in development. And men will have one

more reason for thanking them."

- iv -


An interpretive-summary paper drawing freely, without customary
citation, upon the two background papers which conclude this

I. Introduction

The U. N. Decade for Women closes upon a far better world

than existed at its outset. Women, in this Decade, have brought

a case for quality, performance and productivity to the eyes and

ears of a world that had increasingly imagined equality of

results to be one and the same as equity, or fairness, of

process. That world confused means with ends, and causes with

consequences. During this Decade, women have increasingly recog-

nized that those who emphasize quotas before quality speak less

for women than for the large confusions of a small planet.

As the Decade draws to a close, it is now widely

acknowledged that larger slices of existing pies are not nearly

so desirable as providing new pies from new recipes. Indeed,

it is now commonly appreciated that if the whole of something is

shrinking, then so must be the absolute size of any of its propor-

tions. This Decade seeks to judge women--and men--on their

merits, and to leave behind a confused world which fosters protec-

tion, privilege and prejudice, a world based upon privilege,

regardless of performance. .and upon protection, regardless of


Unfortunately, far too many governments in the Third World

are failing to keep pace with the real revolutions occurring in

their respective countries, and are thereby failing to benefit

from the incredible accomplishments of the poor among their

citizens--especially, poor women. Even more unfortunate is the

existence, and, in some instances, even expansion, of government

policies which discourage those very accomplishments. Mancur

Olson has framed the case boldly, but accurately:

...in these days it takes an enormous amount of stupid
policies or bad or unstable institutions to prevent
economic development. Unfortunately, growth-retarding
regimes, policies, and institutions are the rule rather
than the exception, and the majority of the world's
population lives in poverty. (Olson: 175)

The deleterious effects of these policies are already

manifest to many, including many of the officials of Third World

governments which sustain them. But governments typically

perceive their policy options to be circumscribed by the

interests which are, in turn, perceived to be most critical in

sustaining the respective governments. Government officials who

might want to please everyone, of course cannot--not in the

richest of countries, and certainly not in those of the Third

World. So there is a natural tendency to do what appears safest.

That, unfortunately, prescribes more of the same.

II. The Origins of Anti-Development Policies

In The Rise and Decline of Nations, Olson identifies a

process from which no nation is immune--hence, his "Decline" is

envisaged for all nations. The process of decline embodies, and

is assured by, distributionall coalitions" within countries.

These are groups of individuals and/or firms who, having attained

economic success, then work to retain the fruits of that success

by denying to others the very same means that they employed in

their own rise above subsistence. Thus, they cease to practice

what they did in succeeding: saving, investing in new capital

equipment in order to increase productivity, laboring longer

hours, cutting costs of production, competing for the best labor

by outbidding competitors, etc. They are usually recognizable

in continuing to preach what they no longer practice.

What happens? Having attained affluence, they also gain

influence, not least with government. Government officials in

the United States and other "developed" countries, no less than

those in the Third World, are persistently subject to calls for

protection from distributional coalitions. The differences

!among countries in this regard, lie less with the frequency of

such claims than with their success rate: the more prosperous

are the residents of a country, and the greater their opportuni-

ties to act upon their own preferences in the marketplace, the

lower is the rate of success for the claims of distributional


III. The Nature of Anti-Development Policies

Claims of distributional coalitions can be, and therefore

always are, couched in terms of "the public interest" and a

company or industry that succeeded in the past without such

protection will now freely assert that it needs it. Among the

proclaimed "needs" are tariffs, import quotas, or other means by

which to exclude external competitors. The "public interest"

will be proclaimed as being served by avoiding the export of jobs

for which domestic labor is currently employed.

In responding to these claims, government officials--whether

well-intentioned (believing these claims) or well-benefited

(by the claimants)--are sufficiently cooperative as to retard

development and foster decline. And who is most penalized by

this state of affairs? Hayek expresses the answer correctly in

The Constitution of Liberty:

the less possible it becomes...to acquire a new fortune, the
more must existing fortunes appear as privileges for which
there is no justification...A system based on private
property and control of the means of production presupposes
that such property and control can be acquired by any
successful [person]. If this is made impossible, even
[those] who otherwise would have become the most eminent
capitalists of the new generation are bound to become the
enemies of the established rich.

Hayek's observations are clear descendants of Adam Smith's

own admonitions and warnings. Just as clearly, the intellectual

leadership of free enterprise needs no help in order to

recognize "anti-capitalist capitalists." Karl Marx seemed to

think otherwise. Indeed, in inventing the word, "capitalist,"

Marx may have had in mind our "anti-capitalist capitalist." If

this is accurate, then Marx may never have been opposed to free

enterprise at all. Instead, he may only have believed that it

could not survive those "successes" of free enterprise who,

having succeeded, then remain so by their capacity for extracting

anti-competitive government policies.

In sum, getting government to insure profit margins,

regardless of poor performance, is what distributional coalitions

are all about. Where they have had greatest success, development

has suffered most.

To the extent that those who are most successful in

business, and most prominent in the "formal" economies of their

respective countries, seek privilege as much as production, then

their countries experience, as Lord Bauer has observed,

the disastrous politicization in the Third World...when
social and economic life is extensively politicized...
People divert their resources and attention from
productive economic activity into other areas, such as
trying to forecast political developments, placating or
bribing politicians and civil servants, operating or
evading controls. They are induced or even forced into
these activities in order either to protect themselves
from the all important decisions of the rulers or,
where possible, to benefit from them. This direction
of people's activities and resources must damage the
economic performance and development of a society,
since these depend crucially on the deployment of
people's human, financial and physical resources.
(Bauer: 103-104)

IV. Implications of Anti-Development Policies
for Women in the Third World

So where do women stand in all this? Even those who

recognize growth-retarding government policies, and who

accurately attribute them to the influence of distributional

Coalitions, readily see that both genders suffer from such policies.

But, some basic observations allow for greater differentiation.

First, it is clear that government policies which are

spawned by distributional coalitions have bad effects for most

citizens. This proposition is true almost by definition; that

is, if the policies desired by distributional coalitions were

good for most people, then these groups should certainly not

have to spend so much time and money persuading government

officials to act in their behalf.

Second, "development" policies are no less subject to the

urgings of distributional coalitions than are any other policies

of government. "Development" has become a bad word in many quarters

largely as a result of this, because large, capital-intensive,

centrally-planned, government development efforts have yielded

substantially less than they have promised.

Third, and more to the point, can anyone identify a

distributional coalition in which women are even a significant

minority of the membership?

Fourth, assuming that distributional coalitions generally

succeed in fulfilling the short-term goals of their members,

and that the latter are preponderantly male, then the policies

which are engendered by these groups are not only bad for

citizens, in general, but for women, in particular.

Fifth, those bearing the greatest burden from bad government

policies have the most to gain from being judged on standards of

quality, performance and productivity. In no country in the

world is it doubted that such policies impose a heavier burden on

women than on men (and if there is anyone who does harbor such a

doubt, it should be erased during the course of this paper). As

a consequence, there is no doubt that women would derive greater

benefits from a declining success rate for distributional

coalitions and from subsequent changes in government policies.

V. Identifying Anti-Development Policies

The negative policies of governments--for both women and

development--are so numerous that a complete accounting would

require a much longer paper. The focus herein--upon what are

usually termed, "macroeconomic policies"--is adopted for two

reasons. First, they are virtually always ignored in the litera-

ture and conferences pertaining to women in development.

Second, this neglect of macroeconomic policies in such deliberations

magnifies their negative effects for poor women in the Third

World by decreasing the likelihood that anything will be done

about them.

Several of the principal problems in Third World government

policies are identified at the outset, without elaborating upon

their more deleterious effects for women than for men beyond that

implied by the thesis presented above. In the following section

of the paper, the heavier burden which poor women must bear as a

consequence of these policies is explicated in greater detail.

Any itemization of anti-development macroeconomic policies

should include the following:

1. Parastatals and government participation in
ownership. Not only are parastatals an inefficient way

of doing business, they typically preclude private
citizens from the opportunity to produce for themselves
and others.

2. Barriers to market access. An overload of
bureaucratic requirements expands the necessary time and
effort to such a degree that the procedures become a
deterrent to acquiring business licenses.

3. Protectionism. Import quotas, tariffs, and other
barriers to international trade restrict both the
import and export of goods.

4. Prices. Government price setting decreases the
incentives for individuals to produce those goods and
services for which maximum prices are fixed at
artificially low levels. The proclivity among Third
World governments for this form of economic control is
frequently linked to a desire for controlling urban
unrest; hence, low farm gate prices in order for food
to be "cheap" in the cities. However, the
discriminatory tax which this imposes on farmers
decreases their incentive to produce above subsistence
and/or what they can barter or sell in the informal
economy. Thus, cheap food frequently means less food,
and urban unrest joins that in the rural areas anyway.
Price-fixing policies also reinforce the maintenance of
parastatals, for these can ensure enforcement of the policies.

5. Credit and interest rates. As with prices,
government-mandated rates of interest are typically
below those which reflect the supply of, and demand
for, capital. Saving is thereby discouraged, while
capital outflow is encouraged. The very poorest of a
country's residents do not benefit since individuals
with collateral will absorb all available scarce
capital at the below-market rates.

6. Exchange rates. Governments frequently overvalue
their currencies relative to others. This joins below-
market interest rates in encouraging the flight of
scarce capital. Overvaluation also subsidizes imports,
while decreasing the external demand for those goods
produced in the country. Thus, production of what
could be exported is discouraged, and the ability of
domestic producers--most especially, small producers--
to survive the onslaught of "cheap" imports is

7. Rent controls. These discourage the production of
housing, thereby leaving more people--
disproportionately the poor--in need of adequate

8. Wage controls. Wages that are mandated above the
value which the demand for, and supply of, labor
warrants has the same effects on domestic production
and employment as does the other significant
overvaluation which governments employ--currency
overvaluation. And, like the latter, it also
discourages exports by its effect on prices of produced

9. Foreign investment restrictions. Discouragement of
foreign investment is a virtual equivalent of the
capital outflow that is encouraged by other government
policies, e.g., undervalued interest rates and
overvalued exchange rates. It retards technology
transfer as well as the income which increased
employment of labor generates. The existence of
parastatals tends to encourage both these restrictions
and those which limit the amounts of domestic
investment in what would be, or are, competing firms.

Though this list does not exhaust the policies of Third

World governments which retard growth, these examples are

foremost. The burdens imposed by all of these governmental

interventions are inversely related to the wealth of those upon

whom they fall. This, coupled with the disproportionate represen-

tation of women among the Third World's poor, means that all of

these burdens fall more heavily upon women than upon men. The

following section draws more direct linkages between macro-

economic policies and their effects for women.

VI. Explicating the Disproportionate Burdens Imposed by Anti-
Development Policies on Women in the Third World

While nearly half of Third World women are actively engaged

in the agricultural labor force, this figure exceeds 90 percent in

many African countries. Obviously, the "social cost of cheap

food policies" (Peterson) is a cost that is especially borne by


It is not just cheap food policies which impose an excessive

burden on women farmers, however. Overvalued currencies, alone,

may have as great an influence on famine, and the women farmers

in its midst, as do cheap food policies. (Bates) Nowhere is this

more clearly illustrated than on the continent of Africa. In

this case, the social cost of government policies can literally

mean death, as the continent is wracked by widespread famine.

Distorted rates of exchange make imported food less expensive than

that produced domestically. The concomitant decline in the

market for a country's own production results in a decreasing

incentive for its farmers to produce.

The liveliest food markets in many parts of Africa are "black

markets" for food along border areas between countries. Not a

great deal else is available when the principal market within

countries is comprised of marketing boards and parastatals which

are the principal enforcers of their own cheap food policies.

Efforts by poor women to escape from the tentacles of

government planning through illicit food markets, is certainly

not confined to African countries or even to rural areas. All

of the macroeconomic policies identified in the preceding section

contribute to the burgeoning "underground" economies of Third

World cities. According to recent studies, these "informal"

economies absorb "up to 70 percent of the urban labor force."

(Ford Foundation Letter: 1) If this phenomenon is not appre-

ciated, then neither can be the productivity of most of the women

in Third World cities. Indeed, this fact illustrates another of

the more direct linkages observable between the macroeconomic

policies of governments and the women whom they purportedly


First, the emergence of informal (some call them "under-

ground") economies, cannot be explained without referring to

government's macroeconomic policies. Second, most evidence indi-

cates that women are far more heavily represented in informal,

than in formal, urban economies of the Third World. For

example, the National Council of Churches of Kenya, in

seeking to assist small entrepreneurs in that country, found that

75 percent of them were women. Third, it is only reasonable to

conclude that the negative effects of formal government policies

are disproportionately borne by women, even though most men also

suffer their costs.

Perhaps the clearest example of this greater burden

borne by women can be seen in government ownership of Third World

businesses--businesses which in the most prosperous of countries

are owned privately. Even city governments have parastatals

which produce goods ranging from paint to beer. The largest, and

most costly to their societies, however, are those owned by

national governments.

First of all, these state-owned corporations are typically

unprofitable. That imposes one cost on a country's citizens,

in the form of taxes or other fees to finance the difference

between income and expenditures. Secondly, there is no evidence

that parastatals do any better in the employment of women than

does the remainder of the formal economy. Indeed, we are told

the contrary (although firm data is hard to come by). Thirdly,

parastatals amount to a government competing with its own

citizens--preempting opportunities which they could be acting


Even the term "competition" is questionable when used to

characterize a contest that is rigged from the outset. Since a

parastatal does not have to be profitable in order to stay in

business, it can always sell what it produces or purchases

at a lower price than can any of its "competitors".

Finally, sustaining firms that need not be responsive to

market forces also means granting them the freedom to disregard

qualifications and performance in evaluations for employment. To

the extent that firms are privately owned, and not protected or

otherwise subsidized by government, it is in their self-interest

to seek the most qualified and effective employees in order

to increase productivity and stay in business. Women can only

benefit by government policies which broaden privately-held

capital ownership, and increase competition in the marketplace.

Indeed, there is evidence (see section VIII, below) that women in

the Third World would be in an enviable position if employment

were based on quality and performance.

Some government policies which create disincentives for most

individuals to produce, are, of course, beneficial to some people.

Government mandates for worker benefits, and legislation

establishing an official minimum wage, for example, are supported

by some workers. The latter are likely to be employed by

relatively profitable formal sector companies which are not placed

in jeopardy of going out of business by the increased costs which

such legislation entails. Even more supportive will be

employees of parastatals, where going out of business is not a

serious question. Of course, women are significantly

underrepresented among the employees of wealthy formal sector firms,

and, because of the legislation, are less likely to find

employment with less profitable firms in the formal economy.

Women are almost always going to suffer greater opportunity costs

than are men as a result of government interventions in what

could be a "free economy."

VII. Deviations from the Rule

There are, of course, notable exceptions to the anti-

development tendencies of Third World government macroeconomic policies.

Much has been written of the so-called "Gang of Four" (Taiwan,

South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong) because they are exceptions.

Hong Kong's flat 15% tax on both personal and corporate income is

envied world-wide. And the free trade zones which Hong Kong and

Singapore are, and which Taiwan employs, are attracting the

attention of governments in the rest of the developing world--as

indicated by Costa Rica's free trade zone in Limon (with a second

one projected in Punta Arenas) and the Republic of Senegal's

Dakar Industrial Free Zone.

There is definite interest on the part of many Third World

governments in privatization of their cumbersome, inefficient and

costly parastatals. Brazil is already well into its divestiture


Government officials who might want to divest their corpora-

tions into private hands, but are fearful of the employees

response, should observe with interest the Malaysian government's

plan to divest 30% of its stock in all of its parastatals into

the hands of their employees. Not unlike Employee Stock Owner-

ship Plans (ESOPs), adopted by an estimated 5,000 private

companies in the United States, the Malaysian experiment is

analogous to a parent firm's divestiture of a subsidiary firm to

the latter's employees.

In view of the earlier discussion of the suffocation of

agricultural enterprise by macroeconomic policies on the continent

of Africa, an interesting exception to that rule must be noted.

The nation of Malawi began with higher population density, lower

income, and fewer resources than any of its neighbors; yet

while per-capita food production in the rest of sub-
Saharan Africa has fallen 0.45% a year since the early
'60s, in Malawi it has risen 1.15% annually in the same
period. 'Fourth World' Malawi is agriculturally self-
sufficient and even exports food to its wealthier,
hungry neighbors...

In Malawi...the individual farmer on his traditional
private holding is the focus of development efforts.

Taxes are not confiscatory, and there is no coercion to
participate in government agricultural schemes. In
contrast to systems where a farmer must fill a
government quota at a fixed, low price, Malawians can
and do trade through private channels on the rare
occasions they don't like the the prices offered by
Admarc, the state marketing board. (Levy: 35)

Some observers contend that the only exceptions to the rule

in Third World, and, especially, African, agriculture occur where

elites are engaged in food or cash crop production. Where

"elites" are comprised of only distributional coalitions, we

would scarcely expect otherwise. But the very fact that Malawi's

macroeconomic policies deviate from the anti-development norm

tells us that in that country, elites and distributional

coalitions are not one in the same. With such policies, they

cannot be. And with such policies, the 96% of Malawian women

in the labor force who are actively engaged in agriculture

(Newman: 104) are allowed to be significant agents, and not merely

subjects, of development.

Furthermore, Malawian women appear to be taking advantage

of their opportunities. As of 1968-9, only 2.1% of the

agricultural holdings in the country exceeded 4.9 hectares, and

these holdings comprised but 7.9% of the total land under crops.

(A.I.D.: 11) Thus, almost 98% of all agricultural holdings in

Malawi are less than 5 hectares, and these account for 92% of the

land under crops. This translates to an agricultural economy

that is characterized by a multitude of small private holdings

whose productivity actively engages 96% of Malawian women in the

labor force. That performance, not privilege, characterizes

Malawi today. And reward of performance is what is most needed

in order for women to embark upon paths to a better future, no

more nor less in Malawi than in the rest of the world.

It will be a delightful world when these exceptions become

the rule, but even now they brighten the paths to the future,

and provide important demonstrations of what is possible when the

poorest of the poor are allowed to act in their own self-

interest. In the following, there are promising indications

of the future being made in the present.

VIII. Prospects for Development Policies: Paths to a Better
Future for Women in the Third World

Ranging up to 70 percent of the potential labor force in some

countries, informal economies comprise a substantial part of Third

World economic activities. The growth and stability of the

informal sector defies explanation without reference to the formal

policies of governments which retard growth of, and, hence,

employment in, the formal economy. And, as in Hirschman's Exit,

Voice and Loyalty, those citizens with least access to either the

formal economy or formal government are the ones who deliberately

exit. Given this description, it is not surprising that women

are predominant in the informal sector of Third World economies.

Indeed, judging from Jason Brown's summary of his field notes

collected in many different settings in the contemporary Third

World, they appear to be more than that:

It is women who are the forefront of small business
activity worldwide. Interviews suggest that through

business they obtain a sense of self-worth and
independence which might not otherwise be available
to them. When these businesswomen have been
organized by voluntary organizations in such
countries as India and the Phillipines, they have
developed leadership and other skills of great value
to their families and their communities. In the
search for social and economic equity it may well be
these organized businesswomen who will be the
impetus for change.
("The Role of Small-Scale Business," in Peter
Berger, The Search for Social Equity,

Thus women have established themselves as valued teachers in

the classroom for Third World development. If more formal

governments join the students of the coming decade, the lessons

will appear even more promising. Among those lessons will be the

identification of the essential ingredients for development, and

one of them will be active, productive women. Allowed open

access in the total economy to do what only a part now enjoys,

women will be integrated in development.

Third World governments appear to be increasingly

appreciative of the value of their informal economies, but seem

unable to act upon its lessons. Beginning in 1969, for example,

"Colombia was among the first countries to incorporate explicit

employment considerations in the economic planning process." Ten

years later, "....It acknowledged the importance for employment of

the informal sector and proposed to strengthen it by an increased

availability of credit and technical resources....It cannot be

said that the government succeeded in meeting its objectives..."

(Gregory: 30 and 34) This result, of course, is seldom

contradicted, no matter how sincere government officials may be in

wanting to implement such policies.

Perhaps the good intentions need most to be inverted, and

policies from the informal sector should be transferred to the

formal. In this manner, the political and administrative efforts

which have characterized this Decade for Women might be anchored

where it counts--not just for, but with the multitudes of

remarkable women in the Third World.

Thus, government proclamations, whether those of foreign aid

donors or recipients, are clearly insufficient for assuring that

the benefits which women experience from development are commen-

surate with their contribution. This is not to demean government

"orders" of non-discrimination with respect to gender, but merely

to observe that this noble intention is routinely invalidated by

government interventions that prevent the free operation of

economies which would naturally reward performance regardless of

government proclamations.

Third World governments with their growth-retarding policies,

in conjunction with Third World people and their irrepressible

human spirit, are nonetheless creating incubators for free enter-

prise and institutional development that is predicated on perfor-

mance rather than privilege. Since the majorities of Third World

populations are actively engaged in informal economies, and the

since women predominate in those economies--both as entrepreneurs

and heads or principals of households--the institutional frame-

work is being established for societies in which basic human

rights are honored, regardless of sex, and in which the correla-

tive responsibilities of individual rights are honored in

practice. No development worthy of individuals can occur in the

absence of these basic institutional elements.

The validity of this observation is proven within the

operation of the closest thing to "free economies" that most

Third World countries enjoy. And the institutional development

that is taking place in the "informal" sector appears to be

replicating that which did, and had to, occur in any country whose

citizens are blessed with genuine constitutional liberties. This

development is being recorded nowhere more assiduously than in

Lima, where, for the past three years, the Institute for Liberty

and Democracy (ILD) has enlisted fifty-five researchers--

anthropologists, students, lawyers, economists and off-duty

policemen--in compiling over 20,000 documents regarding Lima's

informal economy.

With this large volume of informal business, an
underground legal code has developed that ignores the
inefficient laws that drive people into the underground
in the first place. This code is so powerful and
pervasive that underground businessmen can dependably
make deals with each other and the legal sector that
could never be enforced in a government court. In
Lima, for example, street vendors command prices of up
to $750 for sale of their business locations, although
they hold no legal titles to the spots. (Rosett:31)

In fact, participants in the informal economy may have better

fortune with judges from the formal sector than does the rest of

the society:

...Informal contractors sometimes hire off-duty judges
to arbitrate disputes. While some of these judges take

bribes when working for the state, they cannot afford
to do so when working for the underground. If word
gets out that they are crooked, they will not be hired
again. (Rosett: 31)

Abundant evidence, from a wide variety of settings,

indicates what would be experienced in the general economies of

less-developed countries were it not precluded by the

intervention of government policies. While "planning" the

operations of formal economies, these policies establish only the

boundaries of informal economies. The latter are governed by

their participants, providing self-governance in the Third World

with perhaps its strongest testimonial. In the process, women in

the Third World are building the institutional structures which

are best able to take advantage of positive changes in the macro-

economic policies of governments. Furthermore, their success may

have as much effect for bringing about change in anti-development

policies, as it has for responding to those changes whenever they

might occur. There are two basic phenomena which suggest this.

First, along with their market expertise and skills in

institution-building, women are developing a coherent and estab-

lished position toward changes in government policies, a

position which is increasingly difficult for officials to ignore.

Second, just as government policies impose opportunity costs

on citizens which result in underground economies, so too does

the expanded growth and wealth of those informal economies create

opportunity costs for governments. The greater the wealth that

moves into and is generated by the informal economy (relative to

the rest of the economy), the heavier must be the burden of govern-

ment revenue-raising on the formal economy. That increased

burden, in turn, increases the incentives for additional exiting

from the formal to the informal economy. And so, a vicious

circle of escalating opportunity costs for government can bring

it to do later what should be done now.

As the case of Malawi illustrates, "elites" should be

multiplied, not undermined. The important questions are not

whether a country has either elites or distributional

coalitions--all countries have both. What is critical is whether

they are one and the same. Where they are, performance and

productivity are being sacrificed for protection and privilege.

Most people on this small planet are already refusing to be party

to this injustice. Hence, where there is greater "visibility,"

development is dim, and in search of more light, people go

underground where the light is bright, indeed. Trod principally

byipoor women in the Third World, paths to a better future are

becoming increasingly clear.


Agency for International Development. "Background Paper: A.I.D.
Policy on Land Reform." Annex C. of August 6, 1982 draft.
Washington, D.C.: A.I.D., 1982.

Bates, Robert H. Markets and States in Tropical Africa: The
Political Basis of Agricultural Policies. Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1981.

Bauer, P.T. Equality, the Third World, and Economic Delusion.
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1981.

Brown, Jason. "The Role of Small-Scale Business." Paper
prepared for The Seminar on Modern Capitalism. Boston,

Ford Foundation Letter. Vol. 16, No. 2. April, 1984.

Gregory, Peter. "Policy Issues in Addressing the Employment
Problem in Latin America." Prepared for the U.S. Agency for
International Development. Washington, D.C.: A.I.D., February,

Hayek, F.A. The Constitution of Liberty. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1960.

Hirschman, Albert 0. Exit, Voice, and Loyalty. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1979.

Levy, Sam. "Malawi: Oasis in a Continent's Agricultural
Desert." The Wall Street Journal. May 15, 1985. 35.

Newman, Jeanne S. Women of the World: Sub-Saharan Africa.
Washington, D.C.: Office of Women in Development, U.S.
Agency for International Development, 1984.

Olson, Mancur. The Rise and Decline of Nations: Economic
Growth, Stagflation, and Social Rigidities. New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1982.

Peterson, Willis L. "International Farm Prices and the Social
Cost of Cheap Food Policies." American Journal of Agricultural
Economics. Vol. 61 (February 1979). 12-21.

Rosett, Claudia, "How Peru Got a Free Market Without Really
Trying." The Wall Street Journal. January 27, 1984. 31.


I. Introduction: Integrating Women in Development

This paper takes the unequivocal position that real economic

development and sustained long-term growth will not happen

without women. An examination of the highly developed societies

of Europe and of the more recently industrialized countries of

East Asia will prove this claim beyond the shadow of a doubt.

There is no reason to expect that contemporary Third World

societies can deviate from this common human path. If a country

disregards this most vital of all resources, it deprives itself

of the single most important opportunity available for


In the bulk of the literature on women in development,

policy questions about women's economic participation have been

framed in terms of legal status and cultural constraints. In

this vision the integration of women into development is a

political issue to be solved by governmentally decreed

administrative measures. The position of this paper is that this

is only part of the issue. Unless such measures are accompanied

by efforts to recognize and release women's productive energies,

integration by government fiat alone is unlikely to achieve the

desired goal. The long-standing hostility to the role of market

forces in the economic development of Third World countries has

become one of the major barriers to women's advancement, as well

as to their integration into that development. Economic policies

that promote or limit opportunity and productivity may be

concealed in "gender blindness," but when their effects are

examined, such policies also become "women's issues," for they

impact upon the lives of 20th century women as much as do

policies regarding women's legal status and cultural roles.

The negative policies of Third World governments for both

women and development are discussed throughout this paper.

Nonetheless, they can be identified already at the outset. Most

of these policies are encompassed in the term "macroeconomic

policies." They range from complex procedures for licensing of

businesses, to the ownership of business by government itself.

They include government (rather than market) determination of

prices, rental rates, wages, interest rates, and exchange rates,

as well as tax policies which either discourage work that yields

taxable income or encourage the hiding of work and its profits

from the scrutiny and taxing authority of governments.

All of the preceding policies, and more, contribute to the

burgeoning "underground" economies of Third World cities.

According to recent studies, these "informal" economies are

estimated to absorb between 40% and 70% of those working in

cities [1] and women constitute the bulk of them. Thus, women in

Third World cities can be neither understood nor aided without an

appreciation of this phenomenon. Though the flowering of urban

informal economies are central to the paradigm shift which is

elaborated in the concluding chapter of this paper, that

centrality can be briefly established now:

First: the emergence of informal economies cannot be
explained without reference to formal policies of
governments. To the extent that the aspirations of people
are thwarted by the policies of governments, the population
of participants in informal economies will grow.

Second: evidence unambiguously indicates that women are far
more heavily represented in informal, than in formal, urban
economies of the Third World. For example, the National
Council of Churches of Kenya found that in seeking to assist
small entrepreneurs in that country, 75% of that group were

Third: it is thus only reasonable to conclude that the
negative effects of formal government policies are
disproportionately borne by women, even though a majority of
men are also victims of those policies. On a more positive
note, it also follows that even as they suffer, in
comparison with men, as subjects of government policies,
women are assuming the leading role as agents of development
in Third World cities.

One of the preeminent lessons learned during the Decade for

Women is that women are in the process of turning the cities of

the Third World into their cities. Their cities in turn become

the beneficiaries of their enterprise. Governments concerned

with aiding women through policies that enlist their creative

energies need look no further than to the policies which allow

and sustain the development activities in the cities of their own

creation (informal though they may be--reflecting common, rather

than statutory, law).

The informal economies of Third World cities have become the

principal classroom for their inhabitants during the Decade for

Women. If informal governments should be found among the

students of the coming decade, the lessons to be learned would be

even more promising. Among those lessons will be the

identification of the essential ingredients for development, and

discovered at their heart will be the women who are doing it. If

allowed open access in the total economy to do what only a part

now enjoys, women will be integrated in development. And men

will have one more reason for thanking them.

The role of this indigenous private sector in developing

societies has not been well explored and its dynamics are still

too little understood. Not nearly enough is known of what the

private sector can or cannot do, and of how to direct its energies

toward a general improvement in the welfare of all people. And

that is strange, for, in the words of A. W. Clausen, President of

the World Bank, in his 1985 statement to the Convention of the

Institute of Directors in London:

There is evidence enough that the most economic growth
in the developing world has been achieved in countries
where governments have recognized that private
enterprise has a critical role to play. It has been
achieved where governments have recognized, for
example, that private enterprise can contribute to
efficient industrialization by mobilizing private
savings, harnessing entrepreneurship, diffusing economic
power, widening consumer choice and stimulating competition.
It has been achieved where governments have recognized that
in order to harness the individual and collective talents of
the people, in urban and rural sectors alike, there must be
means for people to help themselves. [2]

Perspectives on women in development are responding to what

is already occurring in Third World cities. This paper seeks to

make a contribution to the systematic and cogent formulation of

these realities. This is a humbling task, for it is impossible

to match on paper the ingenuity of poor women encountered in the

field. A distinctive thread, of singular strength, runs through

the myriad activities of women in development. Now, it is

necessary to turn to the whole cloth in order to establish its

variety and texture, and in the process, identify additional

threads which are common to women in Third World cities.

II. Women in Third World Urbanization: Establishing the Context

Even casual visitors to Third World cities cannot fail to

be. impressed by the energy and resilience of the poor people they

observe. And more studious observers have generated a mountain

of studies describing the persistent valiance of poor women in

working for a better future for themselves and their families.

The universality of these efforts is documented by studies of the

inhabitants of the barrios and favelas of Latin America, the

shanty towns of the African continent, and the teeming cities of

Asia. With all the odds seemingly stacked against them, under

circumstances of extraordinary hardship, desperately poor and

apparently ordinary women have demonstrated over and over again

that they are far from ordinary.

Now, too, policymakers throughout the world, and certainly

in the United States, are beginning to respond positively to the

lessons which the urban poor are providing. Policy paradigms are

shifting in a search for mechanisms that allow the creativity of

the urban poor to be tapped and promoted so as to integrate these

vital resources into the more inclusive development process.

As yet, however, the research paradigms of most of the

literature on women, as well as those embodied in the bulk of

economic analyses of LDC development, have failed to keep pace

with the shifts occurring in both experience and policy. This

neglect has almost certainly contributed to the widely deplored

factor of women's "invisibility" in Third World development.

Thus, one of the principal intentions of the present paper is to

help correct this error in the literature.

During the past four decades the so-called preindustrial

three-quarters of the world has witnessed an urban explosion thus

far unknown to human history. All over Africa, Asia, and Latin

America people have flocked to the cities in unprecedented

numbers. With growth rates estimated as high as 5% to 8% per

year, many Third World cities have in past decades doubled their

population every 10 to 15 years. [3] United Nations' forecasts

estimate that the urban population growth rate will be three

times that of the rural areas. By the end of this century "two

billion people, exceeding 40% of the Third World population, will

live in cities; some cities will have reached extremely large

size Mexico City at 31.6 million, Sao Paulo at 26 million, and

Cairo, Jakarta, Seoul and Karachi each exceeding 15 million." [4]

Although some of these predictions may have to be scaled down

considerably in view of the most recent trends indicating a

leveling off in in-migration, [5] the fact remains that Third

World cities, with their distinctive economic, political and

social cultures will be permanent features in the reality of life

in the developing countries.

The dimensions of the explosion have caused grave concern

for analysts and policymakers alike. They are sharply divided

over whether to view this transformation as a blessing or a

curse. Negative as well as positive evaluations of this urban

transformation cut across the customary ideological lines dividing

the political Left from the political Right. Allen C. Keeley and

Jeffrey G. Williamson in their recent, cogently argued book,

What Drives Third World City Growth, [6] have summarized these

differing perspectives: pessimists stress the Third World's

inability to cope with the consequences of rapid urban growth and

high population density, citing environmental decay and planning

failure as evidence of impending crises. In contrast, optimists

view city growth as a central force in economic development that

raises average living standards and promotes overall economic

advancement. "Debate over public policy options remains intense,

the optimists favoring an open city approach, the pessimists

searching for ways to close them down." [7] Others simply

acknowledge that the consequences which are assumed to follow

from urbanization by either of these polar policy views have

occurred in history, and doubtless will occur again. This view

might be deemed more moderate, but, indeed it may be the most

radical. It argues against any government policy which assumes

that either positive or negative consequences will necessarily

follow from urbanization, and thus adopts a stance that is

fundamentally anti-planning with respect to the evolution of

cities. [8]

The literature on urban migration in the Third World is

characterized by two striking omissions:

1. The scant attention paid to the role of women in the
Third World urbanization process in econometric and policy-
making models, regardless of their "mainstream" or "left"
ideological underpinnings. To be sure, a few--such as those
by Michael Todaro (based on factors of expectation) or Gary
Becker (based on rational decision making)--have attempted
to include women in their economic models in some form or
another. In the view of this writer, however, these
attempts, though interesting and useful for certain
purposes, are flawed for a variety of reasons that cannot be
explicated in the context of this paper. Suffice it to note
that the neglect of the distinctive female component in the
process of urbanization, and their underappreciation of the
"informal" household-based economy in which women dominate,
in conjunction with factors revolving around family values
and expectations, render their models only partially useful.
These factors, individually and taken together, reveal
insufficient understanding of the social, cultural and
political consequences for the migrants to the cities, and
for society at large.

2. On the other hand, those whose focus of analysis centers
on women--that is to say those who generate the bulk of the
literature on women in development--view Third World
urbanization to be basically and intrinsically, devastating
to women. [9] This foreclosure on the very possibility of
"positive" consequences of urbanization for women is
particularly puzzling in view of the rich body of materials
which contradicts such a negative position. The materials
collected by social historians on contemporary processes of
urbanization in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, along with a
number of recent path-breaking social science analyses of
the consequences of urbanization in the Third World,
demonstrate not only a much more intricate and diverse
picture of contemporary realities, but also the inadequacy
of such negativistic evaluations.

Based on the literature that has become available in the

past decade, we can justifiably conclude that the participation

and contribution of women in urbanization, the effects of this

process upon their lives, and their indispensable role in this

transformation, are at once more positive and more complex than

much of the literature allows us to conclude.

Missing from the more technical economic literature are

considerations of the fact that during the past decade, women,

more than men, migrated to cities with their families, and that

these women and families survive and at times even thrive in the

interstices of an economy that cannot be measured by customary

technical tools. Missing in analyses from a feminist perspective

are attempts to depict the interior landscape of the life of

Third World women--their own experiences. In large measure,

their own interpretations of their lives remain strangely muted.

Unless these latter analysts are prepared to argue that the

recent trend of mass migration of women to the cities, and their

proclivity for staying there, are products of the incompetence of

these women, a fresh look at the female experience in

urbanization becomes necessary.

In sum, it has become evident that earlier formulations of

the experience of urbanization no longer suffice. The debate

will have to be carried into new directions. It is, of course,

extremely difficult to generalize about processes of such high

complexity, particularly since they are influenced by myriad

historical, cultural and local factors. By the same token, it is

just as difficult to generalize about the particular meaning the

urban experience holds for different women in vastly different

cultures and under divergent social conditions.

Because of the paucity of literature which might supply the

needed details, the following argument must be based only upon a

sketch of the broader contours of the female experience in Third

World cities. It is hoped that the new directions which are

suggested will supplement, expand, and occasionally correct the

rather one-dimensional perspectives that have commonly prevailed

in representations of women in Third World cities.

Three major aspects of the female experience in the cities

of developing countries are subjected to a thematic analysis in

the following chapters. These aspects are principally

institutional. That is, while they reflect what women are doing,

they are especially concerned with identifying the parameters

within which women's activities occur, and with linking the

opportunities available within those parameters to those

activities. These aspects are: the dimensions of the urban

migration (the why and how); the social contexts of the urban

experience (including family, neighborhood, and the rich variety

of voluntary, self-help, and religious groupings); and the urban

economy (processes of accommodation, adaptation, and hopefully,

integration of poor women into the total economy of Third World


III. Women in Urban Migration: the Why and the How

It is generally accepted that the need and search for

economic advancement is chiefly responsible for rural-urban

migration in the world's developing countries and that this

migration is shaped by economic "push-pull" factors. The impact

of social and psychological factors, however, is less clearly

defined and understood.

While not denying the influence of possible economic

advancement on rural-urban migration, it is here contended that

social and psychological factors influence many migrants, quite

independently of economic considerations. It is further argued

that these latter influences are most likely to be decisive for

Third World women, rather than men, when they decide whether to

migrate from rural to urban areas.

The fact that Third World women are more likely than men to

migrate to cities with their families is the most distinctive

manifestation of the social and psychological influences on their

decision. When this fact is considered together with women's

prominent position in informal economies, it is evident that the

cities provide opportunity both for maintaining the family unit

and fulfilling the economic requirements for life.

These paired phenomena also enable resolution of the

quandary that is evident in conventional economic analyses of the

"employment problem" in the Third World. These analyses show

burgeoning underemployment in the cities at the same time that

they seek to explain mounting immigration as a function of people

seeking employment. The problem with this pairing of phenomena,

of course, is that it suggests incompetence on the part of

migrants continuing to move for jobs that do not exist. During

the Decade for Women, however, economic analyses have begun to

indict the standard measures of employment and to recognize the

neglect of informal economies in these measures. [10]

As this recognition expands--and it surely will because it

is responsive to what is happening--the appreciation of women in

social and economic development is likely to be explosive.

Movement toward this future understanding is likely to include a

pairing of economic with social and psychological factors, such

as is provided here. The distinction between women moving with

families and all other migrants is essential. To the extent that

"others" are being assessed, then the fairly grim evaluations of

the mental health of migrants are more plausible. These more

dire evaluations are contained in arguments which describe

migration as rupturing social bonds, uprooting people from their

heritage, isolating individuals from one another, and generating an

increasingly alienated, anomic population of "lonely people." To

be sure, any transition from one context to the other involves

dislocation which, according to circumstances, may be more

pronounced in one situation than in others. Yet detailed studies

like those of Wayne Cornelius for Mexico City, Anthony Leeds for

Lima, and Janice Perlman for Rio de Janeiro, demonstrate

convincingly that migrations typically take place within well

established social contexts: "Not only do many migrants come

with others, often close ties are retained with the places of

origin; moreover, most migrants have friends and relatives in the

city who can help in the initial adaptation period." [11]

Similar dynamics have been found in African as well as in a

number of Asian cities.

While the preceding offers a more positive picture of the

present, and envisions an even more positive scenario for the

future of women in development, it is unambiguously acknowledged

that gender makes a difference where it should not, that women

suffer the consequences of this non-neutrality to a greater extent

than do men, and that development, for both women and men, is

among the casualties. The literature assembled during the Decade

for Women, alone, is overwhelming in its documentation of gender

prejudices. No matter that there are significant differences

among societies--women tend to have better opportunities to act

upon their preferences in the developing societies of Latin

America and East Asia than in Muslim societies--sex discrimination

continues to plague Third World women, and to hinder their

chances for advancement in the cities.

Nonetheless, the available data convincingly demonstrate

that improvements in the positions of women are a concomitant of

the processes of urbanization and industrialization. In fact,

these data show that it is not so much industrialization, as

urbanization, in general, that is the key variable. Taken

together, a number of studies in various countries suggest three

phases of urban transition, measured in terms of female


Phase one: cities of males

An incipient period of urbanization in which male migration
predominates and city life is largely shaped by the
overwhelming presence of men, with respect to all aspects of
life--economic, political, social and cultural.

Phase two: cities of peasants

A situation typifying cities in many Third World countries
today, wherein they can be viewed as dual cities
economically as well as socio-culturally. The migration of
women and families has accelerated, and a balancing out of
the demographic gap between males and females is occurring.
Economically, there is an industrial-formal sector and a

parallel, largely informal one. Men dominate in the first,
and women in the second. Culturally, two distinct
traditions coexist: a peasant culture and an urban culture.
The two sectors and cultures are largely interdependent and
intersect at many points. Rural-urban ties remain largely

-Phase three: cities with genuine urban cultures

The outlines of these cities are taking shape in a number of
Third World cities today, particularly in those of Latin
America and parts of East Asia. In-migration (though not
between-city migration) tends to level off. Women and
families are found in numbers more equivalent to those of
men; families and urban lifestyles become integral parts of
life. Economically, women may tend to be still
disproportionately in the informal, small-scale
entrepreneurial sector. The family household provides a
firm anchor for the advancement of the family as a unit.
While this constellation is of a proto-industrial type,
proto-modern would be a more accurate characterization
because industrial labor is not a decisive element for
identification of these cities.

To be sure, this transitional model would benefit from

additional substantiation and differentiation, but such an

endeavor must, or at least should, await viable instruments for

making the appropriate measurements. Nonetheless, considerable

evidence indicates that this urban transitional process is

already well underway. What is more, this transitional model

recognizes women's pivotal role in the creation of urban

economies, urban institutions and urban cultures in general. The

evidence is strong enough to conclude that without the

participation of women and, by extension, their families, there

can be no urban culture.

IV. The Social Contexts of the Urban Experience: Family,
Neighbors and Voluntary Associations

Characterizations of the urban poor which parallel those of

new urban immigrants--alienated, despondent, and a marginal class

in society--are cast into doubt not only by the reality of women

migrating to the cities with their families, but also by a host

of additional, if not so immediate, relationships. In fact, a

cohesive and complex network of considerable strength is thriving

on all social levels in many Third World cities. These networks,

or "mediating structures," in the terminology of Peter Berger and

Richard Neuhaus, [12] are the "glue" of any society. They are

based on family, church, voluntary organizations and informal

neighborhood groups, and must be understood as constituting the

mechanisms by which spontaneous social interaction patterns become

anchored and institutionalized.

Similarly, recent evidence on cooperation and mutual trust

discredits the pervasive notion of marginality. These new

findings appear to hold up in different cultural settings

characteristic of the emerging urban realities across the Third

World, [13] and seem to apply equally to the favelas of Rio de

Janeiro (Renato Buschi; J. Perlman) the barrios of Mexico City

(Cornelius), the shanty towns of Nairobi and Kumasi (Little), and

to the poor sections of Beirut (Saud Joseph), as well as to the

sidewalk dwellers of Bombay and Calcutta and the resettlement

colonies of India, as Laxmipuri described in Dianne A. Per-Lee's

"Street Vendors." [14]

The accumulated findings strongly suggest that among urban

squatters--migrants all--there is less family breakdown, less

frustration, less apathy, more optimism, and a considerably

higher degree of aspiration, than has commonly been assumed. The

unwritten rules dominating the existence of these poor migrants

have been cogently described by Lisa Peattie: "Work hard, save

money...outwit the state, vote CONSERVATIVELY if possible, but

always in your own economic self-interest; educate your

children for their future and as old age insurance for yourself."


In sum, the available evidence overwhelmingly supports

Janice Perlman's conclusion in her path-breaking book, The Myth

of Marginality:

The evidence refutes a major distinction in marginality
theory the idyllic warmth and cohesion of the rural
village versus the isolated, impersonal, competitive nature
of city life. This myth has long permeated the literature
on the city and squatters in general. [16]

Recent studies of social relationships among the Third

World's urban poor have focused on a variety of dimensions.

Some have looked at the importance of social relationships in the

search for shelter, the construction of some form of housing, and

the search for work, loans and insurance.

In the small-scale entrepreneurial sector, social

relationships are of utmost importance for the peddlers and the

sidewalk vendors, but also for casual workers, independent

artisans and small enterprises proper. Jeff Ash has pointed to

these general dynamics in several analyses of the PISCES project.

And the prominence of women in this process is reflected in Jason

Brown's provocative summary of his field notes collected in many

different settings in the contemporary Third World:

It is women who are the forefront of small business activity
worldwide. Interviews suggest that through business they
obtain a sense of self-worth and independence which might
not otherwise be available to them. When these business-
women have been organized by voluntary organizations in such
countries as India and the Philippines, they have developed
leadership and other skills of great value to their families
and their communities. In the search for social and economic
equity it may well be these organized businesswomen who will
be the impetus for change. [17]

While women's participation in business illustrates the

striking degree of self-help found in all of the studies

enumerated here, every producer needs a market. That fact alone

makes even more persuasive Alison Scott's argument that very few

of the small enterprises can survive without developing stable

relationships with customers, suppliers, neighbors and larger

enterprises in order to obtain credit or to secure a stable

market for their products. [18] Scott provides examples of these

networks in the construction, manufacturing, transport,

upholstery and dressmaking sectors. She stresses that although

the independence of these small-scale entrepreneurs is fragile,

their own participation in forming and sustaining their network

enables them to retain a degree of control over their own


In many instances, this process is facilitated by the

immigration not just of people, but of preexisting networks from

the area of emigration. Thus, it has been observed that people

from the same village tend to live together in the same

neighborhood in the city and to help each other in business if

possible. In the words of Susan Brown:

Groups tend to form of people in the same kind of business,
such as cooked food vendor, or doll makers. These groups
establish mutual support structures, which can include
rudimentry insurance systems in case of illness, revolving
loan funds and assistance in getting licenses. Sometimes
these groups actively protest against governmental policies.

Thus, the urbanization process in the Third World provides

us with an illustration of institution building in action. The

formal sector determines the parameters within which informal

economic and social activities take place, but nowhere are these

activities so narrowly circumscribed as to prevent women from

developing institutions which are more beneficial for them

and their families than the existing alternatives. In the

process, these institutions will reflect and reinforce their

values. Institutions constitute the structuring of incentives

and disincentives for individual behavior; encouraging desired,

appropriate, or "good" behavior, and discouraging their

opposites. The strongest institutions, therefore, are those

which are most firmly predicated upon a people's basic values.

Of course, the process of institution building takes time.

Slowly and incrementally, networks of interaction become

habituated, routinized, and eventually institutionalized. The

necessary skills are nurtured gradually. Interaction,

participation and outreach activities develop into taken-for-

granted modes of interaction. It is this rugged dynamics, as

Grace Goodell has argued, and not factories and laws from on

high, which constitute the foundation of culture. At the same

time, the institutions of society will affect the likelihood, or

irate, of its social and economic development--including the

building of factories, and improvements upon the formal laws of


In the absence of an autonomous tradition in the urban

reality of Third World migrants, and in the face of grave

obstacles, women both gain and provide their greatest assistance

among those most immediate in their personal lives: family,

kinship relations, friendships, neighbors, and coreligionists.

Gradually customers, suppliers and other informal, quasi-personal

relations are established. Out of this network of interaction,

new institutions evolve. In the absence of intervention from the

official, formal sector of their societies, these more or less ad

hoc patterns eventually become the matrix of a new urban culture.

At first, this process occurs more or less spontaneously. As

time goes by, it is firmed up and finally emerges as a massive

reality capable of organizing and structuring the lives of urban

residents in forms congenial to their own ends and visions.

Thus, a good case can be made that mediating structures are at

the core of development, just as they are at the core of the

building of cultures. If so, it is women who are the principal

mediators. This conclusion, I would propose, has far-reaching

implications for any policies involving economic and social

development, as it does now for Third World cities.

V. Women in the Urban Economy The Processes of Adaptation,
Accommodation and Integration

SMany studies attempting to describe economic realities in

Third World cities have pointed out the coexistence of two

distinct and contrasting sectors. These sectors have been

labeled as the "modern" or "formal" sector, and the "traditional"

or "informal" sector. The "formal" sector refers to wage labor

in permanent employment, such as that which is characteristic of

industrial enterprise, government offices and other medium and

large-scale establishments. The labor produced in this sector is

registered in the official economic statistics; working

conditions are protected by law; and its structure of work is

administratively, or bureaucratically, organized. Economic

activities that do not meet these criteria are bundled under the

term "informal sector," a catchword covering a considerable range

of economic activities which are frequently marshalled under the

term of "self-employment." [20] This type of work is relatively

unorganized; working conditions are not covered by legal

statutes; and it is typically ignored by official censuses and

economic measurements.

The informal sector, estimated to include up to 70% of the

potential urban labor force, [21] comprises a substantial part of

Third World economic activities. The growth and stability of the

informal sector cannot be explained without referring to the

formal policies of governments which retard growth of, and hence,

employment in the formal economy.

Contrary to earlier evaluations which viewed the informal

economy as unproductive, if not parasitical, there has been in

recent years a reversal in the assessment of its function and

contribution to economic development. Earlier findings are

Increasingly questioned, and the potential contribution to

national development of the small-scale sector is the subject

of growing appreciation.[22]

As Elizabeth Jelin (1974) has argued, this informal sector

can be divided into the following categories: competitive

capitalism, present in small and medium-sized firms; self-

employment in a variety of activities; and domestic service,

which can be seen as complementing other forms of economic

activity by substituting for the household work of family members

whose skills are being engaged outside the home. [23]

The contributions of women to production in the informal

sector assume myriad forms. In part, this is a natural

consequence of the fact that women in Third World cities are

disproportionately represented in the informal economy, and as a

corollary, are conspicuously underrepresented in the formal,

official sector of urban economies.

The participation rates of women in the paid labor force of

the Third World have been extensively studied. [24]

International variations in participation rates have been

summarized in four basic curves by J. Durand in The Labor Force

in Economic Development. [25] However, as Elizabeth Jelin in a

more recent assessment has pointed out, "such international

comparisons, although important at an aggregate level and as a

first approximation, are hindered by the usual deficiencies in

data comparability and especially by the differing social

definitions of what constitutes 'work' or 'economic activity'."

[26] The following Table, [27] therefore, is simply presented to

give a first intimation of the changes that have occurred in the

past 35 years in the percentage of women in the paid labor force

as compared to that of men.

ages 5 64
Women as a Percent oa Men
-c--ase_ ,. g in the Paid Labor Force, by region
U (,o~ [,Illil1eo

~rs~k"U ig-

Lal-A41'ef ,U
SOL.!" As& A


Far East
fIom ArrtIwr.ca
Eastefn Eoooe

0 o0 20 30 40 5C 50 O sO 90

The roles which women play in the informal economies of Third

World cities are principally shaped by skills which they had

previously acquired, primarily within families. And women seem

to be natural traders. With relatively little on-the-job

training in the informal economy, these skills must be considerable.

The following observation illustrates the differences among

countries with respect to roles that are pursued by women in their

informal urban economies (and, therefore, the hazards of

generalizing about Third World women's economic activities):

The roles may differ from place to place and may change over
time. Garment making is an example. In Jamaica, all dress
making is done by women. Conversely, in Sierra Leone, men
dominate tailoring, the industry that accounts for the
greatest share of employment and value added. Men also
predominate in carpentry, blacksmithing, baking,

goldsmithing and watch repair. However, 80% of the owners
of the tie-dye (gara) SSEs in the Sierra Leone are women.

These small-scale entrepreneurial activities are more often

than not anchored in the household, making use of the available

help of children as well as men who frequently are forced to move

in and out of the paid labor force and are thus allowed to fall

back conveniently upon existing entrepreneurial activities in the

"penny economy" engineered by women.

A brief excerpt from Bryand Roberts' insightful Cities of

Peasants [29] typifies these small-scale entrepreneurial


To secure and build upon these (previously formed)
advantages, the entrepreneurs of the small-scale sector need
to cut their cost and provide highly competitive services.
This is achieved, in part, by an intensive exploitation of
available labour. Family labour is used to its fullest
extent; young children run errands, mind the shop, check
that loading or unloading is being carried on. Older
relatives may sit for long hours minding a shop or selling
small quantities of goods that are a surplus to the main

This pattern of organization, Roberts goes on to argue,

warns us against assuming too quickly that the individual engaged

in what appears to be almost profitless activities is an isolated

economic unit.

Small-scale market sellers, people offering to wash cars and
so on, often appear to make little or no income and, in
surveys of poverty, are classed among the desperately poor.
They are undoubtedly poor, but it is important to examine
the household and not the individual as a unit of economic

And he goes on to conclude that many apparently

unremunerative occupations are but the tip of the iceberg in

which other members of the household earn the major incomes
and the person in question simply contributes to his or her
upkeep, while minding, keeping an eye on the store and
disposing of otherwise wasted products. [30]

It must be noted that, depending upon the level of

development and various conditions of the economy (including its

openness), women's participation in small-scale entrepreneurial

activities may change over time. It appears, for example, that

in the Philippines women are currently moving from household-based

to establishment-based textile/wearing apparel-manufacture and are

shifting out of manufacturing into commerce and service. [31]

Bernard Rosen's interesting study, The Industrial

Connection, Achievement and Family in Developing Society,

investigates the effects of industrialization and urbanization on

the contemporary Brazilian family. Rosen illustrates the

noneconomic consequences which might be expected to result from

economic activity that is increasingly dominated by the formal

sector: (1) industrialization strengthens kinship ties in a

developing society which values the extended family; (2) with

industrialization the relationship between husbands and wives

becomes more demonstrative, communicative, and egalitarian; and

(3) industrialization eventually democratizes the relationships

between parent and child, and increases the stress parents place

on independence and achievement. [32] Research paralleling

Rosen's, but controlling for industrialization by focusing only

on families in urban informal economies, would be extremely

useful, for it is here hypothesized that urbanization is a more

influential variable than is industrialization in this

significant shift in personal interaction and status.

If these findings and others complementary to them should

stand up, and if similar research into other cultures strengthens

them, then today's indications will be tomorrow's demonstrations.

To wit, urbanization and development, far from being detrimental

to women in the Third World, are contributing in major ways to

the integration of women into development and society.

This supposition is predicated upon the active and tenacious

participation of Third World women in the "invisible" small-scale

entrepreneurial sector of their cities, and upon that vital

contribution to development and society becoming firmly anchored

and institutionalized. In this manner the political and

administrative efforts which have characterized this Decade for

Women might also be directed where it counts--not just for, but

with the multitudes of remarkable women in the Third World.

Should the political and administrative efforts of Third

World governments find like direction, the resulting explosion of

opportunities for private entrepreneurial activities would enable

women in Third World cities to do, on an expanded stage, what

they have already accomplished behind doors closed by government


In this context reference must be made to state intervention

that has significantly limited the development of nationally-based

private enterprise in underdeveloped societies. For reasons too

complex to explicate here, the central governments of LDCs have

tended to assume primary responsibility for sponsoring economic

development. Instead of encouraging private economic initiatives

to flourish and expand, they have consistently favored state-owned

and state-run economic enterprises. Such corporations (typically

referred to as "parastatals") are even owned by city governments

and produce everything from paint to beer. The largest, and most

costly to their societies, however, are owned by national

governments. State monopolies are established, competition

eliminated, and secure markets guaranteed by government subsidies

or foreign exchange manipulation.

These state-owned corporations are typically unprofitable.

That imposes a cost on a country's citizens, in the form of taxes

or other fees to finance the difference between income and

expenditures. There is also no evidence that parastatals do any

better in the employment of women than does the formal sector of

the economy, generally. When one considers these costs together

with the opportunity costs to the society, and especially to

women--opportunities which they could be acting upon, but which are

pre-empted by their governments--surely enough is enough. And surely

one must inquire as to the meaning of "their government" when

that government has entered into competition with its own

citizens. In fact, "competition" is a dubious term when applied

to a contest that is rigged from the outset. If a parastatal

does not have to be profitable in order to stay in business, then

it can always sell what it produces at a lower price than any of

its "competitors."

It should be clear that parastatals are but symptomatic of a

proclivity among Third World governments to attempt to plan

virtually everything in their countries for virtually everybody.

'Thus, for example, governments frequently overvalue their

national currencies so that less of it will be required for the

purchase of imports. Unfortunately, these "cheap" imports are

then competing in the same domestic marketplace with goods that

are locally produced. The effect for local producers is the same

'as attempting to compete with a parastatal.

These and a host of other government policies are not unique

to the Third World, but rarely can they be found elsewhere in

such abundance. Governments should adopt policies which

encourage increased productivity on the part of their citizens.

Instead, the policies just described, along with numerous others,

have the opposite effect.

Some government policies which create disincentives for most

individuals to produce, are, of course, beneficial to some

people. Government mandates for worker benefits, and legislation

establishing an official minimum wage, for example, are supported

by some workers--especially those who are employed by more

profitable formal sector companies which are not placed in

jeopardy by the increased costs such legislation creates.

Employees of parastatals, where going out of business is not a

serious question, will be even more supportive. Of course, women

are significantly underrepresented among the employees of such

formal sector companies, and because of the legislation, are less

likely to find employment with less profitable firms in the

formal economy. It is possible, however, that a husband might be

employed by one of the "right" companies, but otherwise, women

are virtually certain to suffer greater opportunity costs than

are men as a result of governmental interventions in what could

be a "free economy."

The growth of "underground" economies is a natural

consequence of the disincentives to production which government

policies yield. Should these interventionist policies ever

cease, women will be in an advantageous position, for they will

possess the most business experience in a free economy. At the

same time, their increased success in that informal economy and

the development of institutions responsive to their values and

preferences might well encourage needed changes in government

policies. There are two basic phenomena which suggest this

latter possibility.

First, women can be expected to acquire, along with market

expertise and skills developed in the course of institution

building, a coherent and established position regarding changes

in government policies. That position will be increasingly

difficult to ignore. Second, just as government policies impose

opportunity costs on its citizens which result in underground

economies, so too does expanded growth and wealth of those

informal economies create opportunity costs for the relevant

governments. To the extent that governments rely upon taxes for

financing their activities, the more wealth that goes, or is

created, underground, relative to the rest of the economy, the

heavier will be the burden of those taxes in the formal economy--but

that, in turn, increases the incentives for movement from the

formal to the informal economy. And so, a vicious circle of

escalating opportunity costs for government might well bring it

to do later what should be done now.

VI. Lessons Learned Lessons to be Learned: A Shift in
Paradigm for Paths to a Better Future

A vast variety of detailed as well as general studies of the

lives of women in virtually all parts of the globe has become

available during the Decade for Women. These studies provide

rich insights into the complexities and variabilities of the

dynamics surrounding women. Such insights have helped to put

into context, to reevaluate and at times, even to revise earlier

conceptions and agendas; they have taught us a great deal about

what works and what does not, and they have introduced a sense of

pragmatic realism into the highminded discussions and visions

concerning women in the Third World.

Above all, the lessons learned in this decade opened up new

vistas which, taken together, add up to no less than a shift in

paradigm on the role and contribution of women--as well as of

men--in development. Beyond this, they point to a shift in

paradigm on the process of development itself.

From the many lessons learned, the following four appear to

be particularly salient for the emerging understanding of the

role of women in development:

1. We have learned that women are not a monolithic

category: that their lives are embedded in distinct cultural,

ethnic, religious and traditional networks of immense variety.

Their values, their aspirations, and their hopes cannot be

assumed identical across the nations.

Although the roles and wishes of women vary considerably in

different parts of the Third World, and sometimes even within the

same country, common threads can be discerned which comprise a

set of attitudes and values that may be significantly different

from those of women in the developed industrial societies of the

West. Regardless of which country we turn to, whether on the

African, the Asian, or the Latin American continents, it is

inconceivable to view Third World women in isolation from their

families. The words of Chief Emeka Anyaoku, deputy secretary-

general of the Commonwealth of Nigeria, express this general

insight succintly: "Most basic of all perhaps is the fact that

in Africa today" (and he might have been referring to Asia and

Latin America as well) "family-centered values are still widely

held, and the support and interdependence of the family members

affect the economic and social activities of women as well as men

members of the family." [33]

2. We have learned far more regarding complexities of

research, particularly as it applies to the conceptualization and

measurement of the economic contributions of Third World women.

This complexity has made for their "invisibility" for far too

long. The conventional models and techniques for measuring

economic productivity, labor market participation and other

elements in the dynamics of development, have been found wanting.

To the extent their results are relied upon, they contribute to

the invisibility of women in development. Thus the conventional

instruments for economic measurement have reinforced, albeit

unintentionally, discriminatory practices of formal government


The Decade's focus on the economic roles of women,

especially in Third World cities, has increasingly called into

question the adequacy of the assumptions underlying the various

conceptual models commonly used in the development context. The

information which has emerged regarding the economic activities

of the vast majority of women in the Third World--and,

incidentally, that of a sizable portion of males as well--

demonstrates the crucial function of the household in the

economies of the Third World. This insight indicates that

revision of current models is in order. This revision would

employ the household as a basic unit of analysis. Aside from

reflecting the legitimate contributions of women in development,

such a household model of economic measurement would also provide

a more realistic understanding of the general dynamics of

development in the Third World--a development in which women are

already taking part. It is only from antidevelopment and the

government policies which usually beget it, that women are

presently excluded (although they do suffer from its negative


3. In the momentous process of urban growth that has

characterized the Third World in recent decades, conventional

attempts to provide urban shelter for populations on the move

have become largely irrelevant. By the mid-seventies it was

officially recognized that substantial amounts of housing were

being created outside the public domain in the densely populated

poor cities of the Third World, either bordering on or

encompassed within such metropolitan areas as Calcutta, Cairo,

Jakarta, Lagos, Rio de Janeiro and Manila. Most housing was

found to be built by individuals, families, and groups,

privately, with the benefit of public finance, "frequently in

violation of building codes and on land whose tenure arrangements

were haphazard and often illegal." [34]

Subsequently, a compelling alternative shelter approach,

based on the "sites and services" concept, was developed by

the World Bank and other bilateral and multilateral funding

institutions. Instead of imposing new controls and regulations

upon the urban explosion, and instead of depending upon central

governments for the planning and supply of shelter--a task

considerably beyond the capacity of most governments--this concept

relies upon the energy and vitality of the poor people

themselves. It makes use of their own labor and ingenuity in

constructing shelter, and restricts outside support primarily to

providing such necessary infrastructure as roads, water supply,

electricity and sanitation. By 1983, more than 90% of the

shelter generated each year throughout the world was based on this

private-public partnership: "It is a private matter, with private

households, NEIGHBORHOOD organizations, and constructive

enterprises providing valuable good." [35]

This shift in approach to the provision of shelter holds

considerable promise for the future of women in Third World

cities. Not only do poor women find improved opportunities in

their shelter search, these are relevant to the productive

activities in which they are typically involved. Moreover, it

has significant implications for their institution and culture-

building functions, including those made possible by government

recognition of their capacities in the process of shelter


Such a radical departure from approaches of the past might

also increase the likelihood that governments will "see" more of

those activities which conventional measurements render

invisible, and expand the lessons learned about shelter

provision. The next radical departure might involve determining

the conditions necessary for individuals to create wealth on

their own, conditions not unlike those necessary for their

creation of shelter. The latter's infrastructure of secure land

titles, roads and sanitation might call forth impartially applied

property and contract law in the former. Whatever those studies

might conclude, one thing is certain: government will have

"discovered" women in the process, and having done so, they will

no longer be able to think of the development of Third World

cities without them.

4. During this Decade for Women, we have also learned that

the integration of women is a many-faceted task. We are just

beginning to fully appreciate the complexity of this crucial

endeavor. To be sure, this endeavor requires economic,

educational, and technical efforts, no less than those of

government, law and administration. All of these contributors to

the integration of women into the benefits, as well as the

exercise, of development are enhanced by the critical process of

building institutions and culture.

Thus, government proclamations, whether those of foreign aid

donors or recipients, are clearly insufficient for assuring that

the benefits which women experience from development are

commensurate with their contributions. This is not to demean

government "orders" of nondiscrimination with regard to gender,

but to observe that this noble intention is invalidated by

government interventions that prevent the free operation of

economies which will naturally reward performance, regardless of

the content of government proclamations.

The validity of this observation is demonstrated within the

closest thing to "free economies" that most Third World countries

enjoy, the vast "informal" sector. The preeminent role of women

in the informal economies has been documented repeatedly, and both

this phenomenon and that of the informal economies themselves,

provide abundant indication of what would be experienced in the

general economies, were it not precluded by the intervention of

government policies. Those policies constitute "planning" of the

operations of formal economies, but while they establish the

boundary between formal and informal economies, the informal

economies themselves are actually governed by their participants.

There might be no greater testimony to the capacity for self-

governance in the Third World than this very fact. In the

process, women in Third World cities are building the

institutional structures which are best able to take advantage of

whatever positive changes might occur in the macroeconomic

policies of governments. At the same time, those evolving

institutions provide a potent stimulus for such changes.

In view of the expanded awareness of this decade, even

fairly recent analyses of development have been rendered

"ancient." Included among these are those which

disproportionately focused on the issues of labor surplus and its

absorption in Third World cities. Not only has attention shifted

to the role and structure of the informal sector, recent

literature clearly shows that activities in this sector, far from

being "parasitical," can be economically efficient and profitable

and contribute to the general development process. [36] Also

neglected in the recent past were recommendations for better

attunement and increased complementarity between the two sectors

of the urban economy in developing countries. [37]

The shift in perception concerning the role of small-scale

entrepreneurial activities in the informal sector is comparable

to that which has already occurred in the area of urban shelter.

We are only beginning to comprehend the implications of these

shifting parameters, but they appear to be part of an overall

paradigm shift in which individuals, rather than their governments,

assume the central role in their own development.

Nonetheless, much more needs to be learned about specific

contexts in which the dynamics of small-scale entrepreneurial

activities take place. These enterprises experience many

realities, not one. Conditions in different countries and

different cultures are strikingly different, just as small-scale

entrepreneurial activities have different functions in different

types and scales of economies. Regardless of individual

differences, all informal economies and the enterprises of which

they are made are remarkable for their strength and vitality.

Furthermore, as an unintended consequence of growth-retarding

government policies, the informal economies are incubators for

free enterprise and institutional development that is predicated

on performance rather than privilege. Since the majorities of

Third World city populations are actively engaged in informal

economies, and since women predominate in those economies--both as

entrepreneurs and as either heads or principals in households--the

institutional framework is being established for societies in

which basic human rights are honored, regardless of sex, and in

which the correlative responsibilities of individual rights are

honored in practice. No development worthy of individuals can

occur in the absence of these basic institutional elements.

Taken together, the key lessons learned in the U. N. Decade

for Women constitute a shift in paradigm on women in development.

It is a shift that is central to the position of the United States

iand informs its development assistance policy. The men and women

of Third World cities are providing us with the lessons to be

learned. It is hoped that these lessons learned will find an open

reception among all who are sincerely committed, both to the

integration of women into development and to finding paths to a

better future for women and men alike.


1. See, for instance, Ray Bromley (ed.), The Urban Informal
Sector: Critical Perspectives on Employment and Housing
Policies, Oxford, Pergamon, 1979; Ray Bromley and Chris Gerry,
(eds.), Casual Work and Poverty in Third World Cities, New York,
Wiley, 1979; ILO, World Employment Programme: Research in
Retrospect and Prospect, Geneva, International Labour Office,
1976; Ford Foundation Letter, Vol. 16 No. 2, April 1984

2. A. W. Clausen, President, The World Bank, "Promoting the
Private Sector in Developing Countries: A Multilateral
Approach," address delivered at the Convention of the Institute
of Directors, February 26, 1985, London, England

3. Joan Nelson, "Migrants, Urban Poverty, and Instability in
Developing Nations," Center for International Affairs, Occasional
Papers in International Affairs, No. 22, Cambridge, MA, Harvard
Univ., 1969

4. Allen C. Kelley and Jeffrey Williamson, What Drives Third
World City Growth, Princeton University Press, 1984, p.3

5. ibid.

6. ibid. p. 2

7. ibid. p. 4

8. Jane Jacobs, The Economy of Cities, Random House, 1970

9. The overwhelming majority of contemporary analysts perceive
development and urbanization to be devastating to women, this
holds for Marxists as well as nonMarxists. Two distinct
approaches dominate here: (1) the equity approach first
formulated by E. Boserup (1970) and later expanded by I. Tinker
and B. Bramsen (1976) and most recently by I. Illich (1984)
contending that women lose ground relative to men as development
unfolds; and (2) the poverty-oriented approach (exemplified by
Safilios-Rothchild, Buvinic and K. Staudt), that argues that women
issues have to be linked to poverty issues because the ratio of
women to men is greater in the poverty-income groups than in the
population as a whole.

10. Albert Berry, "Open Unemployment as a Social Problem in
Urban Colombia: Myth and Reality," Economic Development and
Cultural Change, 23:2 (January 1975), pp. 276-91

Albert Berry and R. H. Sabot, "Unemployment and Economic
Development," Economic Development and Cultural Change, 33:1
(October 1984), pp. 99-116

Peter Gregory, "Employment, Unemployment, and Underemployment in
Latin America," Statistical Bulletin of the OAS 2:4 (October-
December 1980), pp 1-20

Mayra Burinic, "Women's Issues in Third World Poverty: A Policy
Analysis" in M. Buvinic, Margaret A. Lucette, and William Paul
McGreevey, (eds), Women and Poverty in the Third World.
Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983, pp. 14 ff.

11. Janice E. Perlman, The Myth of Marginality: Urban Poverty
and Politics in Rio de Janeiro, University of California Press,
1976, p. 12

12. Peter Berger and Richard J. Neuhaus, To Empower People, The
American Enterprise Institute, 1978

13. See for instance, Janice E. Perlman, op.cit. Wayne A.
Cornelius, Jr., "The Political Sociology of City-ward Migration in
Latin America: Toward Empirical Theory" in W. Cornelius and F.
Trueblood (eds.), Latin American Urban Research, Beverly Hills,
Sage Publ., 1975; Kenneth Little, African Women in Towns: An
Aspect of Africa's Social Revolution, Cambridge University Press,
1973; Saud Joseph, "Women and the Neighborhood Street in Borj
Hammoud, Lebanon" in Lois Beck and Nikki Keddie, (eds.), Women
in the Muslim World, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1978;
Patricia Caplan, "Women's Organizations in Mardas City, India" in
Comparative Studies of Ten Contemporary Cultures, Indiana
University Press, 1979

14. Dianne A. Per-Lee, "Street Vendors" in J. Lebra, Paulson,
Everett, (eds.), Women and Work in India, New Delhi, Promilla,

15. Lisa Peattie, "The Concept of Marginality as Applied to
Squatter Settlements," Department of Urban Planning, MIT, n.d.

16. Janice E. Perlman, op.cit., p. 133

17. Jason Brown, "The Role of Small-Scale Business," paper for
The Seminar on Modern Capitalism, Boston, 1983

18. Alison Scott, "Who are the Self-employed?" in C. Gerry and R.
Bromley, (eds.), The Casual Poor in Third World Cities, London

19. Jason Brown, op. cit.

See also Manuel Tosta Berlinck and Daniel J. Morgan, "Social
Marginality or Class Relations in the City of Sao Paulo" in Neuma
Aquier, (ed.), The Structure of Brazilian Development, New
Brunswick, Transaction, 1974

20. Jan Breman "A dualistic labour system? A critique of the
'informal sector' concept" in Ray Bromley (ed.), Planning for
Small Enterprises in Third World Cities, Pergamon Press, 1985,
p. 43

21. Ford Foundation Letter, op.cit.

22. DeSoto, Bromley, Roberts, etc.

23. Elizabeth Jelin, "La bahiana en fa fuerzdo trabajo:
actividad domestic, production simple y trabajo asalariado en
Salvador, Brazil," in Demografi y Economia, 8, 3, 1974;
Elizabeth Jelin, "Formas de organization do la actividad
economic y estructura occupacional: el caso de Salvador,
Brazil," in Desarrolo Economico, 53, 14 (April-June), 1974, pp
1811 ff.

24. See for instance, International Labour Office, Geneva, Women
at Work, Number 2, 1983 and ILO Bureau of Statistics and the
Office for Women Workers' Questions for the study: Employment
patterns, discrimination and promotion of equality: The ILO
global study on women workers (in preparation)

25. J. Durand, The Labor Force in Economic Development,
Princeton University Press, 1975

26. Elizabeth Jelin, Women and the Urban Labour Market, in
Richard Anker, Mayra Buvinic and Nadia H. Youssef, (eds.),
Women's Roles and Population Trends in the Third World, ILO,
published by Croom Helm Ltd. of London, 1982

27. Ruth Leger Sivard, Women...A World Survey, Washington, D.C.,
World Priorities, 1985.

28. Maryanne Dulansey and James Austin, "Small Scale Enterprise
and Women" in Catherine Overhold, Mary B. Anderson, Kathleen
Cloud, and James E. Austin, (eds.), Gender Roles in Development
Projects: A Case Book, West Hartford, CT, Kumarian Press, 1985.

29. Bryand Roberts, Cities of Peasants, Sage Publishing Co.,
1979, p. 128

30. ibid.

31. Dulansey & Austin, op.cit. p. 87

32. Bernard Rosen, The Industrial Connection: Achievement and
Family in Developing Society, Aldine, 1982

33. Chief Emeka Anyaoku "Changing Attitudes: A Cooperative
Effort," Africa Report, Vol. 30, No. 2, (March/April 1985)

34. Michael A. Cohen, The Challenge of Replicability: Toward a
New Paradigm for Urban Shelter in Developing Countries. World
Bank Reprint Series: Number 287, 1983, orig. publ. Regional
Development Dialogue, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1983, pp. 90-99

35. Michael Cohen, op.cit.

36. Jan Breman, op.cit.

37. Gustav Papenek, "The Poor of Jakarta," Economic Development
and Cultural Change, Vol. 24, 1975, pp. 1-27



In particular, I wish to thank Professor Grace Goodell,
Director of Social Change and Development at the Johns Hopkins
School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Her advice and encouragement have been instrumental in the
preparation of background materials for this paper.

I want also to specially thank Brigitte Berger, Chairman of
the Department of Sociology at Wellesley College and
my urban colleague over the past four months for her
unflagging support of and scholarly inputs into our endeavor.

Finally, Marjorie Morris, who holds a Master of Arts in
International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced
International Studies, has provided the principal research for
both urban and rural background papers. Undaunted by constraints
of time, distance and sheer volume of material, her efforts have
been primarily responsible for bringing our entire project to


The concept of Women in Development emerged in the 1970's

out of a growing awareness that women's contributions to

international development, though vital, were poorly understood

and frequently ignored. Burdened by new and ever-increasing

responsibilities, many women faced a critical shortage of

productive resources. In 1973, the U.S. Congress passed the Percy

Amendment, mandating that the U.S. Agency for International

Development administer programs, "...so as to give particular

attention to those programs, projects and activities which tend

to integrate women into the national economies of foreign

countries, thus improving their status in the total development

process."[1] Since 1975, the UN Decade for Women has focused

world attention on women's issues through the related themes of

equality, development and peace. UN and other Women-in-

Development advocates have followed primarily two courses of

action: the equity approach, aimed at improving women's status

through legal and institutional reforms, and the poverty approach,

aimed at eliminating women's poverty through programs devised and

administered by national governments and/or donor agencies.

While concurring with the goals of equality, development and

peace for women and men--this paper hopes to forge some new

directions for policymakers concerned with the role of rural

women in international development. As a start, it will move

away from status concerns and welfare solutions requiring large-

scale external interventions. Instead it will consider

supporting rural women's socio-economic activities through local

decision-making processes and resource control. Having pinpointed

some of the barriers restricting rural women's productivity,

the discussion will then turn to an action-oriented policy

course. Emphasis will be placed on three interrelated

factors in determining policy outcome: 1) the availability and

appropriate application of information and technology, 2) the

availability and appropriate channeling of development aid, and

3) the availability and appropriate adaptation of government

macroeconomic and political sanctions. In light of the preceding

paradigm, data from regional case studies of rural women's socio-

economic activities at various levels will link elements of

success and/or failure to specific macroeconomic and political

environments. Finally, a brief summary will gauge the effect of

government policy on rural women's economic productivity in the

agricultural sector, and indicate the macroeconomic consequences

for national development.


The discussion is divided into four sections:

Part I reviews the past and explores the future of rural

women through an analysis of changing institutional and policy


Part II proposes an action course assigning critical and

interlinking roles among government, private enterprise, and

development agencies.

Part III uses regional case studies to examine the cause and

effect relationships between rural women's current levels of

socio-economic productivity and macropolicy environments.

Part IV summarizes the effect of government policy on rural

women's agricultural productivity and indicates the macro-

economic consequences for long-range development.

I. Out of the Past and into the Future: Shifting
Institutional and Policy Paradigms

Among the extraordinary reactions we observed were the
women's enthusiasm for the work they were doing...Most of
the groups we interviewed expressed hope for the future
and outlined with enthusiasm practical business expansion
--Comment of rural development
practitioner working with women in
small rural enterprises in Costa
Rica and Jamaica[2]

Much discussion has gone on over the past ten years as to

whether on balance women have lost or gained as a result of

"development/modernization".[3] Have women thereby become more

oppressed or have these processes provided them with new and

previously unavailable opportunities? Nowhere has the debate

been more heated than among researchers, practitioners and

policymakers concerned with development in the Third World.

In apparent contradiction to the panoply of recently

unearthed evidence, Third World women have submitted their own

(surprising) verdict. Most acknowledge a substantial loss of

traditional resources; at the same time they perceive they have

not gained equal access with men to new resources. Yet the

majority also emphasize their signal advances over the past

several decades--better education and improved health care,

greater social participation, and more political/legal rights.

Asked to evaluate the effects of change by comparing their own

lives with those of their mothers or grandmothers, Third World

women interviewed in a 1979 global survey responded with a high

degree of optimism. Out of 226 statements about change, 136 were

positive, 46 negative. Of even greater significance, more

women whether urban or rural, literate or illiterate stated

potential solutions to change-related conflicts than mentioned

problems resulting from change. Clearly, these women viewed

change as having had, overall, a positive influence on their


But if development has been perceived as a positive force in

toto, it has yet to satisfy even minimally the poorest among Third

World inhabitants, a growing number of whom are women and their

children. Despite obvious resilience and optimism, all of the

women interviewed in 1979 spoke of economic change in particular

as having had a negative impact on their lives. Cash require-

ments for food, clothing and shelter, in conjunction with rising

prices, food shortages and loss of property had not been offset

by easier access to the cash economy and higher living standards.

Rural women, especially, stressed an urgent need for cash to

satisfy household demands previously met by their own non-wage

labor. Thus from their own point of view, the paramount task of

women in developing countries urban and rural is to gain

more access to, control over and benefits from cash-generating


The Constraints: Successive Interpretations

The focus on women's roles in Third World development is a

relatively new phenomenon. In fact, its roots can be traced to

the rise of feminist consciousness among Western middle-class

women during the late sixties and early seventies. Early

developmental approaches emanating from this arena stressed the

need for universal political and social reforms to emancipate

women. Above all, women were to obtain equal opportunities for

education and employment, equal pay for equal work, and equal

standing before the law. [5] Such public demands, relying on

sophisticated political action, have brought women's issues into

the global limelight, and created powerful, worldwide

constituencies to support women's advancement. But as a

developmental tool applied to Third World contexts, the equity

approach has largely failed.

A major problem is that the new equity programs for women,

like so many of their predecessors, have attempted to graft class-

specific, Western-biased models onto alien socio-economic

realities. Treatment of women as amorphous and their problems as

universal has led to increasing hostility and resentment among

Third World women.[6] They point out that equity issues, as

conceived by Western middle-class women, have little relevance to

the vast majority of poor working women. In the Third World, as

in the United States and Europe, women belong to widely diverse

age, ethnic, class, religious and ideological groups, and

therefore experience a wide variety of circumstances and need.

In addition, equity-based research has produced only

Qualitative evidence demonstrating the negative impact on women

of current development models. Since these effects are tangible

and reversible, proof of their existence should be sold to

development policymakers in quantitative terms. Of related

significance, prolonged emphasis on the negative consequences of

development for women can result in regressive,

anti-technological biases among researchers and practitioners.

If Third World women are ever to fully benefit from development, they

must have maximum access to and control over the latest advances

in science and technology.

Another problem with equity arguments are their strong

redistributionist components, implying high political and

economic costs. As women benefit from territory gained, men must

relinquish some share of a fixed resource pool, thereby losing

ground. The equity approach becomes even more threatening (and

thus politically and socially unfeasible) when, as is frequently

the case, its redistributionist effects are simultaneously

targeted at all levels of society. 17]

Finally, and perhaps most fundamentally, equity programs

rely upon laws which dictate, rather than reflect, widespread

social norms and patterns.[8] As a consequence, although many

Third World governments have legislated far-reaching reforms

concerning women's status and privilege, de facto female

equality remains elusive.


By the late 1970's, aware that equity strategies had failed

to translate women's concerns into broad based and effective

development strategies, Women-in-Development research moved

towards a new policy focus women and poverty. Underlying

components of this approach rest on a sequence of logical


1) The ratio of poor women to poor men is highest in
the lowest income groups;

2) In the poorest household, the economic activities
of women determine overall household productivity;

3) While the economic productivity of women becomes more
important for household survival as poverty levels
increase, the reproductive burdens of women remain

4) Therefore, to decrease poverty and spur economic growth,
the productivity and income levels of women in the
poorest households should be given high development
priority. [9]

Analysis of the preceding indicates several important

advantages of poverty over equity strategies. First, women's

poverty can be both quantified within and targeted towards a

specific group (lowest income households). Second,

demonstrating positive links between women's productivity and

overall economic growth has created a powerful incentive for

development policymakers to focus on poor women. Third, because

only one level of society is targeted, and because resources

provided tend to add to rather than take from a fixed

resource pool, poverty approaches minimize the negative

political and social consequences of redistribution. In concrete

into more and better technology available to poor women, greater

access for poor women to skills training and information, and,

Most importantly, poor women's secure control over the fruits of

their labor (cash income).

Recognizing the household as the chief measuring unit of, and

focus for, improving poor women's productivity is a healthy

movement away from earlier, homogeneous interpretations of

women's basic needs. Nowhere are differences between women

more clearly revealed than in their relationships with their

families at the household level. Many of the women who provided

the original impetus behind Women-in-Development concepts

(mostly Western, professional and middle-class) have sought

to move out of the private arena of family and home or at least

distinguish between it and the public arena of job and workplace.

For many, the family has become equal or secondary to the

the rewards of individual achievement in the workplace. By

contrast, the strongest and most fundamental alliance of Third

World women is to home and family. Driven by necessity, the

the poorest among them seek wage labor outside the home to

provide for their families' basic needs, and if possible, to

secure better economic futures for their children. This

critical difference between middle-class women in advanced

industrialized societies and poor women in the developing Third

World will probably continue into the foreseeable future, and

should be fully taken into account by development policymakers.

However, although the poverty orientation has moved Women-

and-Development concerns towards practical applications within

mainstream development, major obstacles must still be overcome.

Generally the impediments fall into two categories: measurement

and implementation.

Problems with using the household as the basic unit of

measurement for women's economic productivity stem both from the

newness of methodologies and underlying biases as to what

constitutes a household and household production. In

definitional terms, the household can no longer be seen

as simply a family headed by a man under one roof. Current

definitions, for example, must include increasing numbers of

households headed by women, households composed of unrelated

individuals sharing a single roof, and households whose

productive functions often extend beyond immediate physical

boundaries into inter-household exchange networks.[10]

Considering the family as a single, decision-making unit

instead of distinguishing threads of individual behavior

in decision-making processes has been another definitional

problem in household measurement. In the former case, answers to

the critical questions of who does what, who receives what, and

who decides what for whom remain totally masked.[11]

Standard economic development models have considered the

household primarily as a source of nonmarket production and

consumption rather than as a primary source of market production

and supply. As a consequence, women's "household" contributions

to the integrated production/consumption activities of many

Third World farm households have been ignored. Unrecognized, their

essential productive roles have not been allocated more efficient

tools or labor-saving techniques.[12]

A final problem with using households as a primary measure

and target for women's economic productivity is that it should

not be taken as the only measure. In addition, the individual

informal marketplaces must be taken into account.[13]

A main goal of the poverty approach is to move women from

their visible role as consumers into the (currently extant

but invisible) role of producers; that is, from development

welfare beneficiary to participating development contributor.

Thus, rather than seeking "separate but equal" socio-political

status, women, by channeling their activities towards goals

of increased opportunity for socio-economic participation, will

become not only beneficiaries of development, but agents of

of development as well.

In the short term, increasing the productivity of poor women

is a costly business socially, financially and politically.

However, even though eliminating women's poverty by increasing

their productivity can be shown to substantially benefit long-term

national development, many Third World governments are still

unwilling to pay the price. Their welfare orientation toward

poor women are reinforced by similar approaches from inter-

national agencies, who frequently assure Third World governments

that welfare programs for women will be funded separately from,

and in addition to, other development programs.[14] Hence,

politically powerful elements of developing societies manage to

retain the lion's share of productive resources, and even to

acquire more. Meanwhile, as governments offer lip-service sup-

port to "women's programs" through internationally subsidized

"women's bureaus," most of their official program implementations

for women remain small, ineffective and outside the mainstream of

national development activities.

In sum, poverty approaches synthesized by Women in

Development and other researchers appear to have outlined a

feasible means for dramatically increasing the productivity of

poor Third World women. This would be accomplished by

simultaneously applying more resources to their socio-economic

activities and insuring them greater monetary returns from their

labor. Households and other "informal" market locales would be

the primary targets for such programs, since they provide the

geographical "nub" for poor working women.

While poverty approaches aimed at women, due to their

quantifiable and positive-sum nature, have gained a respectable

audience within the larger development community, they have yet

to be widely adopted in practice. This may be attributed to the

newness of ideas and methodologies, the need for more research to

refine measurement techniques and interlink them with other

measurement standards, and, above all, the difficulties inherent

in selling programs for poor women with higher short-term costs

than those presently in place.

Basic Human Needs

The emergence of women-directed development concepts coincided

favorably with shifting priorities in the larger development

community. By the mid 1970's, evidence abounded that large-scale

capital and technology transfers had not "developed" much of the

Third World. In fact, the poorest and least developed countries

were in the throes of unprecedented economic crises.[15] Yet,

even as their economies sank, their poverty-stricken populations

continued to burgeon. [16] The urgency of the situation,

involving the survival capacity of nearly a third of the world's

people, called for immediate and radical re-directions in

development thinking.[17]

Much of the response came in the form of a reconsideration

of the issues surrounding poverty itself. New emphasis

was placed on micro-level research, and new techniques were

developed to analyze the micro-level frameworks of poverty. Out

of these efforts, the "basic human needs" approach coalesced into

an important Third World development school of thought.

In the narrowest sense, basic human needs are defined as

the minimum of material and psychological resources required to

sustain human life. Operationally, the basic human needs

approach attempts to insure food, clothing, shelter, water,

health care and education to the poorest of the world's

people.[18] Since Third World women play an integral role

in satisfying basic needs for their families and since, in

addition, they form the most rapidly growing segment of the

world's poor, their activities have received considerable

attention from basic-needs strategists.

Basic human needs researchers have forwarded some

interesting (if not wholly revolutionary) conclusions concerning

the interrelationships among poor women, government macropolicies

and the satisfaction of basic human needs. For analytical

purposes, basic human needs are divided into five broad

categories: nutrition, health, education, water and sanitation,



Women, in the majority of poor rural households, are the

primary producers, processors and distributors of the family food

supply. Two critical problems confront these women: having

enough food and knowing how to maximize the nutritional benefits

from food preparation and distribution.

Government agricultural policies can address the first

problem by encouraging greater domestic food production through

guarantees of land tenure or ownership, reliable markets and

credit to food producers. Such policies should place particular

emphasis on the storage and marketing problems of food crops

grown primarily to feed the poor, and on research and extension

services for those crops. Countries should eliminate taxes

placed on poor farmers to subsidize the more expensive food crops

(frequently imported) consumed by higher income (generally urban)

groups. Since raising agricultural prices as a production

incentive will adversely affect landless rural laborers and urban

poor, offsetting measures must be taken by government planners.

Preferably, more income generating activities could be stimulated

among these segments of poor populations. Finally, although

encouraging food production is a necessary component of macro-

policy decision-making, it is insufficient to meet the

consumption requirements of developing populations. Income-

earning opportunities outside of food production will be

necessary for all segments of developing populations,

including rural food producers.

Tragically, in both Third World and advanced industrialized

countries, a high percentage of malnutrition is related to

nutritional ignorance on the part of food consumers. In

developing countries, improving the poor's nutritional benefits

from food can most effectively be accomplished by directing

nutritional and child-care education at the women in poor

families.[20] All countries receiving high marks for meeting

basic human needs have also received high marks for providing education

for women. The reverse, however, is not always true. This means

that education alone cannot satisfy the needs of the poor, but

must be supplemented with other growth-related policy measures.

For example, studies show that increasing the productivity and

income levels of poor women can be an important ingredient in

meeting basic needs, since women are more inclined to spend their

incomes on family food and health than are men.[21]


As indicated, the education of women can be directly linked

with increased nutritional and health benefits for poor families.

One study found that each additional year of schooling for

mothers correlated with nine fewer infant and child deaths per

thousand.[22] But in many developing countries, the general

health of women is decreasing. Contrary to life expectancy rates

in the richest countries of the world, the life expectancy of

most Third World women is lower than that of men. [23]

Distinct biases favoring urban over rural areas means that

the urban poor are in relatively better health than their rural

brethren. Specifically, urban residents rich and poor have

higher cash incomes, better sanitation and water supply, greater

literacy and more health services.

All developing countries spend a considerable share of their

national budgets on public health services. Unfortunately, the

vast majority, following precedents set by Western medical

establishments, concentrate their spending on care for the sick

'(people in high cost clinics and hospitals) rather than on

preventive health programs. This drawback is frequently

compounded by many other poorly conceived policies, including a

lack of training for health professionals, prohibitive laws and

restrictions for village health workers, and an insufficient

understanding of the complex financial and technical requirements

for sustaining technically sophisticated medical treatment


The most practical solution to these problems is a major

policy shift to more cost-efficient, community-level systems,

oriented towards health maintenance and disease prevention. To

succeed, these programs would require the strong commitment and

participation of both central governments and local communities.

However, given the high political cost of transferring resources

away from powerful urban constituents, and toward the politically

weak in rural areas, many developing countries will probably

not move quickly to change current health care policies.


It has been demonstrated that the education of women is a

key variable in raising the welfare of poor families.[24] But

many Third World educational systems continue to discriminate

against women (and the poor and those from rural areas, thus

tripling the liabilities of many Third World women). In general,

the contributions of educational institutions extant in most

developing countries are of dubious value in meeting the needs of

poor people. Much of what is taught in formal institutions is

inappropriate or irrelevant to the future requirements of either

lower income groups or society as a whole. Frequently, a wide

disparity exists between the educational quality (and amount of

public subsidies) provided for elite and non-elite groups. Some

countries support massive bureaucratic "relief" programs through

a guaranteed job system for their over-educated but underemployed


On the whole, the national education policies of developing

countries should be made more cost efficient and relevant, both

by reducing unnecessary educational commitments and transferring

educational costs and control to local communities. Scholarships

for the poor should be made available, and, among poorer

communities, goods and labor for school maintenance accepted in

place of cash fees.

Water and Sanitation

Again, benefits to the poor from clean water and sanitation

are closely tied to the work habits and education of women. But

clean water is of little relevance if poor sanitary conditions

prevail in the household. In the short run, the greatest benefits

from improved water supplies may be to free women from one of

their most arduous and time-consuming tasks. In some areas,

poor women spend fifty percent of their working day, which can

extend to upwards of sixteen hours, hauling water.[25]

(Collecting firewood for fuel is yet another time intensive task

of poor women. Alternative fuel sources must be developed, not

only to free their time, but also to halt the damaging effects of

deforestation.) Freeing their time allows them to pursue more

productive activities, including income generation, education,

and better care of their children.

In order to achieve worldwide access to clean water and

sanitation by 1990, annual investments (from both developing

nations and international funding agencies) in water and waste

programs would have to double annually in urban areas and

quadruple annually in rural areas.[26] In addition, there is an

urgent need for training and institution building at the

local level.


In many developing countries, women are chiefly responsible

for providing housing for their families. In addition, an

increasing number of both urban and rural poor Third World

households are maintained by single women. The principal problems

of poor people (and especially women) in obtaining adequate

shelter are due to institutional barriers denying them legal

access to land and mortgages. These constraints are obviously

reversible by legislative reforms adequately enforced at

appropriate bureaucratic levels. Most poor householders can

build their own homes; however, governments need to supply

public services water, electricity, sewerage, transport,

education to go with them.

Summary of the Basic-Needs Approach

A recent World Bank publication summarizes the advantages of

the basic human needs approach to Third World development:

--It provides every human being with the opportunity for a
fuller life.

--It brings abstract measurements of development money,
aggregate income, employment down to specific, concrete

--It appeals to the higher instincts of both national and
international communities, and is therefore capable of
greater resource support than more abstract appeals (such
as raising CDPs and growth rates).

--It has the power to integrate many apparently separate but
in fact related development problems; economic, political
and social.[27]

So, why not basic human needs?

The answer is simple: as outlined, basic human needs

strategies are both politically unfeasible and socially

undesirable. Granted, many components of the basic human needs

approach are valuable and should be brought to the wider

attention of developing country governments and international

donor audiences. But as with any economic development strategy,

their ultimate success or failure depends upon political and

social institutions being firmly in place at the grass-roots


Consider the words of a basic-needs advocate from the World


The main conclusion of this section (on the
feasibility of basic human needs implementations),

is that government policy must be seen neither
as entirely above the economic and social forces,
directing them in the manner of Platonic guardians,
nor simply as the expression of the self-interest of
the ruling class. Rather, it is itself one of the
dependent variables that can be -shaped an improved
by the other variables of tTe social system, especially
_B retiormist coalitions.

If the failures of past strategies are due to
vested interests and to the political obstruction
of those who would lose from a basic-needs approach,
it becomes essential to keep such forces in check.
In many regimes the poor are weak bargainers and
are not a political constituency. The conditions
...which give rise to a grass-roots democracy on a
pluralist model have received almost no attention
so far.[29]

Socially, it is illuminating to observe which regimes have

been most successful at implementing the basic human needs

approach in a short period of time: China, Israel, Cuba, Sri

Lanka, South Korea, Yugoslavia. [30] If, on the surface, these

examples evince a wide variety of political regimes, in reality

they have much in common. Beyond sharing important similarities in

pre-development conditions (land distribution, tenure systems,

levels of education and health) they also share critical policy

approaches to development. Namely, they have relied heavily on

government planning and control of the economy, and radical

changes in socio-political institutions at all levels. The

latter have been engineered by central planning agencies through

closely monitored bureaucratic systems. Frequently, the luxuries

of democracy from free speech and access to information to the

choice of where and by what means one chooses to live have been

put off for an undetermined future. Thus the payoff for rapidly

gained material equality may result in longer-term inequalities

of power and access to power.

The Next Step: Building Local-Level Institutions

In the context of the following arguments, two underlying

assumptions will be made concerning the viability of local

institutions. The first is that local-level institutions must

have access to, and control over, the political and economic

resources which sustain them. The second is that local-level

institutions not only tolerate but also promote socio-economic

diversity within and between themselves. Since rural women are

the focus of this paper, emphasis from here on will be placed

on the interplay between rural institutions and external

policy choices.

At the outset, it is important to define "local

institutions" in developing rural areas of the Third World. Put

simply, local institutions are the social contexts of individuals

which govern in predictable, rational, and self-perpetuating terms

their relationships with, and responsibilities towards, other

individuals. Such institutions serve a dual function: first,

they give individuals access to valuable socio-economic and

political resources, and second, they protect individual

interests against arbitrary (and destructive) interference by

society at large.[31]

In developing rural areas, the most fundamental and

widespread local institution is the family. Overlapping and

cross-connecting with families are other, slightly larger local

institutions clan or village councils, work groups, trade

networks, religious associations. With the advent of Western

influences, the variety of local-level, rural institutions has

tended to increase. Older institutions may exist parallel to,

and/or integrated with, newer institutional forms of community

government, church, agricultural cooperative, credit union or

trade association. Since democracy and capitalist development,

as we have known them, rely upon the autonomy and strength of

local-level institutions, it behooves those of us who would see

similar patterns emerging in developing rural areas to look

carefully at the processes of local institutional change. For

example, we might ask whether, how, and to what extent any

local-level rural institutions are currently able to

serve individual or group interests of rural Third World

residents. If local institutions are weak or non-existent,

what are the reasons? Can they be strengthened? Rebuilt?

Catalyzed? Can preserving the roots of local-level institutions

help developing rural societies adapt better to rapidly

changing external circumstances?

II. An appropriate Action Model for Meeting Basic Human Needs
by Building Self-Sustaining Local Institutions

We can achieve greater synthesis in the study
of complex societies by focusing our attention on the
relationships between different groups operating on
different levels of society, rather than on any one
of its isolated segments.[32]
--Comment of an anthropologist
studying farming systems in
rural Latin America

Most rural women who participate in cash generating

activities do so in what are called "informal sectors" of

developing economies. The International Labor Organization

characterizes the informal sector by the following traits:

--ease of entry

--reliance on indigenous resources

--"small scale" of operation

--labor intensive

--skills acquired outside formal schooling

--unregulated and competitive markets[33]

Using this definition, subsistence agriculture, particularly

the production, processing and distribution of food crops will

be added to the list of activities labeled "small-scale

enterprises." World bank statistics calculated that subsistence

farming excluded, the informal sector employs anywhere from thirty

to forty percent of rural work forces in the Third World.[34]

Women predominate among small, self-employed entrepreneurs

for the following reasons: relative ease of entry into the

informal sector, a minimal level of skill requirements, freedom

from legal constraints and the part-time intermittent nature of

self-employment. Besides producing and processing agricultural

crops and raising small livestock and poultry, rural women are

also engaged in home-based cottage industries, local

marketing and trade networks, and informal credit systems. [35]

The awareness of the magnitude of the rural informal sector,

together with the new emphasis on getting productive resources

directly to the poor, has led to development theories and

practices which remove the barriers to productivity for the

informal sector.

A formidable difficulty in implementing programs to upgrade

the activities of the rural self-employed involves deciding how

much and what kind of intervention should be encouraged. As seen

in our analysis of the basis human needs approach (See Section

I), less may indeed be more helpful to long-range development.

Yet, given the caveat that intervening institutions should not

"attempt to do what they are ill-equipped to do,"[36] carefully

selected interventions, relying on the interlinking capacities

of governments, private enterprise, and private voluntary

development agencies, may enhance the productivity of, and

and returns to, informal sector participants.


The major role of the government should be to set a favorable

policy environment by, among other things, eliminating unnecessary

regulations and harassments. In addition, it can help identify

and channel financial assistance into the informal sector while

stimulating the formal private sector to search for more appropriate

methods of providing aid. Governments can, for example,

encourage the informal sector with tax incentives or offer

government subcontracts to small businesses. Transferring

large-scale government-controlled industries and parastatals to

the private sector would also provide substantial inducements

forjcompetitive small-scale enterprises. By and large, the

government should not be involved in direct planning and

program implementation for the informal sector.

Private Enterprise

The private business sector is best qualified to implement

technical assistance and credit programs to the self-employed.

It is also best equipped, financially and technically, to

experiment with new strategies for finding and matching market

supplies with market demands.

Private Voluntary Organizations

Among development agencies, private voluntary organizations

have been most directly involved in organizing self-supporting

enterprises at the grass-roots level. They know what poor people

want and have the skills to mobilize poor people's participation

in self-help programs. Because of their contacts, with and

knowledge about, the informal sector, their principal role should

be to plan and monitor the implementation of informal sector

development programs.

Given that most private voluntary organizations are small

and micro-focused, the size of intended interventions should be

tailored to match their involvement capacity.

III. Regional Case Studies: Increasing the Level of Rural
Women's Productivity in Self-Directed Institutional

One day we, the suffering women, approached the
Chairman (of the village council). But he disagreed
with our request and refused to change his point of
view. We realized that no one will understand our
problems and that we will have to stand on our own

feet!...Winning in only one village is no solution
to this national problem. Other adjacent villages
also need to be organized in a similar way. We will
have to maintain unity at all levels. [37]
--Comment of Bangladeshi
rural woman participant

Preface: KENYA

By early 1984, Kenya, with the combined help of closely

followed austerity measures and large infusions of aid from the

IMF, World Bank and U.S., appeared to be recovering from a series

of major economic crises. However, since 1984, the worst drought

in over fifty years has threatened to destroy Kenya's ambitious

efforts towards renewed economic self-sufficiency. Production of

corn and wheat, the country's two major food crops, fell by

nearly fifty percent in 1984. As a result, the Kenyan Government

estimates that one-and-a-half million people may need emergency

food aid before the end of the next fiscal year. Meanwhile, food

imports and agricultural shortfalls have placed the Kenyan

domestic budget under severe economic constraints. As

transportation networks have been overburdened, productive

activities in all sectors have been drastically curtailed.

In order to rebound, the Kenyan Government must rapidly

enact policy reforms to stimulate its agricultural sector. With

coffee and tea as the leading cash earners, agriculture generates

thirty-seven percent of annual GDP and is the backbone of the

Kenyan economy. Since most of Kenya's agricultural activity

occurs on small landholdings of under one hectare (50% on less

than one hectare; 75% on less than two), enhancing the

productivity of small producers remains Kenya's chief vehicle for

increasing agricultural productivity while decreasing

unemployment. Adequate incentives for small farmers include

improved marketing procedures, more and better credit systems and

higher producer prices. It is hoped that with the combined

cooperation of weather, donors and proper self-management, Kenya

will begin to recover before the end of 1985.[38]

KENYA The Mraru Women's Group

Members of this group came from several villages in rural

Mraru. In the Mraru region, women farm small plots and earn cash

income from trade and the sale of cassava and goats.

Unable to get ahead because they lacked reliable transport

to the nearest large market, some of the Mraru women decided to

pool their financial resources to buy a bus.

Although the group formed on its own, it soon affiliated

through the resourcefulness of its leader, with the national

Kenyan women's organization, Maendeleo. Maendeleo acted as a

"bank" for the group by saving money for them in a personal

account. The women held monthly meetings, at which time each

woman contributed small amounts towards the purchase of the bus.

They also sponsored a series of fund-raising efforts in their

local communities.

After three years of hard saving, the women were able to

purchase their bus. They then decided to open a duka (store)

for their products, and in addition, to collectively raise goats.

The women began to negotiate with a branch of the government

i(through Maendeleo) to obtain a loan for stocking the duka.

They also managed to procure government funding for their additional

investment efforts: goat raising and sewing. The government has

continued to provide the group with information on the

feasibility of new investments and markets.

Recently, the group has suffered setbacks from the effects

of world inflation; after four-and-a-half years their bus has

broken down and they cannot afford a new one. Also, the duka's

land has not been surveyed and without a deed the women are

unable to obtain credit. However, there is a strong likelihood

that with the contacts these women have made in government,

business and among private voluntary organizations (UNICEF has

given some funds) they will be able to come up with the financing

for both a new bus and their duka. Throughout the years, the

group has remained independent, made their own decisions and

directly operated their businesses. As a result of their

experiences, they have formed a solid commitment to the group's

welfare, and gained confidence in their own ability to try and

succeed at new business ventures.[39]


Over the past four years, El Salvador has experienced a

remarkable economic turnaround. In 1983, macroeconomic

indicators recorded a drop in budget deficits of fifteen percent,

a money supply growth rate of ten percent and a significant

improvement five percent increase in exports and a one-and-a-

half percent decrease in imports in the trade balance.

Moreover, El Salvador continues to pay its foreign debts, and at

nine percent, maintains one of the lowest inflation rates in

Latin America.

Yet despite these signs of rapid improvement, much remains

to be done if El Salvador is to achieve full socio-economic

stability. First and foremost will be an end to the ongoing

civil war. In 1983 alone, violence in rural areas contributed to

a 2.7 percent decline in agricultural production. Bad weather,

low world market prices, depressed farm prices and an overvalued

exchange rate have also exacerbated rural problems. Finally, a

hastily constructed Agrarian Reform Bill carried out in 1980 as

a political response to social upheaval has led to other

dilemmas in the countryside: evictions, lack of capital, weak

administrative support, unresolved claims for land titles and

compensation, and a general reluctance to expand agricultural

production. Since agriculture provides twenty percent of total

GDP and fifty percent of total employment, its economic

deterioration constitutes a major trouble spot for Salvadoran


Recently, the government has initiated a number of efforts

to hasten agrarian reform. President Duarte has strengthened

rural administrative and technical supports and has made new

provisions for extending credit and increasing the amount of

acreage under cultivation.

With help from the United States, which has encouraged El

Salvador to compensate former landowners as quickly and as fairly

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs