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 Poor women: The policy backgro...
 Concepts and implementation

Title: If only we could find a good woman ... : women as policymakers in development
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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Title Page
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
    Poor women: The policy background
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
    Concepts and implementation
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Full Text




Elsa M. Chaney

Women in Development:
A New Direction

One result of International Women's Year has been

a growing recognition of women's potential role in

development. There is now not only an acknowledgment

that women have an intrinsic claim in justice to be

included, but a growing realization that women, as the

new Section 108 of the 1977 International Development

and Food Assistance Act puts it, "are a significant

human resource for enhancing development efforts."

As did the UN Conferences on Population and on Food,

the IWY Conference in Mexico City focused the world's

attention on an issue and effected a change in atmosphere.

The situation of the world's women began to be taken

more seriously. One evidence is the proliferation of

women in development offices, committees and programs

initiated by national governments (in both the developed

and developing countries); the UN system, particularly

through its regional economic commissions; the European

Economic Community; private voluntary agencies, church

groups and the like. (For a recent review of these

initiatives, see U.S. Congress: 1978.) In responding

to the Percy Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of

1973, my own Agency can claim a modest share of credit

in having been first to launch such an effort a year

before IWY, and perhaps in setting an example for others

to follow.1


During the past several years, there has been

a growing concurrence in the U.S. community, among

academics associated with development, and in the

Congress, that U.S. bilateral assistance should be

directed towards fostering equitable growth and

alleviating poverty in the Third World.

Under the "New Directions" mandated in recent

development assistance legislation, the Agency for

International Development is attempting to turn its

programs, projects and activities towards enhancing

efforts of developing countries to fulfill the basic

human needs of their people. While there are differ-

ences of opinion on the exact "mix" of projects which

might add up to a successful "New Directions" program,

there is general agreement that development assistance

directed towards large, capital-intensive projects has

not trickled down to the poor majority. Indeed, as

Barbara Ward has suggested (1971), development assist-

ance may rather have exacerbated what she has termed

the "widening gap" between the world's rich and poor;

between rich nations and poor nations; between the

small elites of developing countries and their own

poor majorities, and we might add, between women and

men of the poor majority and between girls and boys of

the developing world who do not start out in life with

the same options.


United States development assistance agencies

are attempting to revamp their philosophy, approach

and programs towards helping the world's poor increase

their capacity to meet their own needs for nourishing

food, clean water, clothing, minimum shelter, health

care and education. The World Employment Conference

of 1976 which launched the basic needs strategy spe-

cifically noted that "women constitute the group at

the bottom of the ladder in many developing countries

in respect of employment, poverty, education, training

and status" and recommended that special emphasis be

placed in developing countries on promoting the status,

education, development and employment of women and on

integrating them into the economic and civic life of

their countries.

It would be naive to overestimate what even "redi-

rected" development agencies can accomplish. In some

cases, perhaps all that development assistance can do

is ameliorate the misery of the poor. Yet palliatives

are not to be scorned in the absence of any real pos-

sibilities for radical change in structures. If the

drudgery in the lives of poor women can be eased only

a little; if one bore well means that a village's

women do not need to walk long distances every day to

haul water; if a small electric mill frees women from


hours of grinding flour between stones, should we

neglect such measures because we are not able to do

anything more fundamental? There also is something to

be said for attempting to monitor development programs

so that they do not worsen the lot of women by making

them unintended victims of economic progress. (For a

discussion of how Western concepts of development

have undermined women's position in many traditional

societies, see Tinker 1974 and 1976.)

Poor Women:
The Policy Background

What is the situation of the world's poor women?

What kinds of projects will help them? How long will

such projects be needed? Should there be special

projects directed to "women only," or should women be

incorporated into general development efforts? These

questions are best answered by women of the developing

world themselves, at the national, regional and local

levels, as well as by improving our overall infor-

mation on women's needs and contribution. But action

need not wait until data are perfect. We have some

general notions based not only on statistical sources,

but also on the dozens of small-scale research studies

carried out by social scientists in Asia, Africa and

Latin America.2


We know, for example, that over most of the world

women lag far behind in literacy. In most developing

countries, a girl's chance at formal education or

specialized training is less than a boy's--no matter

what the laws say.

Whether mother or daughter, a woman's day is full

of drudgery: she may walk miles to gather firewood,

carry water, launder clothes. She may spend hours

grinding grain, processing and storing food. Her day

may also include a long stint at hoeing, planting or

weeding, since women in developing countries grow

from 40 to 80 percent of the domestic food supply and

often do a significant share of the work in cash crop-

ping as well. She generally will care for the small

animals and may look after the other livestock. Yet she

will often not get the calories she needs--whether or

not she is nursing a child--because she eats what the

men leave.

In most places, women have limited opportunities

to earn cash. Yet their need to supplement the family

income or to support children if there is no adult male

present may be critical. As more and more men migrate

to mines, oil fields, plantations or cities in search

of jobs, wives who stay behind in the rural areas become

de facto heads of household. Yet control often is


entrusted to male relatives who do not migrate.

Only rarely do women gain title to land, obtain credit

or benefit from rural development programs giving

technical training and agricultural inputs to male


Women who migrate to the cities often are not much

better off. They tend to cluster at the lowest levels

of the traditional labor market--typically domestic

service, street selling or (in Asia) casual unskilled

construction work. Studies show women from the country-

side have less job mobility than male migrants.

Often they are women alone, principal providers for

dependent children whom they must also set to work at

odd jobs (see Buvenic and Youssef 1978). ,

TTI ruraTl a places alike, 'as women observe

more of their children growing to adulthood, they

would like to have fewer pregnancies. But they or

their partners lack a safe and sure method to control

fertility. Women need better health care, safe water,

decent shelter for themselves and their households.

All this is not to imply that men of the poor

majority have no needs or lead lives of happy indolence.

Nor would informed observers assert that women every-

where are uniformly oppressed. Women's position varies

from country to country and even from region to region,


depending upon social class, education, religion,

cultural heritage and level of development. In coun-

tries where trained persons still are scarce, for

example, many educated women rise to positions of

influence far surpassing those occupied by women in

societies considered to be "developed." There is

evidence, too, that women in tribal and peasant cul-

tures often are accorded a more equal status than

their modern sisters because their economic contri-

bution to the household is recognized as vital to

the family's survival.

Yet an impressive number of studies now demon-

strate that in all societies, including our own,

women and men have differential access to power and

resources. In theory, at least, few any longer dispute

that the gaps between men's and women's options must

begin to close before women can become truly equal

partners, able to shoulder the burdens and responsi-

bilities of development and able to reap its full


Concepts and Implementation

In principle, then, there is broad agreement on the

necessity and advantage of incorporating women in

development. Yet translating concepts into practice is


not easy. Certainly many promising efforts are

underway, initiated by institutions and agencies

all over the world, public and private. When we

compare our situation today to that of even five years

ago, we realize that we have come a certain distance.

Nevertheless, in terms of the total development effort,

resources devoted to making women fully participant

have been miniscule.

As was suggested above, there is a growing accept-

ance of the conceEt of incorporating women into the

development enterprise. Indeed, many top officials

are now on record as enthusiastically in favor of

doing so.3 There may be occasional lapses as when a

senior AID official claimed he had a problem under-

standing universal discrimination against women because

his own wife is assistant manager of a bank and his

daughter is about to get her law degree. At lower

levels, there also may be pockets of bureaucratic

resistance to the women in development idea, just as

there is resistance to taking into account in develop-

ment human rights, appropriate technology, environmen-

tal concern, or any new direction. What has impeded

swifter progress, however, is lack of sufficient com-

mitment to implementation of what now is stated policy

in most development agencies Why should this be so?


The situation may, in part at least, grow out of

the fact that historically the world-wide development

"establishment" has been male--and there has been very

little progress in recruiting women into senior and

mid-level policy and executive positions. It is

this question which my paper addresses. We can approach

the question of women and development policy from

two perspectives:

A. What is the impact of development policy on
women (and, for better or worse, on their
status and well-being and that of their house-
holds )?

B. What is the impact of women on development
policy (and, consequently, on the whole devel-
opment enterprise, but particularly on the
amount and kinds of resources directed to

The first question is one which currently is the

topic of lively debate, numerous seminars and work-

shops on how women have been virtually ignored in

the development process, and sets of guidelines on how

to incorporate them. Today there is at least some

attempt, in my own Agency and in others, to insist

that special provision be made in each program and

Project so that women share in development benefits.4

At the same time, there is a growing cautionary lit-

erature pointing out how development programs, at

times, have not simply ignored women, but adversely

affected them. A commonly cited example is the agrarian


reform or agricultural development project which

provides land, training, credit and inputs only to

men, thus seriously jeopardizing women especially in

regions where they traditionally do most of the farming.

The second question has, of course, also been

addressed--principally in pointing out that almost all

women are involved in some kind of productive activity

(and hence in development,whether they are formally

"incorporated" or not), yet they hardly ever are

involved in development in a political or technical

sense, either at the local level, in national govern-

ments or in international development agencies (see,

for example, Papanek 1977:14-15 and Mead 1976-77).

We know, by now, the historic reasons for women's

absence from the command echelons of society, including

policy-making, and they will not be reviewed here.

The issues to be addressed in this paper revolve

around the possible consequences of shifting from an

almost exclusive concern with Question A to some

consideration of Question B. What difference would it

make in policy terms if women (and men fully sensitive

to women's situation in the developing world) were

involved at all levels of development planning?

My thesis is that we would see some difference

if more women were involved in policy making. Policies


certainly are not linked to gender in any mystical

way, nor are all female officials necessarily con-

scious of women's special situation and needs in

the developing world. Indeed, a few women officials

in my own Agency and in others--particularly those

who "made it" on their own in the pre-women's move-

ment era--specifically disassociate themselves from

any consideration of women as a separate development


However, the simple fact is that the "women issue"

is more salient to women, particularly to those women

who want to be involved in development because they

have studied or had experience working with women in

the Third World. We have a rapidly expanding pool of

younger women with degrees in comparative disciplines,

agricultural economics, agronomy and rural development

and/or with Peace Corps or analagous service. We have

an older generation of women with years of experience

in extension work, many of whom have gone far beyond

the boundaries of conventional home economics toward

creative innovation in rural development. Let us

suppose that both types were to be recruited with

greater vigor by my own and other development agencies.

What kinds of changes, additions or modifications in

policy might we expect--not only in relation to women,

but to the total development effort?


Answers to this question must remain highly

speculative, since we have few concrete examples of

differences in policy outputs between female and male

policymakers. We do know that, worldwide, women in

legislative and executive positions often tend to

specialize in health, education uand wl1fre ma.ures

related to the needs of women and children--an extra-

polation of women's role in the family to the larger

community and even the nation. In many countries,

women are forced into feminine-stereotyped fields as

a justification for exercising a public career at all.

Several scholars have explored the implications of the

"supermadre" syndrome, an approach to public policy

which has had both neJ.c-ive and positive consequences.

Among manyN '.3ible modifications and innovations

we might expect from women policymakers and project

directors, the following are suggested, then elaborated


1. More consistency in efforts to address the
potential contribution and needs of Third
World women;

2. Attenuation, if not elimination, of male bias
in the design and implementation of develop-
ment projects;

3. Recognition and enhancement of women's produc-
tive roles in developing economies, rather
than the view that women simply are benefici-
aries of development with no contribution to


4. A genuine shift in the priorities of devel-
opment towards a basic human needs strategy;

5. A waning of objections to women's projects
on the pretext that any changes in women's
lives and status may go against a developing
country's religious or cultural norms;

6. A greater understanding that there are no
neat formulae, no universals in development--
much less in the integration of women--and
a greater willingness to experiment, innovate,
take risks and tolerate ambiguity;

7. A qualitative transformation of the total
development effort through the inclusion of
a feminine perspective on a range of concerns
considered in the past peripheral "women's
issues," but which have now moved to the cen-
ter of the policy arena: for example, human
reproduction, food, the environment.


Because the concerns of women are not very salient

to them, male officials seem to find it difficult to

consistently integrate the women in development idea

into their thinking--and hence into the development

programs and processes they control. Senior officials

of many agencies and international entities now are

capable of insightful and informed statements on

women when they specifically address the issue.

But there is a marked tendency to overlook women

when these officials deal with the functional areas

of development. Because they have not fully integrated

knowledge about women's critical role in agriculture,


rural development, shelter, science and technology,

and other areas not viewed as traditionally "feminine"

into their own worldview, they simply forget about

the "woman issue" unless they are focussing on it.

It is amazing how often our own office still must

mau-mau our male colleagues to remind them that a

policy paper or a project proposal would be strength-

ened by taking into account the part women play, to

the improvement of the total effort. Most often

now, these reminders are taken seriously, and the

matter redressed--yet the "tsk tsk" and the "you for-

got again, gentlemen" are not the most effective

policy tools. What would help immensely would be the

active collaboration of women officials and experts

in the various functional areas of development who

would incorporate a concern for women in a policy

statement or as a project component from their incep-

tion, thus gradually eliminating the need for a special

staff to act as policewomen.

Women typically have not been involved in those

larger economic activities until recent times considered the

keys to development: international trade and finance; inter-

national lending and balance of payments negotiation;

production, buying and selling of agricultural, mining

and other commodities and raw materials in the world market.


Nor have women been part of the large-scale, male-

dominated development "enterprises" which deal with

health, sanitation, shelter, communications, rural

electrification, technology transfer, agrarian reform

and agricultural modernization. Even in those agencies,

public and private, which deal with population, .women

are found in large numbers only at the lower levels

of family planning and maternal health delivery sys-

tems, but planners, policymakers and upper-level

administrators are with rare exceptions male.

/ Now there are more and more women with the capa-

city and training to take their place in these larger

systems as policymakers and, at another level, as

experts and consultants on project design teams/

As one step in solving the often-v iced problem

that "we can't find a good woman, our office is in

the initial stages of working w'th several women-

in-development centers to whi we have awarded con-

tracts to identify, roster, rief, backstop and, later,

collect the experiences o a corps of women in devel-

opment technical assist ts available for short and

long-term assignments,/not only to AID missions but

to other development agencies as well. In other words,

we are helping institutionalize an "old girls network."

Incidentally, e shall insist that all those in

the network be ood" women: competent, knowledgable


and experienced, but not r quire that they be extra-

ordinary. Often the sti ulation that a woman be

"good" implies that she/must be twice as good as a

man to be considered.

Also related to the goal of more consistent atten-

tion to women is the necessity for developing an

adequate data base on women's situation and status.

In our own Agency, we have been working for the past

year to incorporate key socio-economic indicators,

classified by sex and a e, into the Agency's data

systems. We resisted t e first suggestion that such

indicators be stored i a "special file," knowing that

then they would be cal ed up only when someone was

designing a "women's project."

Now within the ne t few months, policy people,

project designers an others who have occasion to call

for print outs and c oss tabulations for a variety

of needs will, whet er they ask for them or not, be

faced with statisti s on the gaps between women and men

in literacy, school enrollment, employment and the like.

In cases where rel able data is not available the

computer will carr blank spaces--hopefully, flags

to our AID mission to either supply the missing

information if the know good sources, or to encour-

age the gathering of such data by the appropriate

national entities in the host country. But we know


we will need persons in the countries with a con-

cern for expanding the knowledge base on women before

these things will happen.

Projects to improve national statistics on women

in the developing countries are a logical next step,

particularly when much can be done simply through

minimal financing to encourage the reporting of data

already collected by sex in censuses and national

sample surveys. Probably not much will happen here

either, unless women in the developing countries

undertake the task. In my own experience, for example,

work done in Peru and Chile on gleaning data on women

through secondary analysis of national statistics

has been done by women professionals in several key

agencies--often on their own time.

Our concern with socio-economic indicators cannot

rest, however, on simply accepting what is available.

We must also look critically at the historical devel-

opment of current measures used to evaluate economic

progress and question the very nature of the measures

themselves when they are used to evaluate development.

More and more we are coming to realize that the quan-

titative indicators designed to measure such phenomena

as the movement of international capital, trade balances

and the like are inadequate to tell us what we need

to know about such crucial issues as equity, human rights,


quality of life and the participation of women.

Specifically, we do not have universally-accepted

measures of women's actual and potential economic

contribution to development, even though women in

the Third World always have been intimately involved

in those economic systems which deliver to the poor

their basic human needs in food, shelter, education,

health care.

Women and men's economic participation follow dif-

ferent modes. For one thing, women often engage in

productive work which is not paid for in cash and

hence is not included in national account statistics.

At best, they may be included as "unpaid family workers."

For another, women's participation in paid economic

activity often is discontinuous, with several inter-

ruptions for pregnancies and other family-related

"time outs." Sometimes her economic participation is

so intermittent that a woman scarcely distinguishes

it from her domestic routine. For many Third World

women, even those tasks for which they receive remu-

neration simply are viewed as the prolongation of their

home-making responsibilities and thus not reported.

ost women, rural and urban alike, make some economic

contribution to the household, even if it is nothing

more elaborate than cooking extra food to sell at

their doors. Yet such activities often are crucial


to the household's survival even if they cannot be

measured by ordinary yardsticks.

It appears that here, again, women officials

have a task to challenge what Sutton (1976:186)

has called "the power to define." One reaction to our

own office's concern with introducing better ways

to measure women's contribution was an outraged com-

ment in a memo that "the next thing you know they'll

be advocating changing the GNP." Exactly. We touch

here on the necessity to oppose the male-defined

view as the only (and somehow, sacrosanct) reality

with a feminine perspective. A world in which men

have been the active participants in devising measures,

standards, values, meaning, symbols and conceptual

frameworks is one in which women's activities are

regarded as subsidiary and dennr'ry to' and dependent

upon male ends. As Sutton puts it,

In their [women's] present attempt to replace
an imposed vision of reality with one they them-
selves define and control, women are becoming
conscious of the extent to whichh the world is a
male domain and culture is/a structure of knowl-
edge and beliefs erected y men to define them-
selves, their world, and omen's place in it.

Sutton points out that t is consciousness of cul-

ture as a set of concepts nd images controlled by

men reflects the experien e of women in Western society,

and may not be universal But it is the Western world

view, "where men have b en dominant in those sectors


concerned with commodity production, power"--and,

in the context of this dis ussion, we add develop-

ment--which has defined e onomic and social progress

and the tools to measure/them. As Zeidenstein (1978:

16) remarks, development efforts could be enhanced

"if visions were broadened and planners could

seek to understand w at is acceptable and accessible

with 'women's cultu es'--those world views that are

distinct from those of men."

Finally, apart from designing new measures for

aggregate data, other important sources of knowledge

about women are the time-budget and other micro studies

which are making us aware of women's economic con-

tribution. Once again, most of the initiative in

carrying out these studies has been taken by women.

s Zeidenstein (1978:4) asks why this "rich literature

concerning women and development" is not more widely

known and used by development specialists, while the

process of learning about women's roles is, he says,


In my opinion, the answer to these questions
is that political, attitudinal, and conceptual
blocks have been erected by hierarchies prejudiced
by male-defined standards and modes and by male-
oriented conceptual frameworks. Consider, for
example, the complaint that knowledge about women
is still too scanty to allow sufficient analysis
to support policy formulation and programmatic
action but clearly, there is already more
relevant knowledge available than is being used


[and] .development planners and programmers
are well accustomed in most countries to operating
on imperfect knowledge in other areas This
is a troublesome paradox that implies powerful

Male Bias

The above discussion leads us to a second consid-

eration. Women are left out of the development process

not only because men fail to focus consistently on

their needs and contributions (which might be the result

of faulty perception or lack of integration of increas-

ing knowledge about women in their world view), but

also because male bias excludes women in the design

and implementation of development projects. Such bias

may stem from an almost universal failure of male U.S.

development experts to understand and appreciate women's

productive role, particularly in rural areas of the

developing world.

Even in the U.S., women's participation is not

recognized. As Kohl (1977:47) has suggested in a

study of the North American family farm5, because the

house is defined as woman's responsibility, and the

farm enterprise as the man's, the dominant ideology

portrays agriculture as a male occupation. Such a

stereotype flies in the face of what we all know at

the experiential level: that women (and children)

typically contribute large amounts of agricultural labor


to the U.S. family farm. This attitude carries over

into the agricultural colleges (where, until recently,

women interested in rural life dedicated themselves

almost exclusively to home economics) and, because

rural development initiatives are dominated by officials,

consultants and contractors from the land grant uni-

versities, into the design and implementation of rural

development projects as well.

Even when women's labor on the U.S. family farm

is acknowledged, it is often perceived as abnormal,

an incursion into what is, by rights, a male sphere.

A senior agricultural specialist in AID brought us up

short one day when he announced that "the happiest

day of my life was when my mother no longer had to

go out to help in the fields" back on his family's

midwestern farm. The achievement of a goal signifying

middle-class success in the U.S. was translated by this

official into discomfort in and opposition to seeing

_any woman "in the fields." The perception that women

simply help out when seasonal work is heavy or until

there is money for a hired hand does not accord with

reality on the U.S. family farm where women most often

are full, if unacknowledged, partners in the enterprise.

They participate not only because their economic

contribution is valuable, but because they enjoy the

work and choose to do it. In Kohl's study, many women


put the farmwork ahead of housework in their scale

of priorities. (See also Moock, et al., 1976.)

In the developing world, there are places where a

sexual division of labor is maintained between house

and field, but women still have responsibility for the

crops and often for much more besides. On a visit

to a small farm community in the Andes, word was sent

to my guide to bring me to the house of the lieutenant

governor, a peasant in the traditional political

system which still parallels the official system in

rural Peru. A recent widower, the governor probably

had gotten the idea that any .rin2a wandering around

the sierra alone was available, since a female Peace

Corps volunteer had recently married a young peasant

farmer there. In any event, the lieutenant governor

left off his task of shucking corn with two neighbors

near his house, and straightaway asked me if I would

stay and become his wife.

Not wishing to offend--and curious, too, about the

offer, I stalled for time by asking what my duties

would be:

"To care for the children and cook the meals."

(His small children, motherless for six weeks, peeked

around a corner of the house.)

"To care for the garden and the house animals--

but not the field animals." (The surprise on the


faces of the neighbors made me decide afterwards that

the omission of the field animals was a concession

to the gringa who probably would have her hands full

with the chickens and pigs wandering in and out of

the house, in any case.)

"To go to the fields in harvest and seed time."

Pointing out that my home was far away and my mother

would be very sad if I never returned, I told the gov-

ernor that I had noted many fine young women in the

village who would be proud to become his wife and went

my way. The incident points to a truth: the family

farm, whether in the developing or developed world,

demands the partnership of a strong and able woman,

and is not a viable enterprise for a man alone.

The converse, a woman farmer alone, either by tradition

as in parts of Africa (where the husband may have a

"visiting relationship" with several wives) or by

necessity when men have migrated from the countryside

appears to be much more feasible. This is not so

different from the U.S. As Kohl points out, the wife

typically does "men's work" on the family farm, but

the man will not join in the housework or childcare--

thus preserving the fiction that the woman only helps

him, while her chief responsibility remains in the

domestic sphere.


Many examples of male bias in development pro-

jects could be cited. A description of an agricultural

project in the African Sahel crossed my desk recently.

The project designers state that in the province where

the project is to be carried out, 48 percent of the

farmers are women. So far, so good, you may say:

the planners have seen the light. But wait--three

sentences later, without any apparent consciousness

that the statement is extraordinary, the designers

mention that 15 percent of the project inputs are

to be set aside for the women! There is no explana-

tion of the discrepancy; the implication is that we

are to applaud that the women farmers are included

at all. Indeed, the projects description was sent to

our office as an example of a women in development

project. ....

Another striking example of male unwillingness to

support what women do is contained in an evaluation

of a World Bank project in another Sahelian country.

Reading between the lines raises many interesting

questions on how the image of the farmer=male=better


During the preparation of the project no specific
consideration was given to women, even though
they were known to play a key role in food crop
production, in the processing of wild palm oil
fruits and in the marketing of oil and maize.


The women have not yet given full support to
the project: It has eliminated a good part of
their annual income, a loss which has been offset
only in part by the possibility of obtaining
paid work in the cooperative Some additional
measures (participation in the cooperative struc-
tures, establishment of stores for the supply of
staples, etc.) would undoubtedly increase the
women's support for the project. That support
is essential to its continued success _for the
women can undermine the design (emphasis added).
They might protest, for instance, by processing
more fruit themselves instead of having them
delivered to the mill

In the early stage of the project, the Bank's
lack of attention to the needs of women farmers
might be explained by its over-optimism about
labor availability, which made the project appear
less dependent upon female participation. The
emerging labor shortage, however, and the large num-
ber of women in the [palm fruit] nurseries, should
have made the Bank more aware of the special role
played by women in a project that had been designed
mostly with men in mind.

A number of interesting questions, some of which

the evaluator himself does not appear to perceive,

are raised by this appraisal. Why was "labor avail-

ability" implicitly defined as male labor availability

when women were already doing the work? Why was the

project clearly presumed to be better off if not forced

to depend upon female participation--an option the

designers "optimistically" felt they could avoid?

Was the presence of women in roles Westerners would

define as unfeminine--crop production, processing a

commercial product, marketing--seen as abnormal, a

situation which a development project could correct

by substituting male labor?

Are women now only to be


pacified with "additional measures" (others mentioned

include a program of home economics!) because other-

wise they will "undermine" the project--and not because

most of their income has been cut off? Is the reluc-

tant concession of possible additional participation

in the cooperative structures now contemplated only

because there is an emerging labor shortage or because

the women might boycott the mill?

Such examples could be multiplied. Lest one con-

clude that these are atypical, let me assure you that

they are illustrative of definite patterns of sys-

tematic male bias throughout the development enterprise.

In my own Agency, we are conducting an interesting exer-

cise with a random sampling of the 1980 budgets of

AID missions. Each mission must present four budget

levels and indicate what it could accomplish at each

level of funding: minimum, current, proposed and

expanded. So far (to be fair, we are not yet finished

with the analysis), we note that women's projects

when they are included at all inevitably are the pro-

jects a mission proposes to cut if it is forced back

to a minimum level of funding. Women are not perceived

to be one-half of the population--indeed, more than

one-half if we are talking about the poor majority.

Women's projects are the "frills" you cut out so that

you can carry on with the real work of development.


One wonders if the priorities would be so arranged

if more mission directors were women.

Women's Productive Role

Bringing more women officials into the develop-

ment enterprise might also have the consequence of

shifting concern almost exclusively from women as

beneficiaries to women as productive contributors,

as active agents of development. Germain has explored

this question forcefully in a recent article (1976-77),

and I will therefore only touch upon several high-

lights of her argument. Germain's principal thesis

is that the hardworking, shrewd and productive women

in many Third World countries should not be viewed

simply as beneficiaries or "welfare problems," but

resources upon which development planners should draw.

While not suggesting that women should now be involved

only because we suddenly have discovered they can be

important means towards development success, she

nevertheless makes a strong case that there are eco-

nomic justifications for full investment in women--

and indeed, that development progress will seriously

be jeopardized if policies and programs for women continue

to be concentrated mainly on welfare services (health,


family planning) and instruction in nutrition, child-

care, and home economics.

Certainly no one would argue against such programs;

the case Germain and others are making is that even

in these programs the approach must be broadened to

include women in their non-mothering roles. Sometimes

reading through project descriptions in my own agency,

one wonders if the men ever see women except in relation

to their reproductive capacities (and, not coincidentally,

when they are most dependent). Nutrition projects are

invariably cast in terms of the importance of sufficient

calories for pregnant and lactating mothers, and health

projects also emphasize maternal and child health,

never mentioning that women also have general health

needs that ought to be addressed. As Zeidenstein

(1978:10) observes, the emphasis in such programs has

been on "women as nurturers of others: food preparers,

bearers of children, sources of human milk. Programs

must also recognize that women need nutritious foods

when they are not pregnant or nursing."

So far as their directly productive roles are

concerned, Germain outlines the case succintly.

Third World women, she say, especially poor women

desire training, tools, and organization mechanisms
to help them do better the productive work they
must do, to reduce the burdens of that work, and to
increase income from it.


Basic Human Needs

Such a redirection of our orientation toward

women in development from the "demand" or beneficiary

side of the development equation to the "supply" or

productive side will lead inevitably to more emphasis

on basic human needs. It is the world's women, far

more than the men, who have been channelled by cir-

cumstances, custom and prejudice to the direct respon-

sibility in providing their own and their families'

food, clothing, shelter, first education and primary

health care. John J. Gilligan noted recently (1978)

that in the year he has administered the Agency for

International Development, he has become convinced

that the economic and social development of the

Third World

may well depend on women--far more than it will
depend on men Forty to seventy percent of
Third World agricultural labor is female. Depending
on the traditions and customs of a particular coun-
try, they plant the seed, haul the water, till the
soil, harvest the crops, market the produce, tend
the animals and strive to keep their families
alive by growing the village vegetable gardens .

If women--in their interest and ours--are sig-
nificantly to increase food production, they must
learn the use of new fertilizers, irrigation sys-
tems and power machinery. They must have roads
to get their produce to market, and they must have
transportation on those roads. They must have pro-
vision for food processing and storage and under-
stand how to use it, and they must have simple
economic structures to provide them with credit.


Gilligan goes on to note that, until recently,

the wives, daughters and hired female laborers have

been largely ignored in development projects "because

Western development experts simply assumed that far-

mers were male," and he points to the remedy in "a

growing awareness of a fact that women everywhere

have always known: That women play the major role

in determining the health of their families, in acquir-

ing and preparing food for them." Such awareness would

be enhanced--and the whole basic human needs strategy

of development strengthened--if more women officials

were around to keep reminding their colleagues that it

is the women of the world who will be, as Gilligan

noted on another occasion (1977), "the decisive force

in seeing to it that the world's poor have enough

to eat, drink clean water, eat nourishing food, live

to adulthood and become literate."

Cultural Barriers

Another difficulty in implementing the women in

development concept often voiced by male planners is

their perception that too much attention to women might

be offensive to host governments in certain countries

where legal or religious proscriptions limit women's

activities. Women themselves sometimes have inter-

nalized their society's prevailing beliefs on women's


proper role. Societies in the developing world quite

rightly want to preserve their own cultural values;

sometimes the trade-offs between gains in development

and loss in traditions are so difficult to balance

that countries are tempted to turn their backs on

modernization altogether.

Yet once having chosen development, modernization,

national liberation, or whatever the leaders may choose

to call it, nations cannot escape the fact that their
( &&a.' -h^ 4 fi aLia.foert>
societies change in fundamental ways. In the long run,

the fabric of cultures and the unity of families -Le

will be even more seriously torn asunder if the male

part of society attempts to enter the 20th century,

leaving most of the women to live under the restric-

tions of a previous era. It is not only educated men

who do not want ignorant village women for wives, for

that is how they come to perceive them. A UN study

documents the same problem even among relatively

uneducated male migrant workers who reject their tra-

ditional wives after even brief experience away from

their villages.

Moreover, experience has shown that women in even

the most "backward" (to our way of thinking) areas

are ready to make progress. Everywhere there are women

leaders shrewd enough to make changes without offend-

ing their own cultural norms. It is often simply a


question of consulting them and letting them guide

us in helping them go where they wish to be. In such

situations, women experts and consultants, women

survey designers and project managers, have obvious


Our own Agency, for example, has an innovative

revolving rural credit scheme for women in 60 vil-

lages in Upper Volta. Women extension agents there

are being trained in loan management to get around

the fact that women may not deal with males who are

not family members. We need more such creativity,

rather than the attitude that nothing can be done

because of culture and traditions. The AID Women in

Development Office's "consultation" with Third World

Women at Houston last year provided much evidence

that women even in the most closed societies want to

improve their status :and options. An insightful

paper on women in the Near East, authored by Roxann

Van Dusen, AID's Women in Development Officer in the

Near East Bureau, makes the same point (1977), as

does Perdita Huston's Third World Women Speak Out


We need also to keep in mind that often the involve-

ment of women in economic activities may be quite in

keeping with their own societal traditions--that it

is our cultural norms which are offended. An AID


report (1978b) on women in Upper Volta strongly sup-

ports the idea that a wide range of women's activities

are in harmony with Voltaic traditions:

The Voltaic woman has always contributed to
the family's food production which is under the
control of the head of the family. She also had
a personal income under her own control, which
she used to provide for certain clearly prescribed
responsibilities to the family as well as her per-
sonal needs. It is this role of provider of spe-
cific indispensable items for the family and for
herself, and a certain self-sufficiency, which the
,women feel is threatened. Voltaic development
efforts tend to withhold from the woman agricul-
tural training, tools, and products necessary for
modern agricultural production, as well as trans-
portation, mobility, education, and resources for
entry into modern commerce or industry. She thus
becomes economically crippled in the modern world.
The women in this study want planners, Voltaic
and foreign alike, and all Voltaics (especially
husbands) to realize that active and responsible
participation in the economic life of the family
and the country is neither new nor threatening.
It is, indeed, necessary if the woman is to con-
tinue her role as an essential part of an harmo-
nious economic, social, and political unit instead
of following the essentially foreign pattern of
being limited to the role of wife-servant in the
service of the family.

Very often male officials object to women in devel-

opment programs as "exporting" the ideas of the U.S.

women's movement and therefore as another expression

of cultural imperialism. However, even a cursory

survey of new initiatives taken by women in the devel-

oping world demonstrates that the women in development

idea is broader than our own national women's movement

and was not directly produced by it. It is true that

U.S. women's organizations got behind the original


women-in-development amendment introduced by Senator

Percy in 1973. It is also true that strong resolu-

tions on the incorporation of women in international

development were passed at last November's National

Women's Conference in Houston. However, it is well

to recognize that the women's movement, as is the way

with social movements, now has a life of its own,

transcending the boundaries of the developed world

where it originated.

Ideas unleased by the International Women's Year

in 1975 and the current Decade for Women penetrate

to the farthest corners of the globe. A recent study

shows that the most modest slum dweller of Lima's

barriadas now knows that a sea change is in the air.

Such change may mean very little for her own life,

but now she will articulate her belief that women and

men have equal rights and responsibilities, and her

hopes that her daughters will have more options than

her own.

The worldwide women's movement is bound to have

repercussions which we do not yet fully understand

or comprehend. Outcomes of social movements are unpre-

dictable, outside of anyone's control. Additional

claimants on scarce resources and development gains

are threatening--just as were the claims of workers in

the Eurpose of 1858 and of Blacks in the U.S. in 1865.


We can respond to such claims creatively. We ignore

them at our peril.


Implementation of women in development also may be

impeded because many are distracted by a fruitless

search for some overall "philosophy" on which all can

agree, some neat formulae to guide the incorporation

of women into the mainstream of development efforts.

Almost to a man, our male colleagues in AID ask us

for such guidelines and formulae. Yet even in the

male world of development, the search for some kind of

simplified, handy "ABCs of development" has proved

illusory. If we have learned anything since the opti-

mistic days of the early 1960s when it seemed as if

problems in the developing world would at least be

under control in a decade or two, it is that develop-

ment is a complex process. Women in development is

no less so. Every variable we touch reverberates and

reacts with others in dozens of intended and unintended

consequences, some of which may not be perceived for

years, others of which we may never have more than

vague suspicions of any causal connection.

In some societies, for example, the teaching of

sewing, handicrafts, child care and nutrition may be

assigning women to the home and further reinforcing


sex segregation in economic activity (or indeed, as

Germain has suggested, reinforcing mothering roles

even where the agencies and governments involved are

concerned about reducing population growth). In other

societies, these activities may be important steps in

overall development. Progress in redressing this

situation is hampered, as Germain (1976-77:161) notes,

because there are "few experienced staff or useful

programmed policy models on which to draw."

Do women tolerate this kind of ambiguity more

easily than men? A final argument that more women ought

to be involved at both the program and policy level

might be made here. In the area of women and develop-

ment, there perhaps is only one certainty: that every-

thing is uncertain. Yet this need not lead us to

despair or inaction--we can move ahead, providing we

build on what we know and let each succeeding effort

inform and guide us on the next ones to be taken.

Close collaboration with local women and women's orga-

nizations is essential at every step.

What is certain is that every country and region--

indeed, every local village and community--must find

its own solutions. This means that policy on women

and development must be flexible, adapting to local

situations as they currently exist, identifying oppor-

tunities for constructive change, making allowances for


inevitable miscalculations, and taking both a short

and a long term view.

No argument is being made here for gradualism.

Margaret Mead (1976-77:159) takes a forceful stand

against slow change which, she says, often requires

adjustments that in turn become as dysfunctional as

the situation they were meant to correct. To accommo-

date extremely rapid change today, she says, it is neces-

sary to make as many simultaneous changes as possible.

This means,

for the involvement of women in international
affairs, all the precursors of change must go
on at once: the appointment of women to the
highest posts and the reorganization of the demands
on those positions so that they do not handicap
women who hold them; the insistence on proportional
representation of women in all international teams,
delegations, etc.; the creation of professional
institutions in which both boys and girls are
first taught to respect all fields of human activ-
ities and then given professional participation
in any of them

--for women: agriculture, irrigation, town
planning, architecture and the conduct of
military affairs

--and for men: nutrition, child care, para-
medical services, domestic services, archi-
tecture and services, architecture and

Transforming Development

The above comments of Mead lead us to the final

consideration in this paper:

that the participation of


women officials, at the local, national and international

levels would not only affect programming for women, but

has the potential to affect how we view development


In their traditional feminine pursuits, women

throughout the world have cared for the sick and old;

produced and processed the basic necessities of food,

clothing and shelter; taught the young; administered what

social welfare resources were available, and carried

on dozens of essential volunteer activities.

If we are considering a rational allocation of

resources, perhaps governments should not be too quick

to suggest that women move out of these fields into

those until recently considered more "developmental."

Who would then perform these productive and essential

tasks? Indeed, the very fields in which women today are

principally engaged cry out for inventive and enter-

prising women to revolutionize them. Except in certain

Western countries, men have not yet moved into these

fields in great numbers, and women will encr6unter few

barriers towards creative and innovative experiment.

Without entering into the controversy about devel-

opment priorities, there does seem to be general agree-

ment today that the concept of development needs to be

broadened. If this is so--if development demands both

economic inputs and investment in human resources--


Sullerot (1971:248) concludes that women today are having

their "unwitting revenge" for being left out, since

even the most powerful political leaders cannot impose

solutions without the positive collaboration of women.

Mead (1976-77:157-58) takes up the same theme; and

I will let her have the last word:

Regardless of whether women are better fitted to
plan for the care and feeding of children, the
conservation of food and resources, and the pro-
tection against threats of nuclear weapon build-
up and proliferation, these activities all have
present-day models in women's roles in families,
villages and neighborhoods. When there are no
women's voices heard in the international councils
related to food or population control, the debate
is one-sided .

At present, it is enough to know that because such
matters have been women's concern throughout the
ages, if women are excluded from decision making
at the present time, there will be no one to take
these matters into account. Cases in point are
the low status of women in the field of nutrition
in the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the
program for population control conducted by AID
which scatters contraceptives without carefully
considering the attitudes of women who will or
will not be bearing babies.

For a better balanced world, committed to conser-
vation, providing for the hungry and the deprived,
and cherishing the dwindling resources of the planet,
we need the participation of women, exercising the
historic role for which they have been trained .



1. In October 1974, the Agency for International
Development established an Office for Women in
Development, in response to the Percy Amendment
to the Foreign Assistance Act of the previous year
which called for U.S. bilateral assistance to "be
administered 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
and assisting the total development effort."

For the first 22 months of its existence, the Women
in Development Office at AID was part of the Agency's
Equal Opportunity Program Office. In August 1976,
the Office was separated from EOP with an Acting
Coordinator, and in April 1977, Arvonne Fraser
became Coordinator and the staff moved to its pre-
sent location. Under the recent AID reorganization,
the Office has become part of the Bureau for Pro-
gram and Policy Coordination.

2. See, for example, Boserup (1970); Boserup and
Liljencrantz (1975); Fernea and Bezirgan (1977);
Giele and Smock (1977); Hafkin and Bay (1976);
Iglitzin and Ross (1976); Knaster (1977); Nash
and Safa (1976); Rihani (1978); Saulniers and Rakow-
ski (1977); Tinker and Bramsen (1976); Youssef (1974),
and special issues of the Journal of International
Affairs and SiLns, cited in the bibliography.

3. See, for example, AID (1978:14-16; 20); John J.
Gilligan (1977 and 1978); Robert S. McNamara (1977)
and George Zeidenstein (1977).

4. For convenience, in our Office we have classified
women in development projects along a kind of con-
tinuum. Every project should be designed to include
women, and the impact statement--the requirement
that each project and activity be examined in terms
of its effects on women--can be, but often is not,
an indication that consideration of women has been
a major factor in designing the project. Unfor-
tunately, such a statement often is added on as an
afterthought, or is "boilerplate," lifted from
another project paper.


Thus other strategies become necessary. There are
women-pEecific or women-only_ projects, those designed
to help close a gap and enable women to catch up
in one area or another. Those who favor giving a
special impetus to women's programs and projects
have no desire to foster or reinforce separatism;
they simply recognize what experience has taught us.
Women are overlooked if their need to catch up--
educationally, economically, politically--is not
explicitly addressed.

Then there is the add-on or women's component in
a larger project. For example, in agricultural
projects, we may look at women's role in food pro-
duction or in cash cropping, and devise women's
components to make sure that women who raise food
are not displaced; that they benefit from training
programs in their countries and in the U.S.; that
extension workers deal with women as well as men,
and that appropriate technology, agricultural inputs
and credit also reach women.

Finally, there is the possibility of incorporating
women into an integrated development project.
This goal is now largely a dream, not a reality.
We do not believe we know enough in most places to
put together a large, integrated development project--
much less one which takes into account what women
do in the region and how their situation can be
improved in several interrelated areas of life and
activity. Such projects require intimate and exten-
sive knowledge of all the factors involved in the
community, the region and the national economy;
the delineation of a set of goals, and of criteria
for evaluation.

5. Kohl's case study is Saskatchewan, but her observa-
tions appear to hold for other rural areas of North
America in Canada and the U.S.



Agency for International Development
1978(a) Agricultural Development Policy Paper.
Washington, D.C.: AID.

Agency for International Development
1978(b) Social and Economic Development in
Upper Volta: Woman's Perspective.
Regional Economic Development Services
for Africa and Societe Africaine d'Etudes
et de Developpment.






Women's Role in Economic Development.
New York: St. Martin's Press.

Ester and Christina Liljencrantz
Integration of Women in Development:
Why, When, How. New York: United Nations
Development Program.


Women and World Development: An Annotated
Bibliography. Washington, D.C.: Overseas
Development Council.

Mayra and Nadia H. Youssef
Women-Headed Households: The Ignored
Factor in Development Planning. Report
Submitted to the Office of Women in
Development, AID, by the International
Center for Research on Women.

Fernea, Elizabeth Wernock and Basima Qattan Bezirgan
1977 Middle Eastern Muslim Women Speak.
Austin: University of Texas Press.

Germain, Adrienne
1976-77 "Poor Rural Women: A Policy Perspective."
Journal of International Affairs 30, 2
(Fall/Winter): 161-71.

Giele, Janet Zillinger and Audrey Chapaman Smock, eds.
1977 Women: Roles and Status in Eight Countries.
New York: John Wiley and Sons.


Gilliagn, John J.
1977 "The Role of Women in the Economic Life
of the Thrid World," Address to the
Partners of the Americas International
Convention, Santo Domingo, November.

Gilliagan, John J.
1978 "Women and Their Importance in the Third
World," Address to a Conference of the
American Association of Univeristy Women,
excerpted in The Washington Post, June 24.

Hafkin, Nancy J. and Edna G. Bay
1976 Women in Africa:
Economic Change.
University Press.

Studies in Social and
Stanford: Stanford

Huston, Perdita
1978 Third World Women Speak Out: Interviews
in Six Countries on Change, Development,
and Basic Needs. Washington, D.C.:
Overseas Development Council, forthcoming.

Iglitzin, Lynne B. and Ruth Ross, eds.
1976 Women in the World: A Comparative Study.
Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC/Clio Press.

International Labour Office
1977 Meeting Basic Needs: Strategies for
Eradicating Mass Poverty and Unemployment.
Geneva: ILO.

Journal of International Affairs
1976-77 "Women and Change in the Developing World,"
Special Issue, 30, 2 (Fall/Winter).

Knaster, Meri

Kohl, Seena B

Women in Spanish America: An Annotated
Bibliography from pre-Conquest to Con-
temporary Times. Boston: G.K. Hall
and Company.

"Women's Participation in the North
American Family Farm,: Women's Studies
International Quarterly 1, 1:47-54.

McNamara, Robert S.
1977 "An Address on the Population Problem,"
Massachusetts Institue of Technology,
April 28.


Mead, Margaret
1976-77 "Women in the International World,"
Journal of International Affairs 30, 2
(Fall/Winter): 151-60.

Papanek, Hannah
1977 "Development Planning for Women," Signs:
Journal of Women in Culture and Society
3, 1 (Autumn): 14-21.

Rihani, May
1978 Development As If Women Mattered:
An Annotated Bibliography with a Third
World Focus. Washington, D.C.: Overseas
Development Council. Occasional Paper
No. 10.

Saulniers, Suzanne Smith and Cathy A. Rakowski
1977 Women in the Development Process:
A Select Bibliography on Women in Sub-
Saharan Africa and Latin America.
Austin: University of Texas Press for
the Institute of Latin American Studies.


Journal of Women in Culture and Society
"Women and National Development,"
Special Issue, 3, 1 (Autumn).

Sullerot, Evelyne
1971 Women, Society and Change. Translated
from the French by Margaret Scotford
Archer. New York: McGraw-Hill Book

Sutton, Constance R.
1976 "The Power to Define: Women, Culture
and Consciousness," pp. 186-98, in
Roy S. Bryce-Laporte and Claudewell
S. Thomas, eds., Alienation in Contemporary
Society: A Multidisciplinary Examination.
New York: Praeger.

Tinker, Irene S.
1974 'The Widening Gap," International Devel-
opment Review 16, 4: 40-42.

Tinker, Irene S.
1976 "The Adverse Impact of Development on
Women," pp. 22034, in Irene Tinker and
Michele Bo Bramsen, eds., Women and
World Development. Washington, D.C.:
Overseas Development Council.

N I ,I


Tinker, Irene S. and Michele Bo Bramsen, eds.
1976 Women and World Development.

See citation

U.S. Congress, House of Representatives
1978 International Women's Issues, Hearing
and Briefing before the Subcommittees on
International Organizations and on
International Development, Committee
on International Relations. 95th Congress,
Second Session, March 8 and 22, 1978.
Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Print-
ing Office.

Van Dusen, Roxann
1977 Integrating Women inton National Economies:
Programming Considerations with Special
Reference to the Near East. Washington,
D.C.: Near East Bureau, AID.

Ward, Barbara, J.D. Ruannalls and Lenore D'Anjou, eds.
1971 The Widening Gap: A Report to the Columbia
Conference on International Economic
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New York, February 15 to 21, 1970.
New York: Columbia University Press.

Youssef, Nadia W.
1974 Women and Work in Developing Countries.
Berkeley: Institute of International
Studies, University of California.
Population Monograph Series No. 15.

Zeidenstein, George
1977 "Including Women in Development Efforts,"
paper appearing as "The President's Report"
in The Population Council Annual Report 1977,
and as an article in World Development 6, 7
(July 1978).


Moock, P.R., W.E. Huffman, M.R. Rosenzwieg and W.K. Bryant
1976 "The Economics of the Farm Family,"
American Journal of Agricultural Economics
58, 5 (December 1976): 831-53.

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