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Approach to gender-just development

Nov 17, 2008

Human Development and Gender, a research paper by Dr Vibhuti Patel advocates that gender sensitive human development ensures an inclusive growth. Challenging conventional indicators to assess progress, the author calls for increased investment in women for effective execution of micro and macro policies.

Human Development and Gender
Author:  Dr Vibhuti Patel

Gender equality has three aspects: equal opportunities, equal treatment and equal entitlements for both, men and women. It is directly linked with human development.

The author says that patriarchy thrives on control of women’s sexuality, fertility and labour for male hegemony over economic resources. Economic institutions and policy can exacerbate existing gender inequalities instead of mitigating them.

Laws and policies too play a significant role in determining the extent of gender inequality that exists in a society. They can serve to protect women’s rights or to reduce them.

For example, in many countries, women still lack the legal right to inherit or own property and, in many others, violence against women is not considered a criminal offense. The paper argues that without transformations in economic relations or the implementation and enforcement of legal rights and protection, gender equality and the empowerment of women can remain an elusive goal.

Women’s Studies have challenged the conventional indicators of development that focus on urbanisation, higher education, mobility of labour, technological development, modernisation, infra-structural development, industrialisation etc.

Through the lens of Gender Economics, the author contextualises day to day survival struggles of women in the family, in the households, in the community and in the micro and macro economy with the perspective of power relations which control women and girl children's sexuality, fertility and labour.  

The paper examines the three approaches for women's development:

Women in Development (WID) model deconstructs the economic growth paradigm and focuses on women specific statistics and indicators, policies and schemes, plan allocation and programmes on health, education and employment.

Women and Development (WAD) model integrates women in the development work as active change agents. Affirmative action by the state and pro-active approach by the civil society through NGOs and women's groups are advocated by these models for empowerment of women against the forces of patriarchal class society.

Gender and Development (GAD) model is based on an understanding of gender relations and empowers the weak (he or she). Gender is socially constructed and gender relations are power relations. Here power is an important analytical category. Located in the household, custom, religion, and culture, these intra-household inequalities result in unequal distribution of power, control over resources and decision-making.

The author points out the need for formulating a gender aware data system on literacy, employment and earnings, health and well-being, sources of livelihood that could help proper planning and policy making for empowerment of women.

Priority areas encompass all aspects of human development-women's education, health and nutrition, skill development, accounts, financial and commercial viability, legal standing, asset and corpus building.

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