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Governance through a gender lens

Oct 06, 2008

Smita Mishra Panda’s edited volume Engendering Governance Institutions: State, Market and Civil Society focuses on ensuring gender equality in governance. The book brings together viewpoints of several scholars in order to understand the role of women in a rapidly transforming social, economic and political landscape of developing countries.

Engendering Governance Institutions: State, Market and Civil Society

Edited by: Smita Mishra Panda
Publisher: Sage Publications, 2008

This edited volume examines different aspects of governance in development through a gender lens. It is an outcome of papers presented on 'Gender and Governance' at the Silver Jubilee Symposium on the Institute of Rural Management, Anand, Gujarat.

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The book is divided into five sections: Conceptualisation of Engendering Governance; State, Gender and Governance; Market, Gender and Governance; Civil Society, Gender and Governance and Assessment of Gender Sensitivity in Governance.

In the introductory chapter by the editor gives a detailed narrative of efforts made by the UN system, civil society groups, and women's studies scholars to attain gender equality in an unequal world.

She avers that gender gap in governance in South Asia in all spheres is very high. Women's representation in management and political positions is extremely low: only 7% in parliament, 9% in cabinet, 20% in local governance, 9% in civil services and 6% in judiciary. This is a result of subordinate status accrued to women in all private and public domains namely household, state, market and civil society.

Gender Mainstreaming, Equity and Good Governance by Kumud Sharma discusses key debates on theoretical premises and approaches that have been attempted in the last three decades to institutionalise women's concerns within structures of governance as a result of pressure of women's movement. Three approaches viz. WID, WAD and GAD have evolved out of collective wisdom of women of the world.

Women in Development (WID) model explains the reasons for women being treated as beneficiaries of the crumbs thrown at them, in the margin of the economy, consumer and an auxiliary labour force to be utilised in the crisis period and eased out the moment men are ready for take over.

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. The author concludes, "Enhancing women's access to power and voices in governance is a desirable goal, but that demands a rethinking on the nature of politics and power, and engaging more effectively in democratic processes."

J. Devika's paper Modernity with Democracy? Gender and Governance in the People's Planning Campaign, Keralam provides an overview of historical unfolding of discourse around modernity in the Malyalee public sphere.

In the early 20th century, women's quest for individual autonomy reflected in the demands of streesamajams viz. equal citizenship, representation of women in legislature and public bodies, job reservation and equal citizenship.

This also evoked backlash from the patriarchal forces in terms of sexual slander, heckling, public ridicule, indecent sloganeering, pestering, etc. Women's participation in peasant, workers, fisher folks, agricultural labourers was always there but they were expected to remain subordinate to men.

After 73rd and 74th Amendments in the Constitution of India, 1993 onwards, women have once again become active in local self government bodies. SHG movement has ensured new leadership among poor women. The state sponsored Kudumbshree mobilisation has made collectives of women from the marginalized strata very proactive in contrast to relative passivity of women of the new elite.

In her paper City Consultation as an Approach to Gender Responsive Local Urban Governance: An Experience from UMP-Asia Girija Shrestha critically examines the Urban Management Programme (UMP) with gender analysis. She supports an argument that gender equity and governance are premised on the primary responsibility of the state to safeguard and promote citizens' well-being.

She has used seven basic indicators to assess gender sensitivity in governance: survival of women, quality of survival, skill acquisition, workplace participation, control over resources, participation in public spheres and security.

Redefining an Agenda for Governance: Gender and Policy Planning by Meera Velayudhan shows the trajectory of planning process in India. Between 1950-1975, it was planning without women. The Sixth five Year plan for the first time came up with a separate chapter on Women and Development. In all previous plans, women were mentioned only in the context of welfare and population control.

Chapter on Engendering Market Mechanisms by Nirmala Banerjee gives detailed gender disaggregated data base on structure of agricultural work force, employment and unemployment status, work participation rates in rural and urban areas, women' share in manufacturing employment, daily earnings of casual labourers and regular salary earners, marginal and subsidiary workers and shows the gender gap.

While discussing gendering of women workers she examines roles of family, employers, trade unions and the state as carriers of patriarchal value system in the context of a secular decline in women's paid work. She concludes that the state has to be the main ally of women in their struggle for improving their economic position.

Self Employed women's Association (SEWA)'s position paper on Linking the Informal Sector with Mainstream Markets: Case of SEWA discusses relentless struggles to organise, empower and integrate women workers in business processes and establish strong market linkages at all levels, from local to domestic to global markets.

The paper examines three case studies: Sesame seed farmers and the SEWA Gram Mahila Haat (SGMH), Salt workers of Surendranagar and SGMH and craft artisans of Kutch and Oatan districts and SEWA Trade Facilitation Centre.

Engendering Cooperative Governance: Case of Women Dairy Cooperative Societies in Gujarat by Smita Mishra Panda brings to the fore positive impact of Women's Dairy Cooperatives in Valsad district in terms of economic security, visibility of women in the village public domain, enhanced confidence to move out of the village to the outer public domain like independently interacting with the milk union, banks and cattle market and ability to derive benefits on their terms.

In Gender Audits as an Input to Engender Governance, Vibhuti Patel says that without engendering, development is endangered. Gender audit of decentralisation of political governance has revealed that elected women in PRI, legislative bodies and parliament have played a positive role in addressing a range of practical gender needs (inadequacies in living conditions such as provision of fuel, water, healthcare and employment).

Key indicators to address women's strategic gender needs are gender balance in decision making bodies, finance committees, in business and financial support, share of expenditure devoted to women specific units, cells, departments and projects, share of women in education, employment, health, housing, political participation.

In a state profile of Karnataka on Engendering Governance in PRIs N. Shanta Mohan begins with a premise that engendering governance is not a goal, but a process of that is equitable and ensures that the voices of women are heard in decision making over the allocation of development resources.

She admires work of NGOs working towards increasing and facilitating the participation of women in governance. At the same time, she also notes that,”In spite of this achievement, there are several impediments to women's effective participation in politics. Patriarchy, caste and class hierarchies, and their inherent unequal power relations hinder women from fully accessing and controlling political spaces”.

Wide range of areas covered by this edited work makes it crucial for meeting with challenges posed to women in the 21st century.

This volume is a must read for all development workers, students, academicians, administrators, policy planners, social activists, women's studies scholars, decision makers in all spheres engaged in women's empowerment and human development.

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