Keeping women poor?

In: Uncategorized

22 Jun 2009

One of the most insidious trends in recent years is the redefining of development in cultural terms. For example, take this article in today’s Independent on domestic violence in poor countries by Cherie Blair, a human rights lower and wife of a former British prime minister, in support of the ActionAid 6 Degrees project. For her:

“there is a direct link between the struggle to smash the glass ceiling or to ensure equal pay in our societies and the assumptions in others which justify honour killings, deny women the right to vote or leads to infanticide of baby girls. It is the belief, conscious or unconscious, that women are simply not worth the same as men.”

But does such a connection really exist? And what are the consequences of taking such an approach?

While women no doubt suffer discrimination it is hard to see a “direct link” between women lawyers not reaching the top of their profession in Britain and infanticide of baby girls. The difficult situation of women in the South is largely to do with dire poverty.

Recasting development in cultural terms also means interfering in the minutiae of family life in poor countries instead of promoting economic development. It means non-governmental organisations such as ActionAid hectoring poor people about how to run their lives. It does not mean promoting the economic growth that such countries desperately need for their citizens to live full lives.

The cultural approach to development reinforces rather than challenges inequality. To do this in the name of protecting women is particularly shameful.

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