Development support needs to focus more on improving the quality of women’s lives
March 10, 2012 - The Capacity.org team
“ What’s missing from mainstream development’s women’s empowerment agenda is a focus on women’s own desires and needs.”
The UK-based Pathways of Women’s Empowerment research programme at the Institute of Development Studies recently completed an extensive 5-year study to find out what works to enhance women’s empowerment. In an opinion piece published on International Women’s Day 2012, Pathways director, Andrea Cornwall, called for a less instrumentalist approach to women-in-development programmes. “We hear about the benefits to development of women’s work, and of having more women in public office. Social policies target women because they are assumed to care more for their children, and have more to offer their communities than men. But few development agencies seem to be concerned about improving women’s quality of life,” she argued.
One of the insights gained from the study is the empirical link between television ownership and women’s empowerment, “…not just as a window into other worlds, providing them with inspiration and insight and expanding the horizons of the possibilities they might see and seek for themselves, but also as a valued source of pleasure and leisure.”
Cornwall called for a reversal of recent trends by targeting support to women’s movements, as these “… have been fundamental to the changes that have improved women’s lives through constituency building and mobilising women’s political participation."
The study’s findings were discussed at the 56th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) held in early March to review progress on agreed targets. The session addressed three priority themes:
- The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges;
- Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women; and
- Engaging young women and men, girls and boys, to advance gender equality
website contains links to the issues papers and video archives of the discussions.