Alex Kelbert and I wrote this for a great symposium called Undressing Patriarchy back in 2013, but it is also based on the Life in a Time of FPV project. I realise now other people had already made these points and more elegantly and cleverly. But I think its a good paper because it connects food insecurity to masculinity. It is always women being referred to when experts talk about ‘gender and food security’, but global patriarchy means there are few societies in which men are not seen as ‘the breadwinner’, no matter how families are configured. So food crises are always crises of masculinity.
Tackling violence against women and girls is rightly riding high on the development agenda and so too is food insecurity. But it has only been in the last few days, travelling around Malawi at the start of a particularly hungry season, that the direct nature of the causal link between the two has crystallised for me. Tackling violence in poor families and communities must start with protecting people’s – all people’s – rights to food.
How does food insecurity cause sexual- and gender-based violence? I can only tell you what we heard from staff in government and UN agency facilities, including a refugee camp near Lilongwe and from women we met there. The consistency and…
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After a long day slaving over a warm laptop, Rosalind Eyben’s, Fellow Travellers in Development published in Third World Quarterly, dropped into my inbox. It is both charming and appalling. Read it as a specimen of aid industry history and you will see why.
Fellow Travellers in Development follows a group of Western women now reaching retirement age through their careers in ‘development’. Most didn’t think ‘development’ was what they were doing, and didn’t ‘career’ so much as tumble through an unwelcoming profession (then a job for white men only – Rosalind gets her career break ghost-writing a report for a dyslexic aid agency head). It gives an account of the macho early aid industry, filtered through the official end of white rule and the rise of ‘women’s lib’. It traces genealogies of contemporary aid thinking and practice into the present day, showing how social development ideas –…
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Is it just me or have we come full circle on care* in development? Back in 1994, armed with a box-fresh copy of Naila Kabeer’s Reversed Realities,I got my first job in development, in Bangladesh. There I was first set to study whether non-traditional jobs empowered women, and then to analyse rural women’s time-use diaries. My eyes were opened to the perennial contradiction of women’s empowerment: earning money is lovely and really important if you want autonomy and control. But someone still has to wipe the dirty bums.
What happened in the last 20 or so years that took our (my) eye off the care-ball? We started to glamorize women’s empowerment as always and necessarily positive-sum.** Gender equity got a makeover as ‘smart economics’; development meant high return investments in future mothers, clever low-cost micro-credit, and win-win global export industries employing poor young women to make…
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Whenever I tell economists about our ‘crisis’ research findings, that people on low incomes hate and fear the current wave of inflation, they look at me blankly. ‘But..’, they explain in terms simple enough for an infant to grasp, ‘wages rise’. Having abandoned economics at undergrad I forget whether this particular tenet is a vital one, but I get that economists don’t get the unpopularity of inflation because of their confidence – as in a fact of nature – that wages rise to compensate. So why should people complain? Let alone riot? Aren’t they just silly? Why has nobody told them about the natural laws of economics?
This last week I came face-to-face with two explanations of…
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Reviewing the proofs for a new book called Living with Crisis (published by the World Bank in April – an e-book which means its free!) and a World Bank Policy Research working paper synthesising the same have meant reflecting on what the last three years taught us about women’s empowerment. The three things we (should have) learned are:
1. Paid work ≠ women’s empowerment
Earning money for working is all very well and yes, very very important for women’s agency and the balance of power at home. But anyone who seriously thought that getting a job as an export factory worker or access to microfinance was the same as women gaining real power over their lives no longer has such good reasons for thinking so: the gains are too fragile and too easily swept away. Our synthesis of qualitative research across 17 countries on the impacts of living…
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