THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN LOCAL DEVELOPMENT

When considering the development of the local level, the existence of a number of exclusions, inequities and inequalities affecting both men and women on the grounds of ethnicity, gender or social standing must be acknowledged. This is a result of ethnicity, gender or social standing. Any development program undertaken in local territories must consider the existence thereof and fight them.

Grace Guerrero

 

Grace Guerrero Zurita

Grace Guerrero has a master's in Rural Development Policy and Planning for Latin America and the Caribbean from the Universidad Federal Rural de Río de Janeiro-FAO, as well as a master's in Organizational Development for NGOs from Eastern College. She has participated in various projects that promote local development, and is currently a lecturer and researcher at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador.

 

 

For Ernestina Chuinda and Abigail Romero, your efforts

The vision that guides local development projects is deeply influenced by the theory of Sustainable Human Development. Authors such as Martha Nussbaum who, on the basis of a capabilities-based approach, has clearly identified those inequalities in the context of empowerment as an element aiming to close gaps, such as those between men and women.

In the capabilities-based approach, the empowerment strategy is the basis of processes of development and to close gaps. This strategy is interpreted as the process by which persons in a situation of subordination, or who have little control over their lives, acquire a greater capacity to be, express themselves and make their own way.

In light of this situation, an alternative that leads to empowerment is associated with the establishment of networks of producer women/men or social capital in the territories. The local economic development approach emphasizes direct bonds and bonds of trust between social stakeholders. These bonds foster local productive systems that connect abroad and foster the possibility of generating income for members. For groups of women, the existence of social bonds associated with cooperation, solidarity and mutual help builds self-esteem and empowerment. The nature of the social bonds of these groups as well as of mixed associations and their assertions in terms of production-economy are approaches which differ from local development, in comparison to the individualism and competition as a strategy of the homo economicus.

In the context of local economic development, the promotion of value chains, inclusive businesses, innovative atmosphere, local territorial competitiveness and equitable productive reconversion feature importantly. Said issues must be analyzed from a perspective that acknowledges the double and oft times threefold role women play in local territories, and the double or triple exclusions that women accrue (e.g. peasant, illiterate, indigenous or African-Ecuadorian, woman, etc.).

Cases of women who have sparked and led local development processes, such as the mayoresses of Oña and Nabon, among others, or of women leaders managing community companies, such as Jambi Kiwa or Awa, merit analysis by academia. Those cases are linked to a gender-based approach, the analysis of local development and to the new approaches that stimulate development and appreciate localness. The need for multidisciplinary research in the local territory and the mandatoriness of analyzing the relation between social, economic and environmental systems, as well as the role of equitable leadership that women exercise in the territory is apparent.

From the perspective of the role of women in local development, sight of the structural and cultural conditions that generate inequality must not be lost; they must be made visible in order for them to be addressed and overcome. This entails an in-depth analysis of the roles assigned to women, which is the charge of government at a sub-national and national level in terms of environments generated for gender equality and of the responsible and pro-equality business community, and the consideration of the multidimensionality of poverty and inequality.

Among the inequalities that affect the processes of local development, and specifically women, gaps have been identified with respect to time use, assignment of reproductive roles, and access to means of production and assets, all of which, in turn, results in other economic, cultural and social inequalities. The study by Ortega (2012) conducted in Ecuador, Mexico and Guatemala suggests that inequality persists in terms of the distribution of time devoted to paid and unpaid work. Analysis of the data yielded that rural women allocate a great deal to unpaid activities and that there is an overload of work in caregiving activities. Surveys of time use and living conditions show that women in the rural area in Ecuador work a total of 57.29 hours per week, while in Mexico the total rises to 67.55 per week (Ortega 2012, 14).

Women contribute a significant portion of their time to family agriculture. Part of the greater time use issue in reproductive activities is associated with persistent infrastructure conditions in the rural area regarding water, housing and sanitation, which constitute historical inequality gaps in terms of public policy. Another facet of the problem is the lack of awareness among men as regards taking on reproductive tasks. This pattern of inequality is transferred to new generations, where the same gender-based division of work is present in the sons and daughters of the families surveyed in this study.

In terms of time use, education and its relation to production systems in networks and supply chains, the educational gap limits the economic opportunities available to women to access quality or better paying jobs, and the creation as well as reinforcement of networks of knowledge and innovation becomes hard to achieve for many territories and women’s organizations. When the ethnic-cultural variable is included in this analysis, indigenous women and children fall outside of progress in terms of social rights as regards health and education —this threefold condition of inequality: gender, ethnicity and class sets a boundary in their struggle for rights.

On the other hand, women connect with local and regional markets without improving their control over economic assets or relation of inequality with respect to their income (Ospina et al, 2010: 19-28). Ospina et al (2010) show that even in dynamic territories it is the women who start businesses and when those businesses prosper, the men will take over. Other studies indicate that there are gender differences in the makeup of wealth, while women invest more in housing, men invest in assets that will translate to liquidity faster (Deere, Contreras, 2011: 59). The holding of assets also displays differences and gender-based inequalities.

To conclude, in the local sphere, women that organize find alternative means on the basis of solidarity networks that boost them to empowerment and development processes which tend to be more equitable given the importance of women in terms of sustainability of cycle of life. Said networks of mutual aid, frequently associated with production networks, are a valid strategy for a truly human and sustainable development closer to the people.

 

1. The former is part of the National Accounts System (SCN for its Spanish acronym), but not the latter. Data for time use, employment, underemployment and unemployment from those countries was used.

2. Nonetheless, their participation in politics for the recognition of their rights in terms of history, with respect to identity (Lagarde, 2011) and the administration of indigenous justice display dynamism.

 

Bibliography

 

Jubeto Yolanda and Larrañaga Mertxe, El desarrollo humano local desde la equidad de género, un proceso en construcción, Spain, edit Hegoa.

Kabeer, Naila, Realidades Trastocadas, las jerarquías de género en el pensamiento del desarrollo, Mexico: Paidos.

Lagarde, Marcela, Valcárcel Amelia, 2011, Feminismo, género e igualdad, editorial EGRAF, Madrid.

Ortega, Ponce Liudmila, 2012, Las relaciones de género entre la población rural del Ecuador, Guatemala y México, serie mujer y desarrollo de CEPAL, UN publication, Chile.

Pablo Ospina, Marcela Alvarado, Wladymir Brborich, Gloria Camacho, Diego Carrión, Manuel Chiriboga, Rosario Fraga, Patric Hollenstein, Renato Landín, Ana Isabel Larrea, Carlos Larrea, Paola Maldonado, Silvia Matuk, Alejandra Santillana, Ana Lucía Torres (2010) Tungurahua rural: el territorio de senderos que se bifurcan, Quito, Corporación editora nacional.

 

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