|These notes are derived from a workshop on the above subject organised for MYRADA for its own staff from all projects:
||September 28, 29 and 30, 1992
||Gnanodayam Training Centre MYRADA/PLAN Dharmapuri Project
||Dr.Ruth Alsop, The Ford Foundation
Ms.Bhanumathi Vasudevan, Gender Trainer, GRID
Ms.Vidya Ramachandran, and
Mr.Bernard John, MYRADA
There were two sets of reasons why MYRADA felt it was important to convene a workshop on the above theme:
- “Women in Development” has become familiar terminology in the development field. The concept of “Gender” however, is still unfamiliar.
“Gender” is a neutral term and could refer to either the masculine or the feminine. The concept of “Gender” is being increasingly used to denote a refusal to focus on women alone or on men alone, but on the relationships between the two, and how these relationships affect the lives of women and men in society.
“Women-in-development” or “Women-focussed programmes” acquire meaning only when there is clarity that women do not function in isolation, but are influenced by and themselves influence their environment, which includes (and is often dominated by) men. What needs to be changed may be the power relations between two equally populated and equally important sections of society. One set of reasons for this workshop was to understand the concept of gender, to analyse gender-relations in our project areas, to locate our development programmes in the gender context, and to see that they attempt a structural change in society in favour of a parity in relations between men and women.
- The need to innovate with the existing repertoire of PRA tools and to innovate new ones to analyse gender-relations: this composed the second set of reasons. This came about because of the present dearth of recorded PRA-PALM experiences in analysing gender relations.
From their very origins, PRA methods have emphasised the need to offset certain biases (time, space, etc.). Ironically, however, the gender bias has never figured very prominently as an area of study:
– Could the existing set of tools be used in increasingly versatile ways to include the gender factor?
– Could new tools be developed to cope with this important issue?The present workshop only lays claim to highlighting these issues and making a tentative beginning towards finding answers.
THE STRUCTURING OF WORKSHOP SESSIONS:
Following a quick round of self-introductions, the first day’s sessions concentrated mainly on giving the participants an insight into some of their own gender biases, and eliciting from them their own perceptions as to the relative roles and positions of men and women in society. This was done through small group discussions, role plays, and some theoretical inputs.
This was followed by a discussion on the need to generate PRA tools to analyse gender relations and a listing down to topics for exploration in the field, along with methods that would be used to explore them. The second day was spent in the field, for which participants divided themselves into four groups, with each group pursuing a set of topics.
The evening of the second day and morning of the third day were spent in making presentations from the field exercises.
The workshop closed by lunchtime on day three after a brief recapitulation of learnings and a suggested plan of action for further follow up.
Small group discussions and role-plays were used to start the workshop off and give the participants an insight into some of their own gender biases and perceptions.
Sample of topics used for small group discussions:
- a) What is the purpose of this workshop and why do you think it has been organised?
||– Women have always been marginalised. How to bring them into the mainstream of development?
– The concept of ‘Gender’ is not very clear. This workshop is intended to clarify the concept.
Does ‘gender’ mean only women?
||– The workshop has been organised to see how MYRADA can concentrate on improving the conditions of women and to help in developing PRA tools for this.
- b) Free listing of commonly used proverbs that attribute qualities to women/men or are discriminatory in content.
||– ‘A man is always a man even if he is only six inches tall.’
– ‘Even a king will become a beggar if he has five daughters.’
– ‘Whether the thorn falls on the leaf, or the leaf falls on the thorn, it is only the leaf that gets hurt.’
– ‘Behind every successful man there is a woman.’
– ‘If tobacco blossoms its value is lost; if a woman laughs here image is lost.’
– ‘There is no temple greater than mother.’
These proverbs were analysed for the messages they conveyed, which contributed to shaping the identities of men and women in society.
Sample themes used for role plays:
- a) Segregated groups were made of the male and female participants. The men were asked to mime how women dress themselves and the women were asked to mime how men dress themselves. What is the typical picture of a man or a woman that emerged?
||– Both men and women are equally concerned about their appearance. Both are ‘conscious’, ‘proud’ and ‘proud’ (vain).
– All men depicted women as having long hair and wearing jewellery.
- b) Male and female participants in segregated groups were asked to portray the following :
Men/women at work; Men/women at home; Men/women in society
||– The women and girl child were bullied and had to do all the house work while the man just sat around and complained.
– There are instances on some projects where women who were given lower priority in the allotment of Project vehicles through they were given the same amount of extension work to do. In the case of both husband and wife being Project employees, they were asked to share the husband’s vehicle.
– The men demanded and got certain benefits; the women employee was hesitant even to ask for legitimate benefits.
– Women had to cope with sexual harassment on buses. Witnesses of this harassment did nothing to help.
- c) Two case studies – (1) Fathima Bee (Ilahi Mahila Sangha, Holalkere); -(2) Wool Spinning Programme of Challakere; were presented in the form of a skit each. The former was of an utterly poor woman married to a good-for-nothing drunk and gambler, who single-handedly built up her family economy and even managed to reform her husband, taking a lot of burden on herself in the process. The latter was a MYRADA programme intended to introduce improved wool spinning technology for women and to make the chore less exhausting and more profitable for them. However, there would be a fruition lag of 3 months (training period) during which she would be getting only a stipend (less than her regular earnings). The men were not properly involved in the planning process. There were arguments and disagreements, and the programme has taken a set back until these are sorted out.
Both case studies were analysed to study how project intervention could be modified to strengthen or weaken the impact of development programmes and through them, the impact on men and women in society.
(These case studies have not been attached to this report but are available on request.)
Annexure – A summarises one set of discussions.
The following clarifications were also emphasised: in the case of gender terminology the distinction between sexual differentiation and gender differentiation is that:
Sexual differentiation is biologically defined.
Gender differentiation is socially defined.
‘Gender’ describes roles, identities and power relations of men and women that are defined by society and socially constructed.
Accepting that these roles, identities, and power relations have by and large, favoured men and discriminated against women, a further distinction has to be made between POSITION and CONDITION :
| POSITION :
||refers to the positioning of women in society in relation to (as subordinate/inferior to) men.
Eg. secondary status in decision making, to eat only after all the men have been fed, the preference for male rather than female children, the presence of widows considered inauspicious at social and religious gatherings, etc.
| CONDITION :
||refer to the everyday situations in which women find themselves.
Eg. smoky kitchens, long walks for water and firewood, too much housework, low wage rates, etc.
For development projects, this distinction has important implications for programme planning.
Development programmes can either be content to address practical concerns, or aim to address strategic concerns.
| PRACTICAL CONCERNS :
||are those concerns that are related to the condition of women and want to improve it. Eg. smoky kitchens can be made smokeless by introducing smokeless chulas, too much house work can be reduced by promoting labour saving gadgets, and so on.
Such programmes are no doubt important and we have to promote them. But in doing so, we have to be aware that they do not really change the role of women or their position in society. A smokeless oven may make the kitchen more comfortable but does not ensure that the women can eat with men or have a greater say in decision making.
| STRATEGIC CONCERNS :
||are those concerns that are related to the position of women and want to change it. Eg. registering assets (land, house etc.) in the names of both men and women, training women to handle technology that has traditionally been in the hands of men (wiring work, vehicle driving, pumpset repair, etc.) and so on. This will enable women to relate with men on a more equal basis. It redefines self-image and expands opportunities.
To sum up the discussions upto this point :
TO BE GENDER-SENSITIVE MEANS TO BE SENSITIVE TO THE POSITIONING OF MEN AND WOMEN IN SOCIETY IN RELATION TO ONE ANOTHER AND TO UNDERSTAND THE RELATIONSHIPS THAT EXIST BETWEEN THEM IN ORDER TO MAKE PROJECT INTERVENTIOS SOCIALLY RELEVANT, USEFUL, AND TARGETED TOWARDS PROMOTING GREATER PARITY IN THESE RELATIONSHIPS.
||Methods & Tools Used In The Field (With Comments From Presentation)
||Activity profiles of men and women in peak and lean seasons (farming families)
||Separate interview with men and women were held and represented using the time line format, from daybreak to bedtime of a typical day. (Output not attached to this report) No attempt was made to reconcile the output from the men’s groups with that from the womens’ group. If this had been done, it would have stimulated interesting discussions.
||Shifts in responsibilities tasks between men and women over the last 10 years
|Interview outputs were represented using a trend-matrix format (with stones etc.) Separate interviews with men and women were then reconciled. A consensus representation was possible, but only after much heated arguments between the men and women. (Output attached as Annexure-B)
||Differences between men and women in the use of traditional and modern health care facilities
|Interview with a group of women only. Dia-grammatically plotted on chart (map-cum-linkage diagram type). Not triangulated through interviewing men and/or the health practitioners themselves. If done, the output would have been more informative. (? more correct too) particularly in discussions relating to reconciling differences in perceptions. (Output attached as Annexure-C)
||Wealth ranking of women-headed households in relation to male-headed household to analyse the reasons for differences, if any, between them.
||This exercise was not actually carried out as proposed but instead obtained women’s criteria for defining poverty and men’s criteria for defining poverty. The exercise was conducted through interviews. Interestingly, while each group listed down the criteria in general terms, their interpretation of these criteria reflected how it affected then (as men or as women) in particular. Eg. Both men and women listed “Lack of economic opportunities”. To the men it simply meant the lack of employment options or the lack of means to utilise these options. To the women on the other hand, it meant additionally that to utilise an opportunity or not was decision to be approved by the men in the household. (Output not attached to this report.)
||Gender differences, if any, in accessibility to flow of information into the village.
||Elicited mainly through interviews in a joint group of men and women, and plotted on chart using a format similar to linkage diagrams. The output was interesting in that much information reached men – mainly through informal sources – of which only a portion was relayed, to women. But on account of an active women’s group in the village (promoted by MYRADA) much more occupationally relevant information reached the women, and was relayed somewhat more faithfully by them to the men. What would have been the situation if the women’s group had not been formed? How does information reach the non-member women and their families? These questions should have been explored but were not. (Output attached as Annexure-D.)
||Gender differences in establishing institutional linkages
||Men and women were jointly interviewed and the output represented in the linkage diagram format. (Output attached as Annexure-E.)
||Relative involvement of men and women in decision making on various issues.
||Men and women were jointly interviewed, and the output was presented in the form of decision- making matrix. There was some confusion with regard to “taking a decision”, “executing the decision taken” and “who was affected by the decision”. (Output attached as Annexure-F.)
||One noteworthy fact was that regardless of who initiated the issue (man or woman) and who took the final decision (man or woman), at the intermediate stage, all discussions leading to the decision involved both men and women. Could this be taken to indicate that women do significantly influence decision-making? The participants involved in this exercise subscribed to the viewpoint that they did. It was also expressed that the final decision depended very much on who were the income-earners of the family and who controlled the family finances.