GENDER JUSTICE: AN ADEQUATE FRAME FOR THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN?
Roundtable discussion: 1st June 2018
John Hume Boardroom, Maynooth University Social Sciences Institute (MUSSI)
DSAI in association with MUSSI and 3U Global Health
Report & Resources
This workshop was attended by over 50 participants from the worlds of academia, NGOs and policy makers. Speakers delivered, in an engaging and participatory way, a rich programme of ideas and papers for discussion.
The workshop examined how the concept of gender justice has been posed as the best overarching frame for the understanding of women and development and in pursuit of the empowerment of women. The history of gender mainstreaming is now being reassessed and its limitations realised. For many it is a problem related to a growing de-politicisation, whereby a technical fix is substituted for a genuine movement for social transformation.
There is a sense that the project for ‘gender justice’ has stalled due to the loss of credibility of the mainstreaming agenda and the failure of the human rights frame to take its place in a period of austerity and an assault on the living standards of working women. A particular problem has been that of finding common ground between the gender equity policies, projects and programmes and the ongoing struggle to assert women’s rights and combat inequality and oppression.
It is in this context of honest reflection and re-energising that the DSAI Gender Study Group, posed the need to interrogate the concept of gender justice from a contextual, conceptual and power-knowledge perspective. A wide range of national and international researchers, practitioners and policy makers made a concerted effort, in a collegial atmosphere, to push the debate forward while informing each other from our very different subject positions.
All presentations and discussions from the event were live streamed. You can view all the videos on Periscope or view each speaker's talk by following the links below. Please click the Play icon to start the video.
Marcela Lopez Levy is a development studies lecturer in the UK and a researcher with Latin American Bureau. She is author of a book on Argentina under the Kirchners: The legacy of left populism amongst other publications.
Dr Levy spoke on the #NiUnaMenos campaign against gender based violence that began in Argentina.
Ni Una Menos is "Not one [woman] less" an Argentine fourth-wave grassroots feminist movement, which has spread across several Latin American countries, that campaigns against gender-based violence. In its official website, Ni una menos defines itself as a "collective cry against machista violence." The movement regularly holds protests against femicides, but has also touched on topics such as gender roles, sexual harassment, gender pay gap, sexual objectification, legality of abortion, sex workers' rights and transgender rights.
Maitrayee Mukhopadhyay, PhD, Senior Advisor at the Royal Tropical Institute in the Netherlands is a social anthropologist specialises in social development with a focus on gender and development. She has 30 years of experience in gender and development research, advisory work, teaching and training.
Her most recent book is Feminist Subversion and Complicity - Governmentalities and Gender Knowledge in South Asia
Dr. Mukhopadhyay's argument around gender mainstreaming is that:
Gender mainstreaming in the 1990s became the principle strategy by which governments and development organisations set out to take the gender agenda. Despite great optimism, 20 years later it is difficult to find any review of gender mainstreaming which has more than a few positive aspects to report among a litany of failures. Gender mainstreaming has taken many forms, and has been rolled out in a variety of organisations from multilaterals, to governments, to small and large non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Yet critiques and reviews are almost universally negative, and several commentators question the viability of gender mainstreaming, seeing it as an irredeemably failed strategy. Future feminist engagements with development institutions cannot be about ‘doing more of the same better’ but rather these strategies need to radically change.
Fenella Porter is Gender Advisor for Oxfam UK, having previously taught on the International Development MSc at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the author of the chapter on gender and NGOs in the Handbook of Development and Social Change.
In her chapter she argues that:
“The interests of women are represented by being inserted into the development system often via international NGOs operating successfully at the highest levels of policy making. This has had a specific impact on the meaning of gender equality, in which the interests of women are aligned with instrumentalised ideas of economic and political participation reduced to buzzwords that garland policy discourses, rather than with more politicised ideas of empowerment and women’s rights”.
For questions on the event or to join the DSAI Gender Study Group, contact Prof. Honor Fagan at firstname.lastname@example.org