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Patrons of Women

Patrons of Women: Literacy Projects and Gender Development in Rural Nepal

Esther Hertzog
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 278
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  • Book Info
    Patrons of Women
    Book Description:

    Assuming that women's empowerment would accelerate the pace of social change in rural Nepal, the World Bank urged the Nepali government to undertake a "Gender Activities Project" within an ongoing long-term water-engineering scheme. The author, an anthropologist specializing in bureaucratic organizations and gender studies, was hired to monitor the project. Analyzing her own experience as a practicing "development expert," she demonstrates that the professed goal of "women's empowerment" is a pretext for promoting economic organizational goals and the interests of local elites. She shows how a project intended to benefit women, through teaching them literary and agricultural skills, fails to provide them with any of the promised resources. Going beyond the conventional analysis that positions aid givers vis-a-vis powerless victimized recipients, she draws attention to the complexity of the process and the active role played by the Nepalese rural women who pursue their own interests and aspirations within this unequal world. The book makes an important contribution to the growing critique of "development" projects and of women's development projects in particular.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-985-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations and Dramatis Personae
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. x-xii)
  6. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Haim Hazan

    Public anthropology is often criticized for vacillating between a disciplinary commitment to a credible accounting for the experienced reality it studies and an accountability to worthy social causes. This divided loyalty between knowledge and ethics is habitually resolved through an unbending subscription to one or other all-embracing ideology that furnishes both the need for an over-arching cosmopolitan morality and the imperative of providing a cogent, well-informed interpretation of the matter in hand. Thus, postcolonialism, feminism, anti-globalism and other -isms of our day are turned, in the name of critical thinking, into indisputable, politically correct tenets of an uncritical, self-indulgent anthropological...

  7. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 1-46)

    Gender development programs should be discussed against the wider background of development projects in developing countries.¹ Much of the criticism concerning development discourse and practices in developing countries applies to projects that aspire to effect social change in gendered power relations. Thus, the discussion of a women’s development project in Nepal will be linked in this opening chapter to the critical literature about development at large and gendered development in particular.

    Various studies draw a parallel between development or aid projects and neocolonialism. Thus, for instance, Chilisa Bagele (2005) argues that “neocolonialism” signifies the dependence of many formerly colonized countries...

  9. Chapter 1 The Vulnerable Patron: Playing the Role of a Foreign Gender Consultant
    (pp. 47-78)

    Recounting my experience as a patron in Nepal in the summer of 1997 seems to be a suitable way to begin a discussion about how and why people, men in particular, patronize other people, women in particular, in the context of gender development projects. Studying the dynamics and nature of patronization from a personal, and in my case, a woman’s point of view, makes this subject intriguing .and disturbing at one and the same time. Dealing with women’s patronization from my own experience enables a better understanding of questions such as: How are people absorbed into the frameworks of local,...

  10. Chapter 2 Instrumental Patronage: Leon and Hanna
    (pp. 79-108)

    If physical appearance can reflect one’s societal role or status—as Edward Gifford (1929: 3), Marshall Sahlins (1963: 288), and Paula Brown (1990: 97) have suggested—then Leon’s appearance presents a stereotypic “caricature” (Sahlins 1963: 289) of a colonial patron.¹ Comparing political structures in Polynesia and Melanesia, Sahlins points to differences between the types of leaders of these two societies, which even their physical bearing reflects. The Melanesian “big man,” he says: “seems so thoroughly bourgeois, so reminiscent of the free-enterprising rugged individual of our own heritage. He combines with an ostensible interest in the general welfare a more profound...

  11. Chapter 3 Marginalizing Economic Activities, Profiting from Literacy Classes
    (pp. 109-126)

    Empowering women in the rural area of the Lumbini region was the basic rationale of the Gender Activities Program embedded in the Bhairahawa Lumbini Groundwater Project (BLGWP), an agricultural enterprise. Located in the Rupandehi district in the Tarai, the irrigation project extended over 20,800 hectares of irrigable land. A formal document states that by 1999, when it was slated for completion, the irrigation project was intended “to raise the standard of living of the rural population living within its boundaries, most of which are farmers, and the status of women in particular, so as to enable them to contribute more...

  12. Plates section 1
    (pp. 127-133)
  13. Chapter 4 The Role of Economic Activities in Negotiating Consent
    (pp. 134-174)

    On my second day in Bhairahawa I became acquainted both with the landscape on the way from the irrigation project offices to the villages, and with the ritual encounters that were part and parcel of visits to the villages. Leaving Bhairahawa, we drove on wrecked roads, sharing them with animals carrying wagons, old bicycles, and vehicles—a typical countryside scene. Green rice fields made a lovely sight to watch during the uncomfortable ride. On the muddy banks of the wide river Dno, many men were digging deep into the mud, probably looking for useful construction materials. The way to the...

  14. Chapter 5 The Seminar: The Successful Failure of the Women’s Empowerment Project
    (pp. 175-194)

    The village teachers’ training course (hereafter, the seminar) was the main and probably sole achievement of my stay in Nepal. The fact that some ten village women received formal certification from the Ministry of Education to teach other women in their villages, acknowledging their entitlement to carry out literacy training, turned out to be the peak of my activity as the irrigation project’s foreign consultant on gender issues. This achievement stands out against the background of the profound and insistent objection to the women’s program and the ongoing attempts of the irrigation project’s local heads to prevent its implementation. In...

  15. Plates section 2
    (pp. 195-200)
  16. Chapter 6 Gender and the Phantom Budget
    (pp. 201-235)

    An examination of the “budget affair” exposes the essential features and the symbolic implications of the budget within the narrative of the women’s development project. The budget affair began with Tovi Fenster’s stay in Nepal during the summer of 1996 and continued during my stay one year later. In discussing Fenster’s and my own cost estimation earlier (see Chapter 3) I indicated how the two budgets exposed our preference for literacy classes, for gender awareness workshops, and similar projects, while pushing aside economic activities. Another impact of the budget, described earlier, was the vibrant round of social engagements that evolved...

  17. References
    (pp. 236-254)
  18. Index
    (pp. 255-260)