Socio-cultural diversity and values of gender development through the scope of the world’s systems
“Woman” as a concept is to be freed from being traded in as a hot agenda weapon in international development concepts and programs. In a more general scope, “gender” is also a concept that should be freed from being the focus on the agenda of international development.
It might be difficult though to build such a progressive concept as the word gender was not an official common term in ancient history. Yet, in this short essay, the future of gender development will be critically reflected upon from three different angles, based on intersections of the concept of gender (man and woman for the ancient periods) between an ancient pre “third world” pre-Islamic Arab Peninsula concept, then from a Red Indian’s woman positioning prior to the European Colonization, and lastly from a post-colonial African concept through the role and impact of the Woman Bureau (WB) in Kenya. Next, the three concepts will be discussed from an international development approach. Lastly the three aspects will inform the concluding discussion with impact of gender focus on international development discussing the nature of transformation from WID to WAD and recently to GAD.
A 7th century inspirational marriage relationship, initiated by a woman who was admired for her acumen and sought after for her legacy. Khadija excelled to manage her tradelines across the Arab Peninsula and the Levant. She hired Muhammad to accompany her trade, due to his reputable attributes of sincerity, honesty, truthfulness, and compassion to the less privileged. Khadija chose to deem in Muhammad, and her choice to spend her life with him as her husband led to abandoning socially equivalent wealthy businessmen whom she frequently worked and traded with.
Khadija later came to be “The Mother of all Faithfull’s”, and Muhammad (peace be upon him) became to be the very last Prophet of God and the messenger of the Religion of Islam. Prophet Muhammad, who used to run for sanctuary between her arms, and was emotionally, mentally and socially supported by her until she died 15 years after their marriage. A divine preparation to a man through a woman to be able to serve a hard responsibility. The Islamic revelations stopped girl’s infanticide, defined the inheritance system, in which woman officially inherits her family, and forbid the market of prostitution, which is an area where women work in more than men. Some of these sex workers start at an extremely young age, but that is a story for another report (Bancroft-Hinchey, 2014).
The paradox in this relationship is that it happened in Mecca; in an era where newborn females were buried alive because the father would be ashamed of announcing a newborn female. It was also common for widows and divorcees not to remarry. Her attributes embedded hope and empowerment for women weather it being a manager, a businesswoman, a leader, a source of knowledge, or a source of advice and inspiration to her family, community and of course her husband. There are many social and physical characteristics that are expected by gender, and this creates a social and mental impact on the upbringing of children as explained by WHO (Newman, T., 2018). An example of where this doesn’t exist would be the Yoruba society. (Maria Lugones, 2016). Khadija’s role in the prophet’s life included norms of behavior set for both men and women. Khadija as woman, a one-sexed person, acted as a woman in containing her husband and her children with love, care and advise, and on the other hand as a man in managing her trade across cultures. This is if we agree to the categorized characteristics of feminine or masculine back in the 7th century in the Arabian Peninsula, which still exists on a smaller scale now!
Eight centuries later, in the 15th century, we sense another historical positioning of women. The Indian American Navajo’s dances, songs and celebrations are all based on woman. The Spider-Woman. She appears in their stories as the heroic woman who is the protector of the needy, the less privileged, teacher of art and trainer of the indigenous methods of agriculture who’s primary goal was to create a universe with women at its center (Maria Lugones, 2016). With the European colonization of North America, gynocritic spirituality was replaced by the hierarchical gender system of the one supreme male. A change in system that require Social Adjustment Programs (SAP’s) to be introduced and men were trained to take over this new role, through which woman lost most of her role in the community (Maria Lugones, 2016).
In the 20st century WID (Woman and Development 1970’s) changed to WAD (Women and Development 1970’s), which later changed to GAD (Gender and Development 1980’s) (Glaser 1991). WID focused on the idea of egalitarianism and how everyone, no matter their sex or race, should have the same economic opportunities. This included strategies of integrating them into development processes. The WAD perspective focusses on the relationship between women and development processes rather than purely on strategies for the integration of women into development. Finally, GAD is about what socialist feminists have identified the social construction of production and reproduction as the basis of women’s oppression. GAD focuses its attention on the social relations of gender, questioning the validity of roles which have been delegated to both women and men in different societies (Snyder 1995). In modernized Kenya, men dominated the social, economic, and political fields. Women were viewed as mothers and housewives (Snyder 1995). Not until mid-1970’s that woman started being viewed as a source of participation to the urban industrial life, specifically after the World Bank developed Social Adjustment Programs (SAP) after the economic deterioration in Kenya, in an attempt to increase the workers for government trade practices and help improve the economy (Woestman 1994). Soon after that, the term gender was infused into the market to integrate the labor market to the westernized SAP (Schuurman). A confusion is caused, between the Marxist Socialists Feminists GAD supporters, and the WID liberal radical supporters (Stamp 1990). Local socialists announced the subordination of woman and exploitation to her identity and worked on an agenda of “Women as Victims of Patriarchal Structures” (Stamp 1990). A total new image stripped many women of the responsibilities they once had in indigenous pre colonized Kenya (Gatwiri Kariuki, Claris, 2010).
From the above “global” cross sectional view of “gender development” through history, it seems that indigenous communities are more developed than modernized societies in terms of woman productive involvement in the community. Moreover, although there has always been heterosexuality, exploitation of woman in prostitution industries, and devaluation of girls and woman, yet, woman indigenous communities were less gender biased. Men and women’s roles tend to negatively be altered through contact with embedded cultures and economic systems. Views on men and women’s relative status remains connected to the original underlying cultural estimates of maleness and femaleness. They are neglected in “gender‑focused” development policies.
My comprehension of gender development reflects as a human error. An error that will multiply with time. From WID to WAD then GAD, the benefits of local and global development practices for communities engaged in development processes is decreasing the influence of woman in overall value for societies. Gender to replace sex is a “dangerous” development approach that is embedded in globalization and political drives.
I support the approach that gender development, with categorizing binary sex system into a rainbow of genders scheme, will enlarge the intersections among more layers of inequalities. Therefore, positions of women and men, and other gendered based groups, will be burdened even more with the new policies to be created to serve the full scope of genders (Patel, P., & Evans, A. 2011). Moreover, this approach is going to increase the racial segregation based on gender. Levels of discrimination will be experienced differently by male and female-based sexes, different hormonal, psychological and environmental backgrounds (Patel, P., & Evans, A. 2011).