Women in Development vs. Gender and Development

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Most of the people who inhabit this world live in poverty. However, women are more likely than men to be impoverished. This is called the feminization of poverty.[1] In the 1970s, feminists and agents of development came up with an approach to address this problem called the Women in Development [WID] approach. As the years went by, this approach was criticized. A new approach emerged out of this critique called Gender and Development [GAD] approach. This paper makes two arguments: that GAD is the best approach to address the inequalities women experience in developing countries, and that the WID approach must also play a supportive role in addressing these inequalities. A crucial difference between the GAD approach and the WID approach is that GAD focuses on gender whereas WID focuses on women[2]. Although many people may think this is the same thing, they are mistaken. Gender is a cultural construct. It is the set of dispositions, behaviours, and roles that a given culture considers appropriate for each sex. Sex, on the other hand, is different from gender. Sex is the physical and biological attributes that differentiate between males and females. The category of women, as focused on by the WID approach, is clearly a category of sex and not gender. This is a major flaw in the WID analysis, for it assumes that women will have common, homogeneous interests simply because of their sex. This ignores that women have varied and often conflicting interests depending on their class, race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation.[3] However, there are obviously areas where women have common interests; yet rather than calling these ‘women’s interests’, a more appropriate term would be ‘gender interests’. These are the interests that women or men share due to the specific concerns surrounding their gender roles and expectations.[4] Since the GAD approach focuses on gender and not sex, it recognizes that a woman’s interests will vary depending...
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