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Table of Contents Volume 3, Spring 2006 atlantic international studies journal Trained Cynics? The importance

Table of Contents

Volume 3, Spring 2006

atlantic international studies journal

Trained Cynics? The importance of optimism in International Relations………………………………… i editorial

Nationalism A compiled review……………………………………………………………………….iii guy gautreau and laura young, compilers

Situating Micro-Finance on a Theoretical Spectrum:

The case of Bolivia……………………………………………………………………… 1 emily shepard

Gender in Women’s Development Organizations:

from participation to empowerment…………………………………………………… betsy macdonald


Iraqi Kurdistan…………………………………………………………………………24 mike freen

The Terrorist Threat:

its impact on American civil liberties and democracy………………………………… lindsay gorman


Provincial Reconstruction Teams…………………………………………………… shanley macarthur


The Environment and Conflict in the Rwandan Genocide………………………… 58 stephen brosha

The Border of Dreams:

Burmese women working in Thailand’s sex industry…………….……… melanie mcdonald


Determining the Success of a Transnational Social Movement:

Evaluating the Global Call to Action Against Poverty Coalition……………………… 86 allison sephton

Trained Cynics? The Importance of Optimism in International Relations Editorial

W e are discussing the consumption and adoption of Southern culture by the North, in a class entitled,

“Geography of the Developing World.” The jaded international relations students have brought up tourism and its negative ramifications on indigenous culture; have discussed property rights abuses in relation to indigenous healing; have put forward the oft- repeated view that the relationship between the North and the South is exploitative. Someone raises her hand timidly and queries, “Maybe this interchance of cultures between the North and the South broadens horizons and identities? Maybe it creates awareness amongst those of us who are so lucky to live in the North? For humanity, this is maybe a good thing?”

My friend turns to me, mirroring my stunned look, and she says what I am sure we are all thinking: “We are so cynical! We see the good side, but we only ever talk about the negatives.” So often we are pessimistic about the future. We get caught up in being critical and overlook the successes we have already accomplished – success captured in this year’s journal in the form of remarkably thoughtful and thought-provoking contributions from people who are genuinely interested in making a difference to this world; people who demonstrate each day their belief that it is

possible to improve the lot of humanity as a whole. Students, I think, are particularly susceptible to pessimism, as we are encouraged to think critically about each argument presented to us, to search out flaws. We become excellent cynics. It is for this reason (amongst many others) that this journal is so important, within the Atlantic region, certainly, but also as a sampling of the exciting new scholarship being created by undergraduate students everywhere. Hopefully, this years ATLIS journal will inspire and encourage further interest and innovation in the arena of international politics. It has become a tiresome cliché to say that we live in a time of dramatic change, yet this sentiment should not be ignored simply because we hear it so frequently. We do live in a time of dramatic change. Whether you are morally for or against globalization, there can be little doubt that perceptions of space and time are collapsing thanks to technology such as the internet. This year, I have had friends go to Poland, China, Sweden, Argentine, and Kenya – a diverse range of countries and experiences. I can talk to them all at the same time, online (barring time change differences). To me, this is the epitome of globalization. The diversification of the International Relations field reflects this broadening and


deepening of our understanding of the world and the actors within it. Within this journal are pieces related to Gender Studies, History, to Political Science and to Geography. Each of these papers further draws on other disciplines, pulling strands of thought from the sciences, the social sciences, and personal experience to create a more encompassing, engaging, and realistically complex view of what is occurring in the world today. Gone are the black and white (or red and white?) discussions of Cold War politics. Certainly the theories that originated in that time still influence today’s thought, but they are not longer central. Today we worry about the homogenization of culture, about gender inequality, about political economy – we focus not solely on state security, but on human security. We focus on what we have in common, rather than on our differences. Our focus has shifted to humanity. We focus on improving the lost of millions of people who were not lucky in their birthplace, and a large part of our willingness to engage in these acts of improvement have to do with the interchange of culture between North and South. With the broadening and deepening of our awareness, here in the North, of the disadvantages and daily struggles of those in the South, so too is the international relations discipline enlarged. Of course, we in the North can never understand these struggles at a personal level – but we have a willingness to engage in finding new means of problem solving, and we have the skills to sift through development precedents and come up with our own solutions. And while those solutions may not solve the problems as we hope, they are at the very least a step in a bumbling path that we can hope will only lead to good. That hope, that optimism and belief in the existence of solutions, is the foundation of any scholarship in this discipline, and despite the critical analyses presented in the following pages, it sings through this journal, merely in the fact of its existence, as well as in each

individual contributor’s unique voice and experience. This year’s ATLIS journal is diverse, with no unifying theme other than its very diversity. Enjoy!

Book Review: Nationalism Rabindranath Tagore Guy Gautreau and Laura Young, compilers

Tagore, Rabindranath. “Nationalism.” (Kessinger Publishing, 1917).

Rabindranath Tagore, born in Calcutta in the latter half of the 19th century, has left a literary legacy encompassing many themes and genres, and was the first Asian to be awarded the Nobel Prize in 1913 (Literature). He published Nationalism in 1917 after a lecture tour abroad on the subject, and in it, spoke of human destiny and the duality between mind and spirit. He also deplored the effects of nationalism and denounced patriotism, arguing instead for the appreciation of spiritual and humanistic values as well as greater cross-cultural understanding. The following are excerpts from student book reviews written under the guidance of Owen Griffiths, Ph. D., and Associate Professor of History at Mount Allison University.

The beginning of the First World War heralded a new era in political theory. Doubts as to the validity of certain political ideologies began to emerge in intellectual circles as Europe, followed by the world, deteriorated into conflict. In Europe, doubts centred on state interactions and the nature of man, while in the colonies, doubts centred on the previously unchallenged idea of European superiority. Questions regarding Europeans’ natural right to govern so-called inferior peoples emerged as civilization in Europe crumbled. Until recently, the contributions of nationalism to the rapid cascade of war in the years preceding World Wars One and Two have been sidelined. In this respect, Rabindranath Tagore was astoundingly prescient in his series of lectures published in 1917. Published collectively under the title “Nationalism,” the lectures propound that nationalism was the cause of what was then believed to be the war to end all wars, and cautions audiences against the “anaesthetizing” influence of the quest for nationalism


At the time of Tagore’s writing, Social Darwinism was the geo-political catch-phrase and, as in scientific Darwinism, only those deemed fit by survival were successful. Those that were unfit “must go to the wall – they shall die, and this is science,” (45). The problem with adapting ‘survival of the fittest’ to international relations is the perception of death resulting from unfitness: only nations could be fit – and as a result, the perception that “As long as nations are rampant in this world we have not the option freely to develop our higher humanity” (38). Individuality has no place in success as it is defined under social Darwinism, and so we are hindered by our “fetich


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[sic] of nationalism,” (39). It is through competition that each society will be drawn into this fetish (38-39). The alliances of the First World War further reflect (and lend support to) Tagore’s concern that nationalistic “machines will come into an agreement, for their mutual protection, based upon a conspiracy of fear;” a type of international social contract that is not unlike that suggested by Thomas Hobbes at the domestic/societal level. Furthermore, this survival of the fittest at the international level encourages a ‘beggar-thy-neighbour’ sort of policy: the motto of nations becomes “Help yourself, and never heed what it costs to others,” (96-97). Thus he justifies doubt in English superiority, tracing the means by which nationalism has underscored the morality of their actions and subsequently undermined their strong position in the world: “the West has been systematically petrifying her moral nature in order to lay a solid foundation for her gigantic abstractions of inefficiency” through the machinery of nationalism, which supersedes any human characteristic (46). “The veil has been raised, and in this frightful way the West has stood face to face with her own creation, to which she had offered her soul,” (59). That the West had begun to doubt itself further legitimated doubt in the colonies and enabled intellectual circles in those territories to create alternative paths, that would emerge later in the twentieth century. (Young)

Although the lectures are presented as discrete units, metaphors across the three serve to link them to one another, and an overarching theme of heart versus mind can be discerned. This debate has been a popular one throughout history since the emergence of science and rational thought in the Enlightenment and the subsequent attempt at reconciliation between two means of understanding the universe that are frequently presumed to be diametrically opposed. (Young)

[Tagore’s] use of language throughout [Nationalism] is beautiful and many of his ideas enduring, but definitions and scientific evidence are mostly absent. It is quite probable that Tagore abhorred the overtly methodological use of language to express deep thoughts, simply because it so resembles the stark mechanical character of capitalist production within the European nation itself. As a result though, what happens is that many of his most important statements are seemingly lost within broader descriptions and hidden in the middle of paragraphs…since they do not always follow a coherent logical sequence. For instance, he states at one point: “I am not against one nation in particular, but against the general idea of all nations. What is the Nation? It is the aspect of a whole people as an organized power” (131). This quotation, as much as any, sums Tagore’s theses, yet it is found in an obscure section of the text on nationalism in India. Rather than to criticize his writing style, which again is admirable, I would simply like to draw attention here to the difficulties that exist in trying to uncover Tagore’s inner logic and rationality. (Gautreau)

…[Tagore] is criticizing, with much wit and inspiration, the direction the entire human race is taking. The West, he insists, is embarking on a dangerously dehumanizing path. “The vital ambition of the present civilization of Europe is to have the exclusive possession of the devil,” (101). The Nation, for Tagore, is based on many things, some worthy but many entirely abject: organized self-interest, greed for wealth

special contribution


and shallow power, fear of exploitation by an alienating and mechanical mode of production, the delusion of freedom, the fall of virtue, unconsciousness, an unsustainable future that will either lead to catastrophe or a necessary spiritual rebirth, and so on. Conversely, those that avoid nationalism (he longed that India, Japan, and the rest of Asia would do so) and maintain their spiritual integrity thus avoid this grim fate and have no need for so-called rebirth. “The East with her ideals, in whose bosom are stored the ages of sunlight and silence of stars, can patiently wait till the West, hurrying after the expedient, losses breath and stops” (81). His message is simultaneously naïve and visionary; his stance futile and courageous. Nationalism challenges the power of words, because the task of showing the decline of spirituality in the West is far from easy. (Gautreau)

Tagore is addressing his argument specifically to a Western audience. To this end, although he writes from an Indian perspective, his main goal is to convince the people of the West of the danger which the Western Nation poses to their own freedom. This argument introduces one of Tagore’s most potent ideas, that the very idea of the nation itself is an anaesthetic that blinds people to the truth of its nature and deludes them into ignoring its oppressive force. Tagore believes that there is a disconnect between the ideals of the Western spirit and the reality of the Western Nation to which the people of that nation are blind. Tagore points to the paradox of the West, “while the Spirit of the West marches under its banner of freedom, the Nation of the West forges its iron chains of organization,” (37). In Tagore’s opinion the people of the West have deluded themselves into sacrificing their own freedoms for the good of the Nation, naively believing that the good of the nation is the same as the good of the people, when in reality they have simply bartered their “higher aspirations in life for profit and power,” (40). (MacLachlan)

It is easy to accept [Tagore’s] assertions of an Eastern civilization “devoid of all politics” and concerned only with the soul (17) while the West is characterized by a scientifically organized scramble for material wealth. These distinctions at first may not seem remarkable because we have internalized these ideas of the Orient and the West and the values that each supposedly hold. However, the legitimacy of these assumptions is certainly deserving of some examination. The second aspect of these essays that can perhaps be considered a weak point is Tagore’s idealism of the pasts of both the West and the East. Throughout the three essays, Tagore makes reference to an Asia of the past that “…was united with India in the closest tie of friendship…” and where relations between countries were “not that of self-interest, or exploration and spoliation of each other’s pockets…” (75). However, we know that Asia has not been exempt from the forces that have ruled the rest of human history; she has seen her share of states in conflict and wars of expansion and invasion. Tagore has equally laudatory words for the Middle Ages of Europe – according to him, “Europe owes all her greatness in humanity to that period…” (47). A period, if looked at honestly, characterized by religious persecution in Europe and perpetrated by Europeans abroad, and an extremely rigid, religiously inspired hierarchy that kept the majority in abject poverty. Therefore, it is hard to take seriously Tagore’s analysis of history, and these


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statements seem intended to appeal to a colonized people resentful of their present situation and proud of their past rather than as facts supporting his thesis. Perhaps, however, the above weaknesses are only facets of the kind of writing Tagore has undertaken. He is not a scholar, but a poet, and he is not writing for academia, but to get a message out to the population at large. Appealing to peoples’ sentiments, with messages that have emotional, if not entirely factual truth, is undeniably a powerful method of promoting and spreading ideas. That today, for a Canadian university student, some aspects of Tagore’s essays are a little hard to swallow may just prove his point about the scientific, narrow bent of the Western mind (Williams).

Nationalism provides a rich commentary on the concept of the Nation. Since Nationalism was written, the world has seen the rise of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Soviet Russia propelled by intense patriotism. America, the world hegemon of the moment, has also been fuelled by patriotism and found itself in several international situations viewed as less than humanitarian. If the evils of Tagore’s Nation have been illustrated several times since 1913 and continue to be today, the book must have some value, despite the fact that Tagore’s solutions lay in a fictional East. (Durrant).

Tagore’s prophecy that the nation will decline like the sun setting in his poem has yet to be fulfilled. Today the modern nations of the world persist, but we are faced with the growth of a new beast, one that in many places rivals the power of the nation: the Corporation. Reading Tagore’s book from a modern perspective one could almost completely substitute the use of the word “Nation” with “Corporation.” In many ways their definitions are the same and the destructive power they possess is identical. The parallels between the two mechanisms are many, but what is truly remarkable is how Tagore’s writing can act as a lesson about both. His treatise is still magnificent because it is still applicable to its intended purpose but has also come to mean more than Tagore intended. One could still read his book as a comment on the modern nations which have spread out around the globe, but it could also now be read as a warning about the powerful Corporations which have sprung up and now threaten to exceed the destructive power of even the Nation. (MacLachlan).

Indubitably, Tagore’s cautionary tales have high relevance in today’s international arena. As Durrant highlights, the largest conflicts of the 20 th century have been inspired by nationalistic sentiment – and as MacLachlan so provocatively suggests, although nationalism may be on the decline, we are witnessing the emergence of a new threat, similar in its disregard for humanity, in the rise of the multinational corporation. Yet the novelty of this threat should in no way overshadow the original purpose of Tagore’s lectures. Nationalism still plays a crucial role in the events that occur on the world stage, even in the new 21 st century, post 9/11. The attacks of 9/11 may have been based in differing ideological sentiments, but they were executed both on and through symbols of national pride: the successful free-market economy, as represented by the World Trade Centre; and nationally-based airlines. Nationalism should thus remain a fundamental international relations text.

special contribution vii


Durrant, Christopher. Nationalism. Unpublished paper. 2006.

Gautreau, Guy. Nationalism. Unpublished paper. 2006.

MacLachlan, Caitlin. Nationalism. Unpublished paper. 2006.

Roberts, Zoe. Nationalism. Unpublished paper. 2006.

Young, Laura. Nationalism. Unpublished paper. 2006.

Situating Micro-Finance on a Theoretical Spectrum:

The Case of Bolivia Emily Shepard

A ccording to the United Nations, 2005 was the year of micro-credit. Touted as “the newest darling of the aid

community,” micro-credit has been promoted as a viable tool for development by influential international organizations such as the World Bank. 1 Despite a proliferation of literature on the benefits of micro-finance, few scholars have discussed the theoretical bases of this recent phenomenon. As such, this paper will argue that micro-finance can be theoretically situated on a continuum which is book ended by neo-liberalism and participatory development. The paper will then explore the parameters of three micro-finance institutions in Bolivia: Banco Solidario, Caja Los Andes, and ProMujer, and attempt to place them along this theoretical spectrum. In doing so, it will explore some of the disadvantages of the theoretical situations of each micro-lender, as they relate to the Bolivian market.

1 Claudio Gonzales-Vega, Richard L. Meyer, Sergio Navajas, Mark Schreiner. “Microcredit and the poorest of the poor: Theory and evidence from Bolivia.” World Development 28.2 (2000): 1.; François Bourguignon, James D. Wolfenson. “Development and Poverty Reduction; Looking Back, Looking Ahead.” The World Bank (2004).


Micro-credit can be loosely defined as the provision of small loans to those who would not typically be able to borrow due to a lack of collateral. 2 Micro-credit can be provided by a number of sources, including family members, pawnshops, non-governmental organizations, and commercial banks. 3 The formalization of micro-credit in recent years has been embraced by two theories of development: neo-liberalism and participatory development. The theoretical motivations for micro-credit exist along a spectrum. At one end is the neo- liberal model, highlighting economics and the private sector as critical tools of development. At the opposing end is participatory development, promoting local diversity and agendas as the basis of economic growth and holistic development. Although both purportedly seek to alleviate poverty, when actualized, these theories differ in terms of who provides loans, who receives loans, and how loans are constructed. Neo-liberalism became a dominant theory of development in the 1980s, and continues to be the theoretical motivation

2 Jonathon Conning, Claudio Gonzales-Vega, Sergio Navajas, “Lending technologies, competition and consolidation in the market for microfinance in Bolivia.” Journal of International Development 15 (2003): 747-


3 Muhammad Yunus. “What is Microcredit?” The Grameen Bank (2004).


emily shepard

for influential organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Neo-liberal ideology relies on individuals to make rational decisions that

are in their best interests, and assumes that such decisions will lead to the betterment of society through the growth of the market. 4 This market should be as detached from the state as possible, with the state regulating rather than initiating economic activity. 5

Economic growth and prosperity is the main goal of any development project, and “is considered of greater value than individual welfare, local culture and tradition, and the environment in development proposals.” 6

Micro-credit does not initially appear as an area in which neo-liberals would be interested. As a ‘bottom-up’ method of poverty alleviation, micro-credit clashes with the typically ‘top-down’ methodology of neo-liberalism. However, micro-credit for micro-enterprise becomes a neo-liberal construct when one views it as the formalizing an informal economy. According to a report on poverty reduction published by the World Bank, “Private enterprise operating through the market is the main engine of sustained economic

growth.” 7 By exposing pre-existing informal economic networks, as well as providing the opportunity for the creation of additional formal businesses, neo-liberalism posits that the macroeconomic situation of the state will improve. Whereas neo-liberalism is fundamentally about economics, participatory development (PD) is focused on power and community. In PD, economic power becomes a part of a holistic

conception of power, which includes structures of knowledge, social situations, and political influences. 8 PD values local diversity and agendas, seeking to implement projects using local knowledge, local capital, and local labour. 9

Micro-credit… becomes a means of developing local communities according to a mainstream definition of development in an alternative way

The community is the agent that requires development, rather than the individual or the state. As such, PD is largely delivered by NGOs and community organizations rather than national or international bodies. 10 The ‘instrumental’ strain of participatory development best explains the connection between PD and micro-credit. Within the instrumental view, “The goals of development are valid although the institutions are malfunctioning, but can be improved by involving the beneficiaries.” 11 Micro-credit thus becomes a means of developing local communities according to a mainstream definition of development in an alternative way.

4 Peter March, Terry March. “Neoliberalism not so new: Philosophy accepts survival of the fittest as norm for society.” Daily News 4 Sept. 2000: 14.

5 David Simon. “Neo-liberalism, structural adjustment and poverty reduction strategies.” The Companion to Development Studies Ed. Vandana Desai, Robert B. Potter. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002. 86-91.

6 John Morris, Kris Stevens. “Struggling toward sustainability: Considering grassroots development.” Sustainable Development 9.3 (2001):11.

7 François Bourguignon, James D. Wolfenson, “Development and Poverty Reduction; Looking Back, Looking Ahead.” The World Bank (2004): 9.

8 Giles Mohan. “Participatory Development.” The Companion to Development Studies Ed. Vandana Desai, Robert B. Potter. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002. 49-54.

9 ibid.

10 ibid.

11 ibid., 50

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By subverting the bureaucratic state, micro- credit allows the true needs of individual communities to be addressed There are three primary grounds on which neo-liberalism and participatory development differ in terms of micro- finance. Firstly, neo-liberalism is focused on the betterment of the market, whereas participatory development is focused on the betterment of a community. Secondly, neo- liberalism relies of the rational choices of the individual, whereas participatory development relies on the collective choices of groups of and societies. Finally, given the neo-liberal bias toward economics, neo- liberals are more likely to view their borrowers as clients, whereas those valuing participatory development consider their borrowers as beneficiaries. With this theoretical spectrum in mind, it is pertinent to examine several cases of micro-lending institutions, their compositions, their ‘clients’ and their services. In doing so, the theoretical applications of both neo-liberalism and participatory development will become more apparent, as will the ambiguous middle ground in between these polarized ideologies.


Bolivia is currently home to a wide variety of micro-lending institutions. The Bolivian market was primed for such institutions throughout the 1980s, when dense urban populations and the effective failure of the formal financial sector caused extreme poverty and disillusionment with traditional banking. 12 Conning et al. (2003) divide the evolution of the Bolivian market for micro- credit into three stages. The first stage began

12 Jonathon Conning, Claudio Gonzales-Vega, Sergio Navajas. “Lending technologies, competition and consolidation in the market for microfinance in Bolivia.”

in 1992 with the emergence of commercial bank Banco Solidario (BancoSol). The second stage began three years later, when financial intermediary (Fondo Financiero Privado, henceforth referred to as FFP) Caja Los Andes entered the regulated market, providing substantial competition for BancoSol. The third stage, beginning around 1998 and continuing into the present, has been characterized by a dramatic increase in competition. Smaller micro-lenders have flooded the market, including innumerable unregulated NGOs targeting specific populations. In July 2003, 220 regulated organizations existed to provide micro-credit, compared with the monopoly held by Banco Solidario nine years earlier. Based on this evaluation, it is clear that Bolivia is an excellent market in which to examine different varieties of micro-lenders. Three organizations have been chosen, each characterizing one of Navajas et al.’s stages of micro-credit in Bolivia: Banco Solidario, Caja Los Andes, and ProMujer.

Stage I: Banco Solidario Infrastructure Banco Solidario (BancoSol) was formed from the NGO Fundación para la Promoción y Desarrollo de la MicroEmpresa (PRODEM, est.1987) in 1992, and was the first NGO to evolve into a commercial bank. 13 An understanding of the implications of the title “commercial bank” to micro-finance is critical to understanding the foundations of BancoSol. As a commercial bank, BancoSol has been able to expand its services to include debit cards, tax payments, mortgages, and loans to finance the purchases of vehicles. 14 In addition to this expansion of services, the status of commercial bank has allowed BancoSol to

13 David Schwartz. “Following Bolivia’s example: The

commercialization of microfinance.” Women & Environments International Magazine 54/55 (2002): 32-


14 BancoSol. “Our Products.” Accessed March 18, 2005.


emily shepard

attract more foreign and national private

capital. 15 This capital has increased the cost of liabilities, forcing BancoSol to improve its efficiency through projects such as more advanced computing systems. More experienced and business-minded managers were hired to supervise and implement this costly process. In order to minimize the financial impact of a more advanced infrastructure, BancoSol provided longer and larger loans, resulting in an increase in clientele from 23,000 in 1992 to 81,000 in

1998. 16

The benefits of commercial bank status have been accompanied by tight regulation by the government, including stipulations regarding eligibility for a loan, hours of operation, and interest rates. 17 As such, BancoSol has encountered both advantages and disadvantages in the status of commercial bank.

Clientèle In 2002, BancoSol provided loans to 50,904 clients, and an average loan of $827 in 2001. 18 Their poorest client in 1999 received an annual salary of $60. 19 Comparatively, BancoSol’s clients are neither extremely wealthy, nor extremely poor. As the largest micro-lending institution in Bolivia, BancoSol is unable to offer specified loans and therefore appeals more

15 Gonzales-Vega, Claudio, Meyer, Richard L, Navajas, Sergio, Schreiner, Mark. “Microcredit and the poorest of the poor: Theory and evidence from Bolivia.” World Development 28.2 (2000): 333-346.

16 Mark Schreiner. “Aspects of outreach: A framework for discussion of the social benefits of microfinance.” 14.5 (2002): 591-603.

17 Consultive Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP). “Bolivia: Country Indicators.” Last Updated: Jul,


18 BancoSol. “Annual Report: 2002.” (2002).

19 Paul Mosley. “Microfinance and poverty in Bolivia.” The Journal of Development Studies 37.4 (2001): 101-133.

to the status quo than any minority. This “one size fits all” philosophy can hinder both higher- productivity borrowers and those who need special accommodations to escape severe poverty. 20 By providing a series of standard loans, BancoSol is able to reach the broadest market possible, at a lower overall cost. 21

Loan Structure BancoSol has traditionally provided group loans at a minimum of $100. 22 These groups consist of three to seven people who own a variety of businesses, each of which must be at least six months old. Within a group, there must be some similarities in terms of credit needs, and the businesses must not be related in terms of transactions or family connections. Group members are individually assessed for their abilities to repay based on interviews, personal financial information, and business records. 23 Once a group has been formed, it is accountable for collective installments to repay the bank. This form of “social collateral” ensures that if one group member is unable to pay, the rest of the members must compensate for the deficit. 24 Should the group installment be incomplete, pressure will be placed on the entire group through financial penalties and threats of reporting group members as defaulters to other credit agencies. Once a group has repaid the initial loan, it is eligible for a second, larger loan. This progressive lending attempts to ensure customer loyalty. 25

20 Jonathon Conning, Claudio Gonzales-Vega, Sergio

Navajas. “Lending technologies, competition and consolidation in the market for microfinance in Bolivia.” Journal of International Development 15 (2003): 753

21 ibid.

22 Paul Mosley. “Microfinance and poverty in Bolivia.” The Journal of Development Studies 37.4 (2001): 101-


23 Eric Van Tassel. “A study of group lending and incentives in Bolivia.” International Journal of Social Economics 27.7-10 (2000): 927.

24 ibid.

25 ibid.

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Stage II: Caja Los Andes Infrastructure Caja Los Andes was established in 1995, emerging from the NGO Procredito (est. 1992). As of July 2003 Caja Los Andes was one of seven FFPs in Bolivia, and one of the most profitable micro-finance agencies in Bolivia. 26 The legal category of FFP was established in 1993 to designate financial institutions that are solely devoted to micro- finance. In order to obtain the status of an FFP, the micro-finance operation must be run by those experienced in the provision of micro-credit. 27 An FFP is regulated in similar ways to a bank, with the main distinction being much lower minimum capital requirement. 28 However, unlike banks, FFPs cannot provide specific services such as chequing accounts or trust funds.

Clientèle Caja Los Andes serves primarily urban clients. Clients are generally better educated, wealthier, and better established that those of BancoSol. Whereas 3 percent of BancoSol clients had achieved beyond a grade 12 education in 1995, 11 percent of Caja Los Andes clients had achieved this level. Clients of Caja Los Andes are more likely than those of BancoSol to have access to running water, electricity, and waste disposal

26 Jonathon Conning, Claudio Gonzales-Vega, Sergio Navajas. “Lending technologies, competition and consolidation in the market for microfinance in Bolivia.” Journal of International Development 15 (2003): 747-770; Consultive Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP). “Bolivia: Country Indicators.” Last Updated: Jul, 2003.

27 Consultive Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP). “Bolivia: Country Indicators.” Last Updated: Jul,


28 David Schwartz. “Following Bolivia’s example:

The commercialization of microfinance.” Women & Environments International Magazine 54/55 (2002):


services within their home. They are also more likely to own their homes, and possess liquid collateral. 29

Loan Structure Similar criteria are held for loan eligibility, including a clean credit history and a business that has been in operation for at least a year. 30 However, the types of loans that are offered vary significantly with those of BancoSol. Caja Los Andes offers only individual loans, often secured through personal guarantees. Loans are often larger, with an emphasis on financing manufacturing projects. In 1995, eight percent of Caja Los Andes loans were over $1000, whereas zero percent of BancoSol loans exceeded the same amount. In terms of all loans offered by both institutions, 27 percent of Caja Los Andes’s were over $1000, compared to 18 percent of BancoSol’s. 31 Screening processes are also more extensive and precise. A critical component of the screening process allows Caja Los Andes to “tailor loan contracts to each borrower’s productivity level.” 32 Caja Los Andes is also careful to offer loans only to borrowers “to which it can profitably lend.” 33 This specification of economic potential has allowed Caja Los Andes to reduce interest rates and become a more efficient operation. However, this has also meant a decreased interest in providing smaller loans, as they are less profitable.

29 Claudio Gonzalez-Vega, Richard L. Meyer, Guillermo F Monje, Sergio Navajas, Jorge Rodriguez-Meza, Mark Schreiner. “Microfinance market niches and client profiles in Bolivia.” Economics and Sociology (1996)

occ. paper no. 2346.

30 ibid.

31 ibid.

32 Jonathan Conning, Claudio Gonzales-Vega, Sergio Navajas. “Lending technologies, competition and consolidation in the market for microfinance in Bolivia.” Journal of International Development 15 (2003): 747-





emily shepard

Stage III: ProMujer Infrastructure ProMujer is a micro-finance institution that lends solely to women. It began in 1990, as an NGO that provided training for women on familial and domestic issues. Services expanded the following year to include micro-credit, although this service did not become remarkably popular until 1994. 34 As an NGO, ProMujer experiences the least regulation of all micro-lenders examined in this paper. 35 As such, the composition of ProMujer is not determined by the government. Between 81 and 90 percent of ProMujer’s operations are concerned with micro-finance, and the remainder seek to educate women on everything from childcare to business management. 36 The mission of ProMujer is, “is to empower women to improve their social and economic status… Since good health and self-esteem directly contribute to a woman’s ability to earn income and care for her family ProMujer also provides health and human development and links women and their families to health services.” 37 (ProMujer, 2005) ProMujer is focused on creating links between women and other women, and between women and their communities as a way to attain development.

Clientèle ProMujer’s clientèle is much more specific than that of either Caja Los Andes or BancoSol. ProMujer lends to primarily urban women, most of whom have recently

34 MixMarket. “ProMujer – Bolivia.Accessed:

March 15, 2005.


35 Consultive Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP). “Bolivia: Country Indicators.” Last Updated: Jul,


36 ibid.

37 ProMujer. “Mission.” Accessed: March 13, 2005.

migrated from surrounding urban areas. This specific form of loan has caught on -between 1994 and 2003, ProMujer’s client base grew from 4,000 to nearly 40,000. The average loan size is a mere $146, with a minimum loan of $50, indicating that borrowers are operating smaller businesses with lower capital needs. 38 ProMujer’s clients are generally poorer than those of other micro-credit agencies, with the poorest clients earning $45 annually. According to an analysis conducted by Marconi et al., 38.3 percent of the clients of ProMujer and similar NGO Crecer were “poor and destitute,” as opposed to 10.6 percent of clients of other micro-finance institutions. 39 In the same way, 14.1 percent of ProMujer and Crecer clients did not have the lowest level of education, as opposed to 5.1 percent of other micro-finance clients. 40

Loan Structure ProMujer provides the most comprehensive and time-intensive form of micro-credit. As previously discussed, ProMujer emphasizes training as a vital counterpart to the actual loans offered through micro-credit. This emphasis is actualized in ProMujer’s three-part credit program, which includes 16 hours of pre-credit training, and a four-month initial loan period in which weekly meetings are held to continue training. During the pre-credit program, women form “solidarity groups” similar to those formed by clients of BancoSol. These groups are then responsible for the repayment of a group loan, and the amount offered for a loan can increase with successful repayment. Unlike BancoSol, ProMujer stresses the community aspect of these groups, ensuring that the women are able to connect on levels transcending the financial. Larger groups of 25 to 30 women

38 ProMujer. “Mission.” Accessed: March 13, 2005.

39 Reynalda Marconi, Carmen Velasco. “Group dynamics, gender and microfinance in Bolivia.” Journal of International Development 16.3 (2004): 8.

40 ibid.

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form communal banks to supervise these solidarity groups. 41 Another way in which community is emphasized is through the mandatory saving of 10 percent of the loan value. This is set aside as an emergency fund, which can be accessed by any member of a solidarity group in dire circumstances. 42


Caja Los Andes is evidently the most neo-liberal micro-credit institution examined. Its emphasis on economic efficiency, the rational individual as a borrower, and its status as one of the most profitable micro-lenders are consistent with neo-liberal principles. However, Caja Los Andes is not providing micro-credit to the poorest of the poor, a value of micro-credit that was specified in a summit on micro- credit held in 1997. 43 This exposes a weakness in neo-liberal theory. If the market is to be the driving force behind the development of micro-finance, then increased competition, such as is witnessed in Bolivia, will prompt micro-creditors to seek more affluent borrowers in an attempt to receive a greater return on loans. 44 This alienates the poorer sector of society, and caters only to the development of the elite. However, this is still consistent with neo- liberal theory. In fact, a natural progression to the ‘top’ of society would complement neo-liberal theory, which often operates as a top-down model. Perhaps neo-liberalism is not as suited to the brand of micro-finance it

41 ProMujer. “Mission.” Accessed: March 13, 2005.

42 Paul Mosley. “Microfinance and poverty in Bolivia.” The Journal of Development Studies 37.4 (2001): 101-133.

43 MicroCredit Summit. “Declaration and plan of action.” (1997) haractieristics

44 David Schwartz. “Following Bolivia’s example:

The commercialization of microfinance.” Women & Environments International Magazine 54/55 (2002):


supports in rhetoric; if the neo-liberal model followed closely, it avoids development at lower levels of income. ProMujer, sits on the opposite end of the continuum, conforming to the theory of participatory development. This is theoretical foundation is demonstrated within ProMujer’s credit program, where loans promote collective progress through local communal banks and mandatory savings. However, this body of theory has also encountered criticisms. The mandatory training accompanying loans has been labeled by some borrowers as unnecessary – even patronizing – consuming valuable time that could be used to develop their businesses. 45 This is particularly a problem with women, who are often trying to manage their businesses at the same time as their households. Secondly, by refusing to move to higher-profit borrowers like Caja Los Andes, ProMujer is relying on poverty to sustain its well being. As stated by Elahi, “the potential consequence of the establishment of micro-finance industry in the Third World is the creation of private groups that might have vested interests in the perpetuation of poverty.” 46 The conflicts of condescending training and an unnatural reliance on poverty restrict the further growth of NGOs such a ProMujer. Finally, BancoSol is theoretically mixed. Its group lending technique is characteristic of participatory development, but its drive for status as a commercial bank was largely motivated by neo-liberal ideals. BancoSol is most distinctly neo-liberal in its treatment of borrowers as clients, rather than beneficiaries. The large size of BancoSol does not allow for charity or exception, and thus, borrowers are confronted with a variety of generic loans that may or may not suit their needs. This “blurring

45 Robyn Eversole. “Help, risk, and deceit:

Microentrepreneurs talk about microfinance.” Journal of International Development 15.2 (2003): 179-188.

46 Khandakar Q. Elahi, Constantine P. Danopoulos. “Microfinance and third world development: A critical analysis.”


emily shepard

of banking and social development discourse,” has alienated borrowers, as they are often expecting to be treated as beneficiaries, and are surprised when they are treated as clients. 47 The rift between BancoSol and its borrowers became a problem during the Bolivian economic crisis of 1999, when indebtedness skyrocketed, and BancoSol’s return on equity fell from 29 percent to 9 percent. 48 By attempting to straddle both theories while new micro- lenders target specific demographics, BancoSol is losing its ability to appeal to the general public.


It is clear that micro-credit can be theoretically motivated along a spectrum wherein neo-liberalism is at one extreme and participatory development at the other. This has been exemplified by three micro- financiers from the Bolivian market:

BancoSol, which is theoretically mixed, Caja Los Andes, which is primarily neo-liberal, and ProMujer, which is primarily influenced by participatory development. Many complexities exist within this framework, which have been highlighted as the Bolivian market has become saturated with micro- lenders. We have seen that neo-liberalism can ignore the poor, participatory development can inhibit innovation and could preserve poverty, and a hybrid of both theories can stagnate and alienate borrowers. Regardless of which theory is employed to create a lending institution, micro-finance continues to be a compelling force in development. Situating micro-finance theoretically can help to us understand why it has become so diverse and disjointed.

47 Robyn Eversole. “Help, risk, and deceit:

Microentrepreneurs talk about microfinance.” Journal of International Development 15.2 (2003): 2

48 David Schwartz. “Following Bolivia’s example:

The commercialization of microfinance.” Women & Environments International Magazine 54/55 (2002):


BancoSol. “Annual Report: 2002.” (2002). ew_e.pdf

BancoSol. “Our Products.” Accessed March 18,



Bourguignon, François, Wolfenson, James D. “Development and Poverty Reduction; Looking Back, Looking Ahead.” The World Bank (2004).

Conning, Jonathan, Gonzales-Vega, Claudio, Navajas, Sergio. “Lending technologies,

competition and consolidation in the market for microfinance in Bolivia.” Journal of International Development 15 (2003): 747-


Consultive Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP). “Bolivia: Country Indicators.” Last Updated: Jul, 2003. ia.pdf

Consultive Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP). “Regulation & supervision of microfinance institutions: Stabilizing a new financial market.” Focus 4 (1996).

Elahi, Khandakar Q, Danopoulos, Constantine P. “Microfinance and third world development: A critical analysis.” Journal of Political and Military Sociology 32.1 (2004): 61-88.

Eversole, Robyn. “Help, risk, and deceit:

Microentrepreneurs talk about microfinance.” Journal of International Development 15.2 (2003): 179-188.

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Gonzales-Vega, Claudio, Meyer, Richard L, Navajas, Sergio, Schreiner, Mark. “Microcredit and the poorest of the poor:

Theory and evidence from Bolivia.” World Development 28.2 (2000): 333-


Gonzalez-Vega, Claudio. Meyer, Richard L. Monje, Guillermo F. Navajas, Sergio. Rodriguez-Meza, Jorge. Schreiner, Mark. “Microfinance market niches and client profiles in Bolivia.” Economics and Sociology (1996) occ. paper no.


March, Peter, March, Terry. “Neoliberalism not so new: Philosophy accepts survival of the fittest as norm for society.” Daily News 4 Sept. 2000: 14.

Marconi, Reynalda, Velasco, Carmen. “Group dynamics, gender and microfinance in Bolivia.” Journal of International Development 16.3 (2004):


MicroCredit Summit. “Declaration and plan of action.” (1997) ration.htm#Charactieristics

MixMarket. “ProMujer – Bolivia.Accessed: March 15, 2005.

Mohan, Giles. “Participatory Development.” The Companion to Development Studies Ed. Vandana Desai, Robert B. Potter. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002. 49-54.

Mohan, Giles. Stokke, Kristian. “Participartory development and empowerment: The dangers of localism.”

Third World Quarterly 21.2 (2000): 247-


Morris, John. Stevens, Kris. “Struggling toward sustainability: Considering grassroots development.” Sustainable Development 9.3 (2001):149-164.

Mosley, Paul. “Microfinance and poverty in Bolivia.” The Journal of Development Studies 37.4 (2001): 101-133.

ProMujer. “Mission.” Accessed: March 13,


Simon, David. “Neo-liberalism, structural adjustment and poverty reduction strategies.” The Companion to Development Studies Ed. Vandana Desai, Robert B. Potter. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002. 86-91.

Schreiner, Mark. “Aspects of outreach: A framework for discussion of the social

benefits of microfinance.” 14.5 (2002): 591-


Schwartz, David. “Following Bolivia’s example: The commercialization of

microfinance.” Women & Environments International Magazine 54/55 (2002): 32-


Van Tassel, Eric. “A study of group lending and incentives in Bolivia.” International Journal of Social Economics 27.7-10 (2000): 927.

Yunus, Muhammad. “What is Microcredit?” The Grameen Bank (2004).

Gender in Women’s Development Organizations:

From Participation to Empowerment Betsy MacDonald

Thank you to the nine women I interviewed and all the other women whose lives inspired me to write this paper. Vão com Deus.

T his is a report based on my experience in Roraima, northern Brazil, accompanying the work of

the Pastoral da Criança (Pastoral of the Child). The Pastoral da Criança is a Catholic, faith-based organization in Brazil whose work centres on nutrition and prevention of illnesses among young children in the country’s poorest areas. The majority of their volunteers and beneficiaries are poor women. I was based with a group of volunteers in the community of Sant’ana, in the capital city Boa Vista, with periodic trips to observe the organization’s work in other parts of Roraima. I acted as a ‘shadow’ in the sense that I followed a number of volunteers, observing and reflecting upon their work while participating with them in the organization’s activities. I also conducted interviews with nine mothers participating in the program as beneficiaries, as well as with two people who had worked with the Pastoral da Criança in other places. In this report I will present my own reflections and findings from my internship, framing them in an analysis of gender and participation in women’s organizations. I will refer to several relevant readings as well as my own notes from the field. The first section will look

at some main issues around women and participation, drawing from past academic works. Following this discussion I will give a description of the participation of women in the Pastoral da Criança in Roraima. Next, I will discuss gender and participation in the context of women’s development organizations, with particular attention to the question: How does an organization’s approach to gender influence the quality of women’s participation? In this section I will use comparisons between the Pastoral da Criança and other women’s development organizations to discuss conceptual framework, practical and strategic gender interests, and participatory approaches in the context of women’s participation. Finally, I will reflect upon some of these themes and briefly discuss some possible approaches to facilitating women’s participation in the Pastoral da Criança.



Much academic work has been done on the role of gender in development, and the particular issues surrounding the participation (or non-participation) of women in development programs and projects. Studies have highlighted several barriers to women's participation and have produced analyses of measuring participation, the ways in which women participate, and early attempts to


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'integrate' women into the development process. Here I will discuss briefly some of these ideas, followed by and integrated into a discussion of the participation of women in the Pastoral da Criança in Roraima, northern Brazil.

'Participation': what does it mean? Participation in development has been measured both in terms of quantity (how many people participate) and quality (the depth of people's engagement in the development process). There has been a tendency to measure women's participation in the quantitative sense; that is, by numbers of women participating in a given development project rather than by the nature of their involvement. 1 Women's participation has proven to be crucial to the development process; indeed, most agree (and it will be the underlying assumption of this paper) that true development cannot be achieved without women taking part in and shaping the goals of development. 2 It is therefore important to look at women's participation not only in terms of how many participate, but also at how deeply they are engaged in a given development intervention.

How do we participate? The participation of women in development without question varies from place to place, as several factors such as poverty and culture influence the extent of women's participation. Also, as we will see, different development programs can be tailored either to actively engage women or exclude them.

1 Marlee Karl, Women and Empowerment:

Participation and Decision Making (London:

United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service, 1995), 1.

2 Karl, 1.

Keeping in mind these differences, several barriers have been identified with regard to women's participation in the development process in the third world. While occurring at varying degrees, these barriers do provide some insight into the continuing challenges of women who seek to participate meaningfully in development. These include but are not limited to: poverty, a lack of time due to paid and unpaid labour, "sexist cultural patterns", negative self-images, maternal altruism, and the restrictions of marriage. 3 Another factor to consider when discussing women's participation is literacy, and the fact that women have a lower worldwide literacy rate than men. In fact, there are more than twice as many illiterate women than illiterate men in the world. 4 During my internship with the Pastoral da Criança I encountered women, both volunteers and beneficiaries, who were illiterate and thus required different techniques to facilitate their participation. Women's participation in development has traditionally been defined in male terms. 5 Resultantly, the capacities of women have not been valued as greatly as men's. 6 This traditional model has also led to the assumption that women and men learn in similar ways, when in fact in many cases the contrary has been demonstrated. 7 There are other differences that women bring into participatory development. For example, MYRDA has identified increased moral sensitivity and low competitiveness as assets that poor women bring to the development process. 8 Because of these differences, it is necessary to develop participatory approaches that value

3 Julia Cleves Mosse, Half the World, Half a Chance: An Introduction to Gender and Development (Oxford:

Oxfam, 1993), 178-179.

4 Karl, 139.

5 Society for Participatory Research in Asia, Participatory Training for Women (New Delhi: Aman Printers, 1989), 1.

6 Society for Participatory Research: 1.

7 Society for Participatory Research: 3.

8 Society for Participatory Research: 45.

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women's strengths, ways of learning and forms of interaction with other people. For organizations made up mainly of women, meaningful participation also requires an analysis of gender in the organization’s conceptual framework, support of strategic gender interests, and a participatory approach that that allows women to take part in a way that is sustainable and empowering. I will now turn to a summary of my observations of the participation of women in the Pastoral da Criança, followed by a more detailed examination of the question of gender and participation in women’s organizations.


The concept of the Pastoral da Criança (Childen’s Pastoral) arose from a 1982 discussion between Paulo Evaristo Arns, then archbishop of São Paulo, and Mr. James Grant, then director of UNICEF, in Geneva, Switzerland. A debate on world hunger led to the idea of starting an organization in Brazil to combat child mortality and malnutrition. In the following year, the CNBB (Conferência Nacional dos Bispos do Brasil – National Conference of Bishops of Brazil) commissioned Geraldo Majella Agnelo, then archbishop of Londrina, Paraná, and paediatrician and sanitarian Dr. Zilda Arns Neumann to create and develop the Pastoral da Criança. (Neumann continues to be the organization’s director to this day.) The program was launched in 1983 in Florestópolis, a municipality in Paraná with an infant mortality rate of 127 deaths for every thousand children. Fourteen years later that rate had dropped to less than twenty deaths per thousand

children. 9 Today, the Pastoral da Criança works in numerous parts of Brazil where children are at risk of malnutrition, from the slums of large cities like Belo Horizonte to the country’s impoverished northeast and the remote north, where I was based for my internship. The Pastoral da Criança is a volunteer organization consisting mainly of poor women. Its activities include family visits, in which volunteers ask parents a series of questions on their children’s health; weighing children to track their nutrition; and monthly meetings to evaluate and reflect upon the month’s work. Volunteers also gather periodically to make multi-mixture, a powder made of ground up leaves and seeds that is added to children’s food to make it more nutritious. Most volunteers I encountered were Catholic women, though I did meet a few Protestant and male volunteers. There are two main ways for women to participate in the Pastoral da Criança: as volunteers or as beneficiaries. During my internship I looked at the participation of both groups of women and interviewed nine of the latter group. Here I will describe in brief my observations on the participation of women in the Pastoral da Criança in Roraima.

Participation of women as volunteers The Pastoral da Criança volunteers I accompanied were mostly low income women with some involvement in the church. Each volunteer or leader is responsible for a number of families (usually around five to ten) whom she visits on a monthly basis. Most visits are spread out so that the leader visits families on several days of the month. The leader carries around a notebook printed by the Pastoral da Criança where she records information on each child and pregnant woman in order to track their health. The information is gathered

9 Pastoral da Criança (Official Website). Histórico (History) avn=historico/historico.html. (Portuguese)


betsy macdonald

through a series of questions, usually to the mother, that vary depending on the age of the child. The main purpose of the questions is to see if the child is being given the proper conditions for individual development, taking into account not only nutrition but also the child’s mental and emotional needs. The leader’s notebook is also used to record each child’s weight when it is taken on Life Celebration Day or weighing day. The leader uses a graph to show mothers if their children are within the proper weight range for their age. If a child appears to be malnourished, the leader makes suggestions to the mother on how to provide her child with better nutrition. I discovered through my interviews that most leaders have close social ties to the women they accompany; their relationships are not limited to the Pastoral da Criança but extend into the spheres of church, neighborhood and friendship networks. Leaders act as informal sources of information on health and nutrition for women in their neighborhoods; as one woman told me:

I’ve known [my community leader] since I arrived here. If my girl is sick, I go to her house. If she has the flu, I go there and she gives me flu syrup. When she’s sick I go to [my leader’s] house and ask her which remedy I should give to her, and [she] shows me and I give it to my daughter. 10

In some cases, the leader’s advice substitutes for a visit to the doctor, which can be costly for women who do not have transportation. In this sense the leader plays an important role as a person who is trusted by the women she accompanies, and who provides them with continual

10 Interview with a Pastoral da Criança participant, conducted between May 31 and June 18, 2005.

guidance on the health care of their children.

Participation of women as beneficiaries The women who I came to know as beneficiaries in the Pastoral da Criança defined themselves, and were defined by others, using various terms in relation to their place in the program. Sometimes they were described as participants; at other times as women who were accompanied by the Pastoral da Criança. I will refer generally to these women as beneficiaries, although the idea of these women as participants will be discussed as well. Conversations with several women revealed to me that there is a range of participation of women as beneficiaries in the Pastoral da Criança. It might be useful to think of their participation in terms of a scale from low to high activity. At the low end, women bring their children to be weighed on Life Celebration Day and are recipients of monthly family visits. At the high end, women are engaged in these activities and also help out with various tasks associated with Pastoral da Criança events, such as cleaning the church and making snacks for Life Celebration Day, helping to make multi-mixture, and helping to make home remedies. It appeared to me that while some women’s participation is mostly passive, for others it is more active. Of the nine women I interviewed, six would fall into the former category and three into the latter. The active participants were women who spoke enthusiastically and in detail about their experience with the Pastoral da Criança. One of these women, I discovered, participates both as a beneficiary and as a volunteer. She explained to me the educational value of her involvement in the Pastoral da Criança:

… I’ve learned many things through the Pastoral da Criança; I’ve learned to make home remedies for myself and for my children. I’ve learned to make multi-mixture and homemade serum; everything I’ve learned from the Pastoral da Criança. … [I receive most of my information on health] from the Pastoral da Criança. Not from the TV or the Health Ministry, because it’s

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difficult to watch TV. … Through the Pastoral da Criança I’ve learned many things. 11

I spoke with another woman who, besides participating as a beneficiary in the Pastoral da Criança, also coordinates the pastoral organization for catechism in her community. She described to me how the various pastoral organizations work together in a mutually beneficial way:

I help out [with Pastoral da Criança activities]. That’s how we work in the organization, everybody together. We

I think that

today the most valuable thing in life is

unity. We join hands and unite so that we can do something of worth. It isn’t like this because I participate in this community, but because the Sant’ana community always works like this: all the pastoral organizations help each other… When there’s an event, everyone comes out and works together. This is what enriches us in the community, this unity

find bonds of friendship


This woman has a lengthy history of volunteer experience and work with the government. Yet she also finds value in participating as a beneficiary in the Pastoral da Criança. This, along with other observations, suggests to me that there is little, if any, social division between the Pastoral da Criança’s volunteers and its beneficiaries. Indeed, the two roles can overlap, as the first case demonstrates. The more passive participants did not speak of the Pastoral da Criança with the same zeal, although they did express an appreciation for the program and spoke of the important impact it has had on their lives.

11 Interview with a Pastoral da Criança participant, conducted between May 31 and June 18, 2005.

12 Interview with a Pastoral da Criança participant, conducted between May 31 and June 18, 2005.


I will now turn to a more critical discussion of the ways in which an organization’s approach to gender can influence the quality of women’s participation in development. My experience with the Pastoral da Criança indicated to me that, while women were participating in various activities as volunteers and beneficiaries, their participation was of a more nominal nature and certainly not a transformative one. 13 With the strong influence of liberation theology in the Brazilian Catholic church 14 , it surprised me that these women were not engaged in a deeper process of challenging their subordination based on gender, class and race. There are several reasons why this may have been the case, including social, cultural and economic factors. One important dimension, which will underlie the following discussion, is the role of the organization (in this case, the Pastoral da Criança) in shaping women’s participation through its approach to gender. This includes the organization’s conceptual framework and analysis (if any) of gender, the way in which it addresses practical and strategic gender interests, and the presence or absence of a participatory approach that engages and empowers women. I will refer to my experience with the Pastoral da Criança as well as examples from other women’s development organizations to illustrate this discussion.

13 See White, cited in Andrea Cornwall, “Making a Difference? Gender and Participatory Development.” IDS Discussion Paper 378 (Institute of Development Studies, 2000), 9.

14 While it has been suggested by some that liberation theology has been on the decline in Brazil, others argue that activism based on liberationist values is alive and well in the country. A proponent of the latter argument is John Burdick, who in his book Legacies of Liberation:

The Progressive Catholic Church in Brazil (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2004) asserts that the struggle for racial and gender equality in Brazil is still influenced significantly by liberationist teachings.


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Conceptual framework and addressing gender In order to address gender in the first place, it is necessary to examine gender and the implications it has for everyone involved in a given development intervention. For development organizations working mainly with women, this should include an analysis of gender that can be translated into their work in specific areas. If an organization is using a participatory approach, there may arise a tension between progressive gender goals and the concerns of local people, with the possible risk of tacitly reinforcing the status quo. 15 However, it is possible to employ an analysis of gender that facilitates participation in a way that values both local ideas and a feminist agenda. 16 There has been a tendency to think of gender only in terms of “women’s interests”, which may hide differences between women and obscure unequal gender relations. 17 When gender relations are addressed, they are usually limited to male-female heterosexual relationships, with little attention paid to other female- male relationships (for example, between mothers and sons) or the gender aspects of relations between members of the same sex. 18 Whether or not these issues are addressed can have a significant impact on the success of a given intervention. 19 The Pastoral da Criança is one of several Catholic pastoral organizations in

15 Cornwall, 13-15.

16 Cornwall.

17 Cornwall, 10.

18 P. Peters, “The use and abuse of the concept of ‘female-headed households’ in research on agrarian transformation and policy,’ in D. Fahy Bryceson, ed., Women Wielding the Hoe: lessons from rural Africa for feminist theory and development (Oxford: Berg, 1993). 93-108. Cited in Cornwall, 10.

19 Cornwall, 10.

Brazil that addresses a variety of social issues, including health, education, human rights, the issues of specific social groups such as youth and the elderly, and, in the case of the Pastoral da Criança, the health of young children. Its conceptual framework is strongly influenced by faith and the teachings of the Catholic Church:

The mission of the Pastoral da Criança is the mission of Jesus himself, which is also the mission of the Church and of all Christians: to evangelize. 20

The organization also states a lack of distinction of its beneficiaries on the basis of various social categories:

The Pastoral da Criança has as its objective the vital development of children, supporting them, on their part and on that of families and communities, without distinction of race, color, profession, nationality, sex, religious or political creed…” 21

While the Pastoral da Criança is not a women’s organization by name, ninety per cent of its volunteers are poor women, 22 and, from what I observed in Roraima, almost all of their direct beneficiaries are women and their children. Their mission statement does not include any specific thoughts on gender, but rather includes ‘sex’ as one of several categories on the basis of which the organization claims not to discriminate. This is quite different from the worldview of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), a women’s microfinance organization based in India. With roots in the trade union

20 Translated from Pastoral da Criança (Official Website): Missão (Mission) < navn=missao/missao.html>. (Portuguese)

21 Translated from Pastoral da Criança (Official Website): Missão (Mission) < navn=missao/missao.html>. (Portuguese)

22 Global Network of Religions for Children: Brazil’s official indication to the Nobel Peace Prize of the year 2001 <>.

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movement in India, SEWA works to empower women by promoting financial self-reliance and collective action. 23 It is an organization that works with poor women and has an explicitly political commitment to challenging gender inequity. As Kalima Rose describes the activist outlook of SEWA:

It is an especially feminine philosophy which adheres to non-violence, to arbitration and reconciliation, and most importantly [sic], to a quiet, fiercely determined resistance to exploitation. 24

While the Pastoral da Criança implicitly claims blindness to gender, SEWA takes a more head-on approach to challenging the status quo of gender relations in the lives of their members. If the Pastoral da Criança were to adopt a more critical analysis of gender in their conceptual framework, I believe it would assist the organization in addressing gender-related issues such as poverty and unemployment among its participants. As Andrea Cornwall argues, such an analysis is crucial in any attempt to include and engage women in development interventions. 25 A critical analysis of gender is important, although it is not all that is needed to employ a gender-sensitive approach to development that engages women in an empowering way. 26 It is also necessary to take a look at if and how such an analysis translates into

23 Lee, 21.

24 Kalima Rose, Where Women Are Leaders (London: Zed Books Ltd., 1992), 32. See both Lee and Rose for more detailed descriptions of the history and activities of SEWA.

25 Cornwall, 9-10.

26 A. M. Goetz, “From feminist knowledge to data for development: the bureaucratic management of information on women in development,” IDS Bulletin 25.2 (1994): 27-36. Cited in Cornwall,


actions that either facilitate or impede the participation of women. This can be explored partly through a discussion of practical and strategic gender interests, and the question of whether meaningful participation can take place if only one or the other is being addressed.

Practical and strategic gender interests When one speaks of ‘gender interests’, it is helpful to make the distinction between practical interests and strategic ones. Practical gender interests generally include the material needs of women, such as financial security, “without changing existing power relations.” 27 Strategic gender interests are “…those derived from an analysis of women’s subordination. 28 These two sets of interests are often interconnected, as Nanci Lee explains with an example of capacity building for women in SEWA. 29 To address practical gender interests is to help women better their material conditions; to address strategic gender interests is to help women challenge oppressive gender relations and social structures. Indeed, it is necessary to support both sets of interests in order to facilitate women’s participation at a level that contributes to their empowerment. One way of doing this is, in addition to providing services that help women achieve sustainable living conditions, creating a milieu that facilitates the coming together of women to discuss issues that affect their lives. As Nanci Lee explains in the case of SEWA Bank:

In addition to the forum SEWA Bank provides, members frequently take the initiative to create their own discussion spaces. Constructing a

27 Linda Mayoux, Empowering Inquiry: A New Approach to Investigation (Wyse Development Limited, 2003). Cited in Nanci Lee, “A Gold Thread: Building Assets and Courage in SEWA’s Microfinance Members,” Critical Half. 2.1 (2000), 21.

28 Mosse, 166.

29 Lee explains how capacity building that helps women develop their reasoning skills can aid the women not only in developing their financial project but also in better understanding their financial options. See Lee, 24.


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context where members are willing and able to do this requires appropriate strategies such as group forums, capacity building, participation in decision- making, and a systematic process for fostering courage among members. 30

In interviewing nine beneficiaries of the Pastoral da Criança, I discovered that some of their most empowering experiences with the Pastoral da Criança had to do with the knowledge they received and were able to share with other women in their neighborhoods and families. It seemed that the more opportunities they had to share knowledge with other women, the higher their self-esteem with regard to knowledge around health issues. This has also been the case of women participating in SEWA Bank:

Not all women are initially comfortable discussing difficult issues, so the introduction to collective activity often takes the form of a discussion group with peers. According to a study on the impact of the financial education, members of such groups, especially their leaders, reported benefits that included an increased feeling of confidence and security, and a greater role in household financial planning. 31

Training is another vehicle for increasing women’s participation and creating opportunities for empowerment. As in SEWA,

Training is an integral part of organizing women, formalizing their skills, and involving them in shaping their occupations, incomes, and social policies. SEWA conducts standard training sessions for a broad section of women, and also specific training programmes for specialized skills. 32

30 Lee, 23.

31 Lee, 23.

32 Rose, 274.

The Pastoral da Criança provides formal and informal training for women involved in the program both as volunteers and as beneficiaries. As participants, women learn how to make home remedies and recognize the signs of common illnesses such as diarrhoea and influenza, and of tropical diseases including malaria and dengue fever. These activities, while low-intensity and employing simple knowledge and techniques, provide women with a forum to build their capacity collectively and individually in the form of learning practical skills and concepts and becoming informal educators for others. While not explicitly stating it, the Pastoral da Criança does seem to be addressing a number of practical gender interests through its work. By educating poor and oftentimes single women on alternative medicine, the program is helping them keep health costs to a minimum. The health accompaniment provided by monthly weighing day and family visits save women costly trips to the hospital for their children. The Pastoral da Criança’s income generation activities, while not currently in place in Roraima, do help women in some parts of Brazil to achieve greater financial security. 33 Where the approach of the Pastoral da Criança appears to fall short, in the sense of facilitating meaningful participation, is in its lack of attention to the strategic gender interests of its participants. Its provision of material assistance to women is not matched by a political commitment to challenging gender- based subordination. This is readily observable

33 In addition to its ‘basic’ programs such as Life Celebration Day and monthly visits, the Pastoral da Criança also offers a group of ‘complementary’ programs, one of which focuses on income generation. The projects offered in this category include initiatives such as gardens, bakeries, livestock raising, and other small businesses. In 2001, 42 income generation projects were approved by the Pastoral da Criança and 309 persons were trained to carry out the projects across Brazil. See Pastoral da Criança (Official Website): Ações Complementares (Complementary Actions) < navn=acoes/acoes_complementares.html>. (Portuguese)

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in the organization’s activities in Roraima. While there do exist capacity building activities for leaders, they occur at the beginning and do not continue on a regular basis. Women do have an opportunity to come together monthly to weigh their children and interact with one another in a festive atmosphere, though the activity is planned and guided by the community’s Pastoral da Criança coordinator. Resultantly, volunteers are not engaged in a dynamic process of learning and reflecting upon their work, and beneficiaries participate within a range from passive to active but not in a way that would be considered transformative. These are not the only factors influencing women’s participation in the Pastoral da Criança and in other women’s development organizations, but they are significant in that they have a direct impact on the level of empowerment of both volunteers and beneficiaries. Another element of facilitating women’s participation is the presence or absence of a participatory approach that engages and empowers women. This, I suggest, also contributes significantly to the success of women’s organizations in empowering their members. It is to this dimension that I now turn.

Participatory approaches to gender and women’s participation in development As Andrea Cornwall explains, designing and carrying out a participatory approach that is sensitive to gender is a complex task. A model such as Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) can be restrictive for feminist development practitioners who, when confronted with the approach’s requirement of relativism towards local ideas and concerns, are challenged in bringing certain gender

goals to fruition. 34 Still, there is much common ground shared by feminist and participatory researchers, including a shared political goal of

social transformation, a concern for listening to different voices, and attention to the relationship between practitioner and beneficiary or participant. 35 The task, it seems,

is to tailor an approach that addresses specific

gender concerns in a way that gives women the

opportunity to share ideas and concerns in a comfortable environment, making decisions and taking actions to improve their individual and collective realities. A participatory approach that is sensitive to gender requires a number of measures. These include, but are not limited to: examining reasons for non-participation and addressing them; acknowledging and working with differences between women; and giving women

a positive forum for voicing concerns and

developing strategies. I will discuss these participatory measures with reference to the Pastoral da Criança and its approach to women’s participation in Roraima. With some participatory approaches there

arises the dilemma of ‘imposing’ participation on those, in this case women, who do not seem

to want to participate. 36 However, just because

women do not appear interested in participating in a specific intervention does not mean that they would not like to improve their social conditions in some way. Moreover, many women in poorer regions of the world are illiterate and may not be aware of their rights; a crucial element in taking action to challenge oppressive social relationships and structures. 37 There needs to be research on why women are not participating, and what can be done to facilitate their participation according to their own interests and concerns.

34 Cornwall, 7.

35 Cornwall, 7.

36 Cornwall, 15.

37 Cornwall, 12.


betsy macdonald

I observed this need in the work of the Pastoral da Criança in Roraima. When asked about the participation of beneficiary mothers in the program, several

volunteers responded that the women didn’t appear interested in the program; some cited a culture of dependency as the cause, while others offered no explanation. Whatever the contributing factors may have been, it was clear that the women were benefiting from the program in the practical sense and had several strategic gender interests that could potentially be addressed through a more engaged level of participation. For example, it could prove quite useful to have forums for single mothers to discuss strategies for income generation, an economic factor that is directly related to the health of their children. While women may choose not to participate (or to participate passively) in the Pastoral da Criança for several reasons, I was given no indication that this was for lack of desire for social transformation. The majority of women with whom I spoke seemed aware of the social, economic and even political roots of their difficulties, and with further education on their rights could no doubt effect significant positive change, given adequate opportunities to discuss problems and plan actions. Recognizing and working with differences among women is another step towards a more engaged and effective participation. Opening up participation to all members of a group (e.g. all poor women, in the case of the Pastoral da


necessarily mean that all will participate equally








The majority of women with whom I spoke seemed aware of the social, economic and even political roots of their difficulties, and with further education on their rights could no doubt effect significant positive change



necessary to look at the

differences within







engage all members in



participation. Cornwall purports,

To make a difference, participatory development must engage with questions of difference: to effectively tackle poverty, it must go beyond the ‘poor’ as a generic category, and engage with the diversity of women’s and men’s experiences of poverty and powerlessness. 38

The need to address differences between women was prevalent in my observations of the work of the Pastoral da Criança in Roraima. In particular, the question of religion and culture emerged time and time again as an issue of recognizing and responding to differences among poor women in Roraima. While the Pastoral da Criança is Catholic in its roots and organization, its approach to outreach is stated in its literature to be ecumenical. Yet, the majority of women who participate in the program are practicing or non-practicing Catholics, even with the state’s growing number of Evangelical communities. With Roraima’s high unemployment rate and from the conditions I observed, there is little evidence that poverty discriminates according to religious denomination in this region. As there is no Evangelical organization in Brazil parallel to the Pastoral da Criança, this means that many disadvantaged families are not benefiting from the type of service the program provides. When I asked Pastoral da Criança volunteers why there were not more Evangelical women participating in the

38 Cornwall, 5.

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program, they usually placed the onus on the women themselves. They did not want to participate, I heard, because they were wary of the intentions of a Catholic organization, and feared being associated with the Catholic Church in their Evangelical communities. One volunteer with whom I spoke, an Evangelical woman with two daughters and experience as a leader with the Pastoral da Criança, told me that few people in her church were aware of the program’s activities. She became involved because she had been asked to do so by the then- current Pastoral da Criança community coordinator. While this woman found herself participating through a personal contact, most women from her church and similar ones, it appeared, were not participating for various reasons. The role of the Pastoral da Criança in addressing this question of religious differences between women has, I maintain, much room for growth. Instead of concluding that Evangelical women do not want to participate, it may prove much more useful to look at why they are not participating, and what can be done to make the program more appealing to families from non-Catholic backgrounds. This could include increasing awareness of the Pastoral da Criança in Evangelical churches, encouraging dialogue between poor women of various denominations, and creating a friendly space for activities in which women feel comfortable regardless of their religious orientation. Overall, it would require an extra effort to educate and include women who, while in need of the program’s services, might be more reluctant to participate than women who share the organization’s religious worldview. This would include taking into account possible cultural barriers to the participation of Evangelical women, such as stricter gender roles, and how

they can be addressed to further facilitate participation. Finally, and perhaps most important, in order to foster participation it is vital to provide women with a forum in which they can comfortably and in an engaged manner, share their concerns and discuss strategic plans for action in the context of development. This is another area of the Pastoral da Criança where I observed room for enhancement. Such a forum can be created by providing an appropriate space for discussion and facilitating activities to increase confidence and self-esteem. It is important, I believe, for a participatory approach that is sensitive to gender to include the provision of safe, relaxed and inspiring spaces for women to share experiences, express their ideas and concerns and develop strategic approaches to their own development issues. Andrea Cornwall explains how time is an important factor in providing such spaces. As she writes,

One barrier to women’s participation is time— to sit and talk, analyse, come to meetings. Holding sessions at times that women suggest as convenient, or when women are less engaged in productive work, at least allows the option to participate. Spreading discussions over several sessions may also enable women to take part. 39

Time was a constant concern for the women whose participation I observed and did not observe with the Pastoral da Criança in Roraima. Some women did not have time to come to regular activities such as Life Celebration Day because of various time commitments. I encountered many single mothers whose primary concern was looking after their children. Other women are involved in the informal economy and are managing small businesses from their homes; a few are lucky to have jobs in the formal sector. Either way, it is difficult to find a time that accommodates the different responsibilities of women participating in the program.

39 Cornwall, 18.


betsy macdonald

Finding an appropriate location is another key dimension of providing a forum that cultivates women’s participation and empowerment. This includes a consideration of the “gendered nature of institutional spaces” in order to ensure a comfortable environment for women. 40 Indeed, this is a relevant concern for women participating in the Pastoral da Criança in Roraima. Most of the program’s activities take place in a Catholic church setting: Life Celebration Day usually takes place in the church itself, and when I went to help make multi-mixture the activity also took place at the church. It is not uncommon for there to be church representatives such as priests and nuns present at activities, as I observed at the sensitivity training session I attended. It is necessary to consider, I believe, the participatory advantages and disadvantages of holding Pastoral da Criança activities in such a milieu. While it may encourage and facilitate the participation of women who are active Catholics, there is the possibility of alienating women of an Evangelical, non- practicing Catholic or other religious background. Moreover, and more pertinent to Cornwall’s concern, one must consider the dynamic of authority that exists within the framework of an institution such as the Catholic Church and the way it may influence the nature and extent of women’s participation. Church representatives tend to be well educated and possess strong leadership qualities. While the presence of church representatives at Pastoral da Criança activities may be a source of guidance and insight, there is a possibility that it may shift confidence and agency from the program’s women, who tend to be poor, undereducated and sometimes illiterate.

40 Cornwall, 18.

For women to be able to grow as leaders and decision-makers, I believe that it is important to allow them sufficient space to exercise confidence and be supported by peers; the presence of authority figures might be a barrier to this. A final dimension of facilitating women’s participation is promoting activities that help women build confidence and self-esteem. We have already touched on the notion of quantitative versus qualitative participation; it is useful once more to return to this concept. Evidence has shown that simply increasing numbers is not sufficient to engage women in meaningful participation; there is also a need for measures “to increase women’s confidence and awareness of their rights, in order for them to be more assertive in joining [decision- making] committees and speaking out. 41 Lee explains the delicacy of such attempts at group facilitation:

At best, group forums and leadership can encourage members to strengthen their capacity and participation—in essence, to become political. At worst, leadership can be a crutch, enabling members to defer to their representatives rather than acting or learning themselves. Perhaps worse still, groups can support a coercive process of maintaining the status quo. 42

To prevent these negative outcomes and to effect positive change, Lee continues, it is a central goal to promote a culture of courage in which women feel empowered to “challenge existing systems and structures.” 43 This requires the presence of positive role models for women and mutual sharing across different groups; such is the strategy of SEWA Bank. 44 For women participating in the Pastoral da Criança in Roraima, there also appears a need for activities that, through mutual support and sharing of ideas, provide opportunities to build

41 Cornwall, 12.

42 Lee, 24.

43 Lee, 24.

44 Lee, 24.

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self-esteem and awareness of women’s rights and capacities as agents of change. The Pastoral da Criança could play an important role in facilitating such activities, as an organization that is concerned with such women’s issues as poverty and family violence. Existing social networks of church, family and neighborhood could be used as channels

for enabling women to come together and

discuss issues that are important to their lives, and develop collective strategies for positive social change.



In this paper I have discussed the participation of women in the Pastoral da Criança in Roraima, with special focus on the question of how an organization’s approach to gender can influence the quality of women’s participation. In June and July of 2005, I was fortunate to

experience first-hand the participation of

a group of women in a Brazilian

development organization. As I took part in activities with these women, the main theme that emerged was engagement. In what ways do women become engaged as participants in the Pastoral da Criança? What factors contribute to a lack of engagement? This led me to consider a number of issues and arrive at certain key findings. One issue that emerged around women’s participation was the role of the organization in analyzing the gendered aspects of participants’ lives. A recurring theme in the literature I explored was the need for an analysis of gender that can be translated into practice and a definition of gender that goes beyond ‘women’s interests’. It appears crucial to support women’s strategic gender interests by

fostering an environment for women to

discuss their own development issues. In a participatory approach, an organization can further facilitate women’s empowerment through examining and addressing reasons for non-participation, acknowledging and working with differences, and providing women with a positive forum for sharing concerns and developing plans for action. Finally, activities that increase women’s confidence and self- esteem have been demonstrated to be both the means and the end result of women’s engaged participation. The Pastoral da Criança is an organization that has inspired women’s lives through spiritual healing, community-building, interpersonal companionship and a practical approach to community development. By continuing its efforts to enrich the participation of women at the grassroots level, the Pastoral da Criança can strengthen its role as an agent of social transformation. In a country that is marked by both staggering inequality and a vibrant sense of life, this is both a necessity and an imminent possibility.


Burdick, John.

Legacies of Liberation: The

Progressive Catholic Church in Brazil. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2004.

Cornwall, Andrea. “Making a Difference? Gender and Participatory Development.” IDS Discussion Paper 378. Institute of Development Studies




Global Network of Religions for Children.

Brazil’s official indication to the Nobel Peace Prize of the year 2001



betsy macdonald



Empowerment: Participation and Decision Making. London:

United Nations Non- Governmental Liaison Service,




Lee, Nanci. “A Gold Thread: Building Assets and Courage in SEWA’s Microfinance Members.” Critical Half 2.1 (2000): 20-26.


Mosse, Julia Cleves. Half the World, Half a Chance: An Introduction to Gender and Development. Oxford: Oxfam, 1993.


Where Women Are

Leaders. London: Zed Books

Ltd., 1992.






Website) br. (Portuguese)















Society for Participatory Research in Asia. Participatory Training for Women. New Delhi: Aman Printers, 1989.

The translated quotes from women participating in the Pastoral da Criança were taken from nine interviews, conducted in Roraima between May 31 and June 18, 2005.

Iraqi Kurdistan Mike Freen

T he Kurds are a group of people who inhabit the mountainous border region between Southern Turkey, Northern

Iraq, and Western Iran, as well as parts of Syria, Azerbaijan and Armenia. This region possessing a Kurdish majority is generally referred to as Kurdistan (land of the Kurds), although this term has a highly contentious history, particularly in Iraq and Turkey. 1 Large numbers of Kurds have relocated from their traditional heartland to major cities in Turkey and Iran, and there is a significant Kurdish diaspora population in Western Europe. Numbering some twenty five million in total, the Kurds are frequently called the largest ethnic group or nation without its own independent state. Nationality and ethnicity are two concepts that are similar and overlapping in some respects, but distinct. Michael Keating has written widely on the subject of nationality and particularly stateless nations, and following his definitional

1 Ofra Bengio, Saddam’s Word: Political Discourse in Iraq (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); Kemal Kirişci, “Minority/Majority Discourse: The Case of the Kurds in Turkey,” In Making Majorities:

Constituting the Nation in Japan, Korea, China, Malaysia, Fiji, Turkey, and the United States, edited by Dru C. Gladney (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), 227-245.

criteria, 2 the Kurdish people possess a nationality in that ‘Kurdishness’ is based on a shared ethnic identity and tied to claims to a specific territory. While they possess this collective identity, the Kurds are nonetheless a heterogeneous people with great linguistic, religious, and political diversity. I believe there is significant value to be derived from analyzing the Kurdish experience from the vantage point of the “political process” literature dominated by Doug McAdam, Charles Tilly, and Sidney Tarrow. I believe this body of theoretical literature, particularly the contributions of Tarrow 3 , provides a useful framework for analyzing and comparing Kurdish nation- building in different states. Assertions of Kurdish national identity have both collective and contentious dimensions, and Tarrow provides a structure that is well suited to explaining the forces shaping Kurdish national expression. I have limited myself to examining the development of Kurdish nationalism in Iraq because space constraints prohibit any analysis dealing with more than one country. I have chosen to discuss the

2 Michael Keating, Nations Against the State: The New Politics of Nationalism in Quebec, Catalonia and Scotland (London: MacMillan Press Ltd., 1996), 4.

3 Sidney Tarrow, Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics (Cambridge, UK:

Cambridge University Press, 1998).

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Kurdish nationalist experience in Iraq rather than Turkey, Iran, or elsewhere because its history offers a number of pronounced shifts

in the political opportunity structure which the

Kurds faced than in other locations, making it a particularly good subject of analysis using Tarrow’s model. The collective Kurdish identity in Iraq has been shaped by oppression by the Iraqi

state, and the Kurds have responded through armed resistance. The major resistance groups have been militarized parties founded along ostensibly nationalist lines, although many of

their supporters appear to prioritize tribal loyalties above any Kurdish national identity they may feel they possess. I will discuss the problematic nature of

Kurdish nationalism with direct reference to Tarrow’s three key factors of contentious action: political opportunity; framing processes; and mobilizing structures. My analysis is concerned primarily with the historical development of Kurdish national identity since Iraqi independence, and I have avoided extensively discussing the political situation following the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime by the American-led coalition. In order to set the stage for a discussion of Iraqi-Kurdish nationalism I now provide some general background information about the Kurds and the land they inhabit, and


collective identity relevant to the discussion.

Kurdish nationalist sentiments did not develop until the twentieth century, as the Middle East was reorganized into European-style nation- states. 5 In the previous centuries, Kurdistan was nominally divided between the Ottoman Turkish and Qajar Persian empires, although the region enjoyed considerable autonomy and acted as a buffer zone between the two empires. 6 In the aftermath of World War One and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres promised autonomy to the majority-Kurdish region, and the possibility of statehood in the future. 7 However,

neither autonomy nor statehood for the Kurdish people was in the interests of the Allied powers or Kemal Ataturk’s new Turkish republic, and Ottoman

Kurdistan was divided among the new states created from the carcass of the empire. 8 The territory of what is now modern Iraq, including the mainly Kurdish regions in the north, came under the influence of the British, who continued to exert influence over the newly created state until the revolution of 1958. 9 As indicated above, the Kurds are a diverse people. There are two major dialects of the Kurdish language (Kurmanji and Surani) and several minor ones, and the language is further divided by the fact that

The collective Kurdish identity in Iraq has been shaped by oppression by the Iraqi state, and the Kurds have responded through armed resistance.

Stefan Sperl, eds. The Kurds: a Contemporary Overview (London: Routledge, 1992), 10.

5 Andreas Wimmer, Nationalist Exclusion and Ethnic Conflict: Shadows of Modernity (Cambridge, UK:

Cambridge University Press, 2002), 161.

6 David McDowall, 12.

7 “Treaty of Sèvres.” In David McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds (London: I. B. Tauris, 1996), 450.

8 David McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds (London: I. B. Tauris, 1996), 118.

9 Judith Yaphe, “Tribalism in Iraq, the Old and the New,” Middle East Policy 7, 3 (June 2000), 53.









People identified as Kurds have lived

in the region now known as Kurdistan for at

least 2500 years, 4 but most scholars agree that

4 David McDowall, “The Kurdish Question: a Historical Overview,” In Philip G. Kreyenbroek and


mike freen

Kurds in Turkey have adopted a Roman script

for their written language, while Kurds in Iraq

and Iran use an adapted Arabic script. 10 The majority of Kurds practice Sunni Islam, but there are Shi’a, Christian, Jewish, and Alevi Kurds, and practitioners of other regional religious minorities. Political organizations among the Kurds vary from communist

guerilla groups to radical Islamic groups, with

a great deal of variation in between.

Furthermore, the primary form of social organization in rural Kurdistan continues to be the tribe, a fact that has placed its stamp on Kurdish nationalism. Likewise, Kurdistan, while possessing a Kurdish majority, also encompasses Armenian, Turkoman, Assyrian, Persian, Arab, and Turkish populations. 11 In response to this diversity, some Kurdish nationalist groups have tried to promote their nationalism as civic and territorially based rather than ethnically based. 12 For clarity purposes I use the term ‘Greater Kurdistan’ to refer to this area, while portion lying within the Iraqi national border is referred to as ‘Iraqi-Kurdistan’. Despite the diversity of the Kurdish nation, one of its unifying characteristics is

the oppression its people have suffered in the

twentieth century by the nation-states that control the territory of Kurdistan. In particular, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey have the most pronounced history of Kurdish repression, and the vast majority of Kurds inhabit these three states. The Kurds have responded to this repression through various forms of contention, including violent resistance. Being split among several states the Kurdish nation is thus inherently transnational in character, while at the same time being stateless. These two characteristics

10 Philip G. Kroenbroek, “On the Kurdish Language,” In Philip G. Kreyenbroek and Stefan Sperl, eds., The Kurds: a Contemporary Overview (London: Routledge, 1992), 68-83.

11 Michael M. Gunter, “The Kurdish Question in Perspective.” World Affairs 166, 4 (Spring 2004), 198.

12 Michael Keating, Nations Against the State.

have important implications for the construction of Kurdish nationalism. Overall, the division of Kurdistan (and its consequent statelessness) has produced a division of the nation-building project, as each state-constrained Kurdish population has responded to and defined its identity in relation to local circumstances in their respective nation-states. The Kurdish diaspora in Western Europe and elsewhere represents a countercurrent to this trend in that it is attempting to create a unified Kurdish national identity, 13 but ironically this contributes yet another competing version of Kurdish nationalism. While each group identifies itself as Kurdish and recognizes there are other groups in near by states that identify themselves as Kurds, each is essentially defining Kurdishness on its own terms. Even within particular states there is competition among Kurdish nationalist groups over what form the Kurdish nation should take. One notable example of this phenomenon is the open conflict in the Iraqi Kurdish Autonomous Region between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), a relatively conservative built upon tribal coalitions, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), led by urban intellectuals, that occurred from 1994 to 1998, 14 and divided Iraqi Kurdistan until the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.


Keating, in his exploration of non-state nationalisms, argues for the need to separate the nation, the state, and ethnicity as analytical categories, noting that ethnic groups do not necessarily make the territorially based

13 Denise Natali, “Transnational Networks: New Opportunities and Constraints for Kurdish Statehood,” Middle East Policy 11, 1 (Spring, 2004), 111-114.

14 Andreas Wimmer, Nationalist Exclusion and Ethnic Conflict (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 193.

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claims characteristic of nations, while the state does not possess a monopoly on nationalism. 15 Andreas Wimmer and Nina Glick Schiller caution against identifying the nation and the state as “two separate objects of inquiry,” with the state as a neutral set of governing institutions. 16 Keating’s analytical separation does not fall prey to this risk of naturalizing the nation-state, but instead emphasizes that state and nation cannot be conflated, while acknowledging that a national identity is very much a necessary component of any state. The exact relationship between ethnicity and nationality is more difficult to establish. This is because it is very difficult to define either concept in a precise manner. Benedict Anderson’s famous characterization of nations as sovereign and limited “imagined communities” merely elaborates some of the most salient aspects of the term rather than providing an expansive definition. 17 Keating similarly avoids constructing elaborate definitions and instead concentrates on highlighting some of the differences between the two. Both are forms collective identity, and Keating describes ethnicity as a “fluid and instrumental” form of identity that is contextually based. 18 Nationalism always contains a dimension of territoriality, although this does not necessarily entail claims to an independent sovereign state. Examples such as Quebec or Scotland demonstrate that nations can exist within and potentially across larger state boundaries. Nationalism can be framed along ethnic lines, essentially fusing an ethnic identity with a claim to autonomy over or simply identification with a given territory. Alternately, civic nationalism rests

15 Michael Keating, 3.

16 Andreas Wimmer and Nina Glick Schiller, “Methodological Nationalism and Beyond: Nation- Building, Migration, and the Social Sciences,” Global Networks 2, 4 (2002), 306.

17 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London:

Verso, 1991), 7.

18 Michael Keating, 5.

not on belief in common ancestry but on shared values and expectations of the state. 19 Most nationalisms contain a mix of these two ideal types, and Kurdish nationalism is no exception. Another form of collective identification relevant to the discussion of the Kurdish experience is tribalism, as most rural inhabitants still identify primarily in terms of kinship ties, rather than as Kurds or as Iraqis. Tribes have their own authority figures and have historically provided a significant challenge to nationalists, be they Iraqi or Kurdish, attempting to foster a broader sense of collective identity. 20


The last fifteen years has seen the publication of a number of histories of the experience of the Kurds in the different nation-states they inhabit, 21 but these have tended to be descriptive historical accounts lacking the analytical frameworks necessary to adequately explain how and why the Kurdish nationalist movements have emerged. These texts contain essential historical details and I have relied especially on McDowall’s incredibly detailed account, but they are not equipped with the theoretical apparatus necessary to adequately explain the processes of nationalism. Other texts, such as Ofra Bengio’s analysis of political discourse in Ba’th Iraq, 22 or Adreas Wimmer’s Nationalist Exclusion and Ethnic Conflict, 23 provide valuable insights into the issue of Kurdish

19 Ibid.

20 Judith Yaphe, “Tribalism in Iraq, the Old and the New.”

21 Kreyenbroek and Stefan Sperl, eds., The Kurds: a Contemporary Overview; and Sperl; Gerard Chaliand, ed., A People Without a Country: the Kurds and Kurdistan., Michael Pallis trans. (New York: Olive Branch Press, 1993); McDowall A Modern History of the Kurds.

22 Ofra Bengio, Saddam’s Word.

23 Andreas Wimmer, Nationalist Exclusion and Ethnic Conflict.


mike freen

nationalism, but only in the process of explaining their respective theses rather than exploring the issue for its own sake. Michael Gunter’s 2004 article “The Kurdish Question in Perspective” offers an explanation of the history of Kurdish nationalist contention, 24 but it is unsatisfactory as described below. In response to the lack of theoretical analysis of Kurdish nationalism, I have borrowed Tarrow’s ‘contentious politics’ model to better explain the subject. According to McAdam, McCarthy, and Zald, there are three main factors used by so-called ‘movement scholars’ in analyzing the development of contentious action:

political opportunities; mobilizing structures; and framing processes. 25 Tarrow describes these factors at length in Power and Movement. First, ‘political opportunities’ are the changes in the set opportunities and constraints imposed upon social groups that encourage contentious action. 26 One of Tarrow’s key points is that objective conditions such as deprivation of resources, denial of identity, and so forth are not in themselves sufficient to produce contentious political action, and that action will only occur if a catalyst in the form of a change in opportunities is provided. 27 Gunter makes the argument that the prevalence of revolt and uprising among the Iraqi-Kurds is the product of the proportionately higher Kurdish population in Iraq compared to Turkey or Iran, the supposedly artificial nature of the Iraqi state,

24 Michael M. Gunter, 201.

25 Doug McAdam, John D. McCarthy, and Mayer N. Zald, “Introduction: Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures, and Framing Processes - Toward a Synthetic Perspective on Social Movements,” in Doug McAdam, John D. McCarthy, and Mayer N. Zald, eds. Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996),


26 Sidney Tarrow, Power in Movement, 71.

27 Sidney Tarrow, “Transnational Politics: Contention and Institutions in International Politics,” Annual Review of Political Science 4 (2001), 14.

and the division of the Arab population along Sunni/Shi’a lines. 28 This interpretation is overly simplistic and fails to explain why Kurdish revolt has been more pronounced at some times than others: these factors are objective conditions that have been consistent since the formation of the Iraqi state. According to Tarrow, they are thus insufficient to produce contentious action (i.e. uprisings) on their own. It was the shifts in the opportunity structure of the Iraqi political system that enabled the contentious outbursts that have been critical in the formation of Iraqi Kurdish identity. The politically unstable period from 1958 to 1975 saw the leadership of the Iraqi state change with great frequency, and often the new regimes courted Kurdish support in order to solidify their positions, but just as quickly would turn against the Kurds if they were seen as a threat. 29 The prominent Kurdish tribal leader Mustafa Barzani received arms and funding in return for supporting Brigadier Qasim, the leader of Iraq following a republican coup in 1958, and was thus able to gain a great deal of power in Iraqi-Kurdistan, 30 but Qasim was soon unnerved by Barzani’s influence and moved against him. In response to the republican government’s indiscriminate violence in the Kurdish regions, Barzani was able to muster a broad-based coalition Kurdish groups that was able to resist the government and gain control of Iraqi Kurdistan and set up a “shadow state”, although admittedly with Iranian patronage. 31 In 1974 conflict once again erupted between the Kurdish coalition led by Barzani and the Iraqi government, at that time under

28 Michael M. Gunter, 201.

29 Andreas Wimmer, Nationalist Exclusion and Ethnic Conflict. 190; David McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds, 316; David McDowall, “The Kurdish Question: a Historical Overview,” 27.

30 David McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds,


31 Andreas Wimmer, Nationalist Exclusion and Ethnic Conflict, 191.

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the control of the Ba’th party. As with Qasim’s republican regime the Ba’th was initially conciliatory towards the Kurds, 32 but soon moved to extend its authority over Iraqi- Kurdistan. Again a broad coalition comprised of a wide spectrum of Kurdish society was organized under Barzani to resist Iraqi forces, and the armed resistance lasted until 1975, when Iran withdrew its support for the Kurds. 33 This period from 1958 to 1975 saw the strengthening of unity and commonality of purpose among Kurdish groups as a result of their participation in resistance against the various governments in Baghdad. Was this unity an expression of nationalism or merely a reaction to aggression by an outside party? This question has been debated by scholars and will be discussed in more detail below in the analysis of the approaches used by Kurdish leaders to frame their contention. Although Kurdish groups occasionally worked together to provided a unified front against Iraqi aggression, they were just as often in conflict with each other. In particular, there was an ideological rift between the Barzani and his relatively conservative tribal supporters and the urban leftist ideologues such as Jalal Talabani who sought the creation of a Kurdish national identity along Euro- American lines. 34 While allied to one another within the KDP for several years, in the early 1960s Barzani expelled the leftists, who would later become the leadership of the PUK. Both parties were heavily militarized by the 1980s and were often in conflict with one another during the Iran-Iraq War, despite their mutual antagonism towards the Iraqi government, now led by Saddam Hussein. A united front emerged towards the end of the war, primarily because the two Kurdish

32 Ofra Bengio, 111.

33 The withdrawal of Iranian support for the Iraqi Kurds was part of the settlement of a territorial dispute between Iran and Iraq regarding sea access. See McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds, 339.

34 Ibid., 289.

parties shared Iranian patronage. 35 In this case, contentious action against the Iraqi government was not sufficient to bring the Kurds together, in part because of the significant difference in the frames used by Kurdish elites to encourage contention.


Framing processes are the manner in which actors ‘package’ their grievances and offer ways to redress these grievances. 36 Tarrow suggests that nationalism, along with religion, provides “ready-made symbols, rituals, and solidarities that can be accessed and appropriated by movement leaders”. 37 This is true, but only up to a point. When the issue at stake is the nation’s identity itself, and there is no acknowledged ‘national’ (i.e. state) authority, competing groups of actors will attempt to frame the identity of the nation along lines that are in accord with their own ideological, religious, class, and intellectual, and other viewpoints. In the Kurdish case, this phenomenon is manifested in the multiplicity of Kurdish nationalist movements with significantly different approaches: Marxists, tribal coalitionists, Islamic fundamentalists, et cetera.

Framing Kurdish nationalism in Iraq has proved difficult. While educated urban Kurds have though in nationalist terms since the partition of Greater Kurdistan, the rural population has continued to organize along tribal lines, dominated politically be landlords (aghas) and religious shaykhs. The Kurdish national project in Iraq has depended on the mobilizing of these ‘traditionalist’ elements for nationalist causes. 38 There were a number of Kurdish revolts from 1920 to 1946, but

35 Ibid., 350-351.

36 Doug McAdam, John D. McCarthy, and Mayer N. Zald, 5.

37 Sidney Tarrow, Power in Movement, 112.

38 A. Sherzad, “The Kurdish Movement in Iraq: 1975- 88,” In Philip G. Kreyenbroek and Stefan Sperl, eds. The Kurds: a Contemporary Overview (London:

Routledge, 1992), 135.


mike freen

these were all essentially expressions of tribal grievances towards the central government’s negligence of regional socioeconomic issues. 39 The most notable of these early revolts was that of Mustafa Barzani, who enjoyed prestige both as a notable tribal leader and as a religious authority. In 1943 he escaped detention (having been put there by the Baghdad government for his participation in an earlier revolt) and returned to his base of power in Barzan, in the far north of Iraq. His personal dispute with the central government provided a focal point for broader regional dissatisfaction with inadequate government response to a famine in the Kurdish regions, allowing Barzani to create a broad coalition of Kurdish tribes opposing the government. 40 The broad base of rural support Barzani enjoyed made him a natural focal point for the Kurdish nationalist movement in Iraq. 41 1946 saw the formation of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), which incorporated both modernizing nationalists and tribal leaders. Some particularly left-leaning nationalists, unwilling to cooperate with ‘traditional’ or ‘feudal’ elements, allied themselves instead with the Iraqi Communist Party. The issue of cooperation with the landlords and shaykhs was only one of many contentious issues facing the actors attempting to promote Kurdish nationalism. Another dilemma was whether to promote a nationalism that encompassed Greater Kurdistan or one that merely applied to Kurds living in Iraq. The creation of a specifically Iraqi KDP appeared to support the latter approach. 42 The KDP reframed its approach slightly in 1953, changing its name to the Kurdistan Democratic Party. This implied a

39 David McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds,


40 Ibid., 292.

41 Michael M. Gunter, 200.

42 David McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds,


civic approach to the nationalism, centred on territory rather than Kurdish ethnicity, and was intended to draw in support of non- Kurdish groups. The party also attempted to tie nationalism to the improvement of socioeconomic conditions among the tribal peasantry, although actual progress on this front was limited by the KDP’s dependence on tribal authorities. 43 Wimmer argues that attempts to infuse a sense of national loyalty among the “rank-and-file” tribe members was unsuccessful, and their participation in the nationalist movement was (and remains) a product of their loyalty to established tribal leaders. 44 McDowall suggests that the alignment of most Iraqi Kurds to either the KDP or PUK after 1991 represented not success in instilling nationalist ideas in the Kurdish populace, but the replacement of the

old tribal systems that were largely wiped out

in the decades of violence and repression with

a ‘neo-tribalism’ that features the nationalist

parties as the new centre of allegiance and loyalty. 45 The division of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan into two separate PUK- and KDP-administered regions and subsequent conflict beginning in 1994 appeared to reinforce McDowall’s suspicion, although the reunification of the autonomous Kurdish parliament in 2002 could equally be presented as evidence of a commitment to democratic governance. 46 Wimmer makes a strong case for the relationship between democratic representation and national self- determination. 47 Since the overthrow of the Ba’th regime, the Kurds have shown a great willingness to engage in Iraqi politics, if