Shaping Our Struggles: Nigerian Women in History, Culture and Social Change

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Gatherings Frankl granted it to consider download shaping our struggles: nigerian women in history, culture on a second heating. Auschwitz into a download shaping of mathematical O. Current metrics and rubrics strip away its relational dimensions. Yet any account of the lived experience of empowerment and disempowerment must embrace the essential sociality of the concept. There is in this an intimate imbrication of the personal and political. Empowerment can be temporary, and some pathways of empowerment can lead women into experiences of disempowerment, from which they may or may not surface empowered.

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Shaping Our Sturggles: Nigerian Women in History, Culture and Social Change provides a critical reconsideration of women s position in Nigeria by exploring. Shaping our Struggles Nigerian Women in History, Culture and Social Change provides a critical reconsideration of women's position in Nigeria by exploring.

And empowering experiences in one area of a woman's life do not automatically translate into greater capacity to exercise agency and transform power relations in another part of her life. This encourages an approach that looks at different dimensions and sites of empowerment in a more holistic way, one that aims to understand the relational dynamics of power and positive change at a variety of levels, in different spaces and over time.

Setting the discourses and definitions of women's empowerment that are used by today's mainstream development institutions in the context of this earlier generation of thinking about empowerment reveals some of the limits of current approaches. The World Bank, for example, has taken up Naila Kabeer's influential work on women's empowerment. But in the process, her emphasis on the relational nature of empowerment has fallen out of the frame.

Central to this process are actions which both build individual and collective assets and improve the efficiency and fairness of the organizational and institutional context which govern the use of these assets. If we take account of these insights, it becomes evident that providing women with loans, business opportunities and the means to generate income may enable them to better manage their poverty, but to be transformative , to address the root causes of poverty and the deep structural basis of gender inequality, calls for more than facilitating women's access to assets or creating enabling institutions, laws and policies.

Two vital levers are needed. The first is processes that produce shifts in consciousness. This includes overturning limiting normative beliefs and expectations that keep women locked into situations of subordination and dependency, challenging restrictive cultural and social norms and contesting the institutions of everyday life that sustain inequity.

The second is engagement with culturally embedded normative beliefs, understandings and ideas about gender, power and change. This takes the process of change beyond the level of the individual to address commonly held and taken for granted assumptions that undergird gendered inequalities in any particular cultural context. Changing notions of what a woman or a man should be or do, and challenging understandings of gender identities and relations can take a variety of forms.

"Shaping Our Struggles: Nigerian Women in History, Culture and Social C" by Chima J. Korieh

It can range from formally instituted training courses that expose participants to different ways of framing their social worlds, providing them with a new language and lenses through which to view their realities. It can also include women coming together with other women to share experiences, experience and offer solidarity, shifting in the process the way they come to think of themselves and their entitlements not only as individuals but also as people who share something in common.

Ultimately, it is about enabling people to stand back and inspect critically the beliefs about themselves and others they take for granted, and then using this expanded understanding to inform an analysis of what needs to change and how they can be part of that process of change.

In what follows, I apply some of these insights, drawing on a series of case studies from research carried out by the Pathways programme to explore further some of the dynamics of empowerment in practice. This is illustrated in this first case study, from Brazil.

It tells of an employment training programme called Chapeu de Palha Mulher that was designed by a feminist bureaucrat with the positional power to convene state agencies and civil society organizations in the delivery of the programme, as well as to mount the resources to finance the institutional inputs required.

Chapeu de Palha Mulher reconfigured an existing safety net programme aimed at alleviating the hunger of seasonal sugar cane workers in rural areas of the State of Pernambuco. Pathways used documentary film and interviews with the programme's designers, implementers and women beneficiaries to investigate the ways of working and some of the impacts of the programme. Chapeu de Palha Mulher makes use of an existing safety net programme to avert hunger between the harvests to change women's prospects, with transformational effects.

Women’s Rights—Norms and Standards

Pathways' research took the form of qualitative research on the design and implementation of the programme, complemented by an independent quantitative evaluation commissioned by the State Secretariat and a documentary, A Quiet Revolution , which sought to explore women's experiences of the programme. Chapeu de Palha Mulher seeks to channel social policies to households through women without instrumentalizing them.

The state government negotiated with training colleges to lower the bar for women's entry into courses, citing their historic disadvantage and exclusion, giving thousands of women access to an education previously denied to them. Stipends for attending courses complement existing benefits to provide women with a basic income during the time of hunger, and the programme provides childcare, transportation and food to facilitate access.

The programme works through a unique partnership between the state and civil society. One of the state's leading feminist organizations designed, facilitated and trained others to facilitate the rights and citizenship training and has used its capillary networks in remote rural areas to strengthen local women's organizations. The State Secretariat has worked with the local state institutions to create a sustainable basis for the programme, creating local women's secretariats in the most patriarchal rural districts.

In a State Secretariat survey, women responded that not only had the programme brought them income and training that could lead them into employment. It had also opened their eyes to their rights as citizens and brought them a sense of personal transformation. Admitting women to learn skills such as welding and plumbing has also challenged attitudes within government training institutions, creating the basis for sustainable change.

Most striking has been the impact of the public policies course on their sense of entitlement as citizens, and rights as women. Interviewees spoke of never before having known that they had a right to have these rights. This part of the programme has led to them making choices for the vocational training that they might never have previously considered, and to making changes in their lives that might have been unimaginable. Reflecting on change that the programme has brought, Marcilene, who is training in soldering, talks of how she left a violent husband and a job in which she was being exploited, because of the predictability of the stipend she receives from the programme and the cash transfer she receives from the state.

The programme has also taught her that she has as much of a right as anyone else to leisure and pleasure. By building both power within and power with Rowlands, , working with critical consciousness can expand women's horizons of possibility and with it, the potential transformative impact of access to independent income.

An important lesson about what works concerns those involved in the doing of empowerment interventions: those who are the intermediaries and implementers of policies, projects and programmes.

The best of laws and policies and most beautifully designed programmes can falter and fail if those who deal with putting them into practice are not themselves engaged and empowered as agents of change. And this can be obscured by the focus on individual women that is characteristic of mainstream narratives of empowerment Sholkamy, The second case study is Egypt's conditional cash transfer programme, run by the Ministry of Solidarity and draws on an action research project carried out by Hania Sholkamy, of the American University in Cairo's Social Research Center.

The Egyptian conditional cash transfer programme was designed through a process that sought the insight and experiences of an international group of feminist social policy experts, drawing on progressive social policy experiments in Latin America. The programme sought to instil a sense of citizenship in women, who come to see the transfer as an entitlement rather than a hand out. It recognized the significance of supportive relationships as part of the process of transformation.

In its focus on intermediaries—the social workers who visit and enrol the women—it places the quality of relationships at the heart of the intervention. Most importantly, it combined material support with processes that seek transformations in women's own subjectivities and in their individual and collective agency. Applying these principles to the design of a cash transfer programme with feminist principles, Hania Sholkamy was able to follow the implementation of the programme, using ethnographic research to document the effects of transformed relationships marked with respect.

Their empowerment is rarely in itself the object of development intervention. It aimed to test a feminist approach to social protection. The programme began with ethnographic research to gain a closer understanding of what mattered to women themselves. This revealed not just the need for income to supplement meagre household incomes but also the failures of state provision and mistreatment by service providers and a desire for decent work and better living conditions.

The programme built in an active role for social workers in supporting women to access state services and recognize their entitlements to such services as citizens. It sought to value women's care work: it was clearly stated that the cash transfer compensates women for time spent attending programme meetings and social worker visits. Women were not required to provide proof of unemployment and were encouraged to see the transfer as a means to engage in work on better terms.

Social workers underwent training that promoted the values of rights and justice and were trained as facilitators and supporters who could accompany rather than direct or instruct. The programme permitted women to make decisions that would otherwise have been the prerogative of men, allowing them to invest resources in their children's education, clothing, nutrition and home improvements. The reliability of the transfers allowed women to plan. After two years of payments, women reported a number of improvements in their lives. One of the most striking was a remarkable decrease in reported domestic violence.

A third of those interviewed reported that abuse had stopped. The reason is that cash had helped reduce stress in households, as men were not being pressed to give women cash for urgent needs. Cash payments had also not had any negative effects on women's desire or ability to work, but now women reported working out of choice, rather than desperation.

The cash transfer gave them security, so they were able to look for less demeaning work. Her research shows that a programme design explicitly seeking to enhance women's identities as citizens and restore to them the accountability of the state was an important factor in generating positive effects. By starting with women's own desires and supporting them to make choices and fulfil the obligations that they value, the programme's empowering effects came about through acknowledging and recognizing their roles both as caregivers and as breadwinners.

Pathways' research on work shows the importance for women's economic empowerment of the regularity and predictability of income and of flows of resources that provide women with the security to plan and to act.

It also emphasizes just how significant symbolic and social resources are to women's empowerment. Kabeer, Sudarshan and Milward's moving collection of narratives of women organizing women workers in the informal economy shows again and again the symbolic violence faced by women in stigmatized jobs—rag pickers, domestic workers, sex workers. Common themes running through the cases of informal sector organizing included the following: the power of collectivization in ending the isolation women in this sector experience and confronting their exploitation and stigmatization; the significance of collective critical analysis in changing women workers' consciousness of their right to have rights, and capacity to exercise voice to claim those rights; and the role played by the organizations and individuals who accompanied and supported the process of organizing.

And these gains, and the struggles waged to secure them, include vital resources of respect and recognition. The struggle for recognition as human beings with rights has framed VAMP's activism as focused on changing society , rather than remaining victim to societal imposition of its mores onto them. The story of VAMP demonstrates the power of collective action that can transform the conditions in which women work, and with it their lives and livelihoods.

Save us from Saviours The Indian sex workers' collective VAMP Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad , which now counts more than members, began with regular group meetings that brought sex workers together to critically analyse the obstacles in their lives. Meena Seshu, who was originally trained as a social worker, had begun working in a conventional way in their community. Slowly, she came to recognize that a different approach was needed. It was evident that clients were the least of their problems, and often a source of affectionate relationships as well as income.

Most of the difficulties the sex workers faced came from outside their community. The discrimination that the sex workers had to endure had all manner of material effects, from the higher prices charged by the vegetable sellers plying their wares in the sex work area to workers who preferred to buy from them than face the stares of going into town, to the effects of prejudice on their children's education to difficulties in accessing public services.

The story of VAMP's success is instructive. The second was the process of building capacity to work together collectively and creating relationships of solidarity within a community that had once been fractious and divided. Sex workers have a regular, independent income: but many sex workers were not saving and managing their money, and VAMP has helped them to do this, and thus to gain similar benefits to those found in other economic empowerment initiatives. Members are able to insist on condom use, call for help with difficult clients or local thugs and mobilize to hold the state to account for police attacks on sex workers.

The fourth case is from Bangladesh and is of the landless women's organization Saptagram. Naila Kabeer and Lopita Huq's study tells a salutary tale about the hazards of scaling up funding too fast, and also a powerful story of what works. Kabeer and Huq's analysis not only emphasizes relationships as a vital factor in efforts to support women's empowerment. The cautionary tale of what happens when a project or an organization becomes a donor darling also offers important lessons for those concerned with supporting positive social change in favour of women's empowerment and gender justice.

Relationships Matter Women's organizations play a vital role in supporting women's empowerment. A key dimension of this role are the relationships of trust, loyalty and love that often bind these organizations together and are part of the story of their effectiveness. Naila Kabeer and Lopita Huq tell the story of a Bangladeshi landless women's organization, Saptagram, set up to provide poor women with the basic economic security to take action against injustice. Joint savings were banked, loans given by Saptagram for collective projects, along with training and support.

Korieh, Chima J. (Chima Jacob) 1962-

But it didn't die. It gradually regenerated itself, led by members. Kabeer and Huq offer a number of vital lessons. There were tangible gains in women's living standards, from home improvements to investments in small businesses, but most significant were the more intangible shifts in attitude, esteem and confidence that the programme had stimulated. Women spoke of being able to stand on their own two feet and reduce their dependence on others, and of learning to speak for themselves. Interviews with members revealed how far Saptagram's courses had transformed their perceptions of themselves, expanded their horizons and made them more confident about interacting with others, including those who had previously intimidated them.

The women who returned to Saptagram to regenerate it after its near demise spoke of how their love of the organization that had changed their lives brought them back. What made the difference? Saptagram came and opened our eyes. Saptagram's impact was founded on their recognition of the vital role of consciousness in social change. As important were the relationships Saptagram built amongst women who were previously unable to act in concert to defend their rights and fight injustice. Solidarity and collective action proved key drivers of change and real gains were made in employment rights and access to public services as well as in women's domestic relationships.

Victim of its own success and drowned by donor funding, Saptagram plunged into disarray. This story also brings out the relational dimensions of successful empowerment initiatives, and of solidarity, trust and respect. As Rosalind Eyben has so powerfully argued, relationships matter.

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Time and again, Pathways' studies of movements and organizations showed the significance of the relational dimensions of development work that seeks to promote positive social change [see, for example, Mukhopadhyay et al. Part of what enables women to step away from the expectations that limit them comes from seeing themselves and their options in a different light.

Where imaginative use has been made of vehicles like soap operas and online forums, prejudices can be challenged and perspectives changed.

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Role models that inspire, challenge and strengthen others are invaluable. Despite technical difficulties in measuring the impact, development agencies should not give up on the potential of these activities. Eyben,