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Women, Development and Empowerment: A Pacific Feminist Perspective

Questions of Class or Privilege

Questions of Class or Privilege

This issue was debated quite heatedly. One participant expressed the view that women who appeared privileged (by wealth, education) often worked hard to gain that position and therefore were entitled to the privileges they earned. She argued that traditionally, chiefly women/or men, or people from wealthy families, were given added responsibilities to provide food and money for others during periods of crisis or for family and village events. In the Pacific, these were accepted ways of distributing wealth and having wealth also often involved person in a lot of community or family obligations.

It was felt that one danger in agreeing with this view was that it implied people who were poor were in that position because they had not worked hard, or were lazy. Yet privilege often stayed within families; many people could not even climb out of poverty because of constraints of unemployment and the lack of land, lack of housing, lack of money for food/education/training that they experience as individuals and as families. Unequal conditions in society can perpetuate differences in wealth between groups of people, between individuals, between men and women, between families and within families.