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Women, Development and Empowerment: A Pacific Feminist Perspective

To Empower Women in Society

To Empower Women in Society

We need to make deeper inroads into the system of society - the way in which it is organised, the way in which women are unequally represented.

Below is a list of the areas where women do not have power and where women need to gain power. This could be used as a checklist for deciding how and whether our activities contribute to empowering women, and the different ways in which women's activities could be improved to empower women more:

Key areas where women need to consider adding to their involvement, participation and power:



Decision-making at all levels - in the family, in the home, in the church, in the community.

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Improving women's access to resources and their input into how money and government support are to be used for projects women want.


Control over natural resources - women having a say over use/decisions related to land, water supply, etc; especially where development projects have an adverse impact on people's lives and particularly on women. For example, depletion of forest resources means greater walking distance for firewood; pollution of water resources means greater work for women.

Questions to Ask: What do women need to do to gain greater power over resources? How do women need to be organised to be heard? Women have a right to exercise control over resources affecting their lives and the community's.


Planning Processes

Where and how can women enter the planning processes of our societies, at all levels? Key questions:

  • Family level: Where in the family are women involved in planning/ control? Where are they excluded?

  • Community level: Are women present or absent from meetings? Are they present but not expected/allowed to speak? What can be done?

  • Village or District level: Where are the women?

  • National Levels: Is women's input invited or considered in development plans? How do national plans affect women's work, role, contribution to society?

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A Pacific feminist perspective would guide women's suggestions for national development. Participation by women in planning means more than simply adding women to a section of the national development plans of governments.


Understanding Society and the Way it is Organised

Women will not gain power and greater control over their lives if they do not know about the society they live in, its economic, social and political system, and the place of their country and the Pacific in the wider world. Women need to understand the broader context in which their activities take place. Women, to gain power, need to have knowledge of:


The political system: both traditional and introduced, and the Pacific's place in the wider world of international relations, particularly economic relations.


Development choices made by governments and how these affect men and women - from the national level down to the village level. For example, in PNG, people bought imported foods, not understanding that government policy on taxes made imported food more expensive than local foods. If people understood what taxes on imports meant, they would understand that eating local foods was not only nutritionally better, but cheaper also.


Organisations and relationships (i.e the ways things work, structures and the system). At the village, personal and family levels, women need to learn to judge organisations, how they work, and to recognise the power relationships within organisations, even within their family (between brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law).

In other words, women need to understand the society that they live in, the system of government, and the economy. There is a need to know more about the processes of government, who makes decisions and how; and also, who benefits from decisions made by those in power. Then women will be able to identify where privilege and power lies - and be able to develop strategies for women having greater access to page 128 resources and gaining control over decisions that, directly or indirectly, affect their lives.

This knowledge and understanding is part of the empowerment of women. Women need to know these things to be able to work together to mobilise for change. A wider understanding of society, and of power and where it lies, would also enable women to identify other oppressed groups, who might also be joined in struggles for improvements in living conditions, wages, for better access to government, etc.