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Women, Development and Empowerment: A Pacific Feminist Perspective

Evaluation of Projects

Evaluation of Projects

In terms of the well-being of women, one can evaluate in simple terms how much food and water women have control of. To take the PNG example mentioned earlier, the water supply was there, but the national government's policies took away people's control over water and it was returned in a different form. In the same way, there are some small scale projects in Asia, to do with digging wells here and there, yet at the same time national policies were moving in a different direction. Similar policy contradictions also occur in relation to housing, where the type of housing provided costs too much for the village people. At the national level, therefore, some decisions and actions work against the general thrust of projects.

In terms of the environmental, health, and personal safety aspects, many projects page 79 have been criticised because they tend to over-work women. The common assumption that women have nothing to do has meant that many projects to increase women's income, have resulted in overworking women, who have already been overworked by the social conditions they lived in. The fault of these projects was that instead of looking at a woman's participation within the social and economic structures she was linked with, some projects for women have been created independently. Many such projects later fail.

Many of the income-generating activities for women also raise the question: to what extent does the income generated by the project relate to the cost of living? Often the amount of work put into a project does not generate enough money to surmount the cost of living expenses of women.

A major criticism is that many projects do not really look at the empowerment of women. By this I mean that the process involved in the project is often overlooked. Equally important for women is knowledge gained. Very seldom is a better understanding about the world in which women live gained as a result of women's involvement in projects. That world is one in which many old structures are croding, which new ones are being imposed, and women do not really know how to deal with these changing structures. Women's lack of knowledge of how to gain control over this process is not because women are not exposed. It is because women are involved in a different system where there is a lot of sharing and where group activities are important. The new structures are part of a system that emphasises individual relationships and hierarchy. Women have not been helped or empowered to deal with these new structures.

How do we make women strong enough to evolve their own structures which will assist the reality of their everyday lives? We need some empowerment for women, to maintain what we have, and to develop women's strength rather than eroding it. Later in the workshop, we can talk about what we mean by empowerment.

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We also need to look at the way women's values are under-rated and ignored, and the way the system puts down women. As women's groups, we need to build up the prestige and strength of women by not hitting women down, but by building up.

It is implicit that our definition of development is along these lines. Development has to be seen in terms of not just economic growth, or development of sectors that generate income, but more broadly, as development of the totality of a person, within the context of his/her community, and within the context of the nation as a whole. The assumption we make in evaluating the role of development in this way, is to press for a decrease in the types of inequality that exist in our social systems. This view of development looks at the relationship people have with one another and it also looks at classes of women.