Home >> Contributions

Ethical research in a global context

The significance of the feminist emphasis on unpaid labor for understanding international development, and three feminist approaches of development (WID, WAD, GAD) engage with this focus

International development, specifically penetration of global capital has diverse effects on the female workers and their families. Feminist belief is that in spite of an increase in overall participation of women in the paid labor market, working conditions still remain poor and unsafe. Pearson believes that "gender is a principle for allocation of duties, rights, rewards, and power." This has become a pervasive reality because of globalization. Globalization has gendered the jobs of women for example; "Feminized" jobs are jobs that are low-paid, temporary or part time and without benefits.

Women have been subordinate to unpaid labor, positions with less power, and lower salary than men in the realm of international development, which is why women's labor is a resource for global capital. Although employment has increased, women are less secure, and face greater difficulties in taking care of themselves and their families, which can trigger violent relationships with men.

Women usually have the lowest service jobs like elder/child care, waitresses and clerks. These jobs have irregular schedules and female workers usually have to work overtime which adds to the stress. Their bosses (usually men) aren't lenient at all because of the high demand for such jobs. It is mentioned in one of the readings "inequality and dire poverty are gendered outcomes of globalization, which contribute to the apparent increase in international trafficking in woman for prostitution."

A lot of women work in garment factories in very poor working conditions that have detrimental effect on the their health. A case study was done on Mexican Plants, an export-processing company, who only employed young, cheap and docile women. Working in international markets was supposed to decrease the disparity between men and women and to eradicate the stereotypical norms that women are less capable than men. Furthermore, it was supposed to solve structural injustice done with women. However, gendered and feminizing jobs clearly denote and contradict this aim.

Women in development (WID), Women and development (WAD) and gender and development (GAD) are three feminist approaches, which are supposed to solve this inequality (feminizing of jobs offered in the international markets). WID deals with integration of women into global economic, political, and social growth and change. WID doesn't directly engage with this focus because it doesn't examine why women haven't done well from development strategies used during the past decade. Instead, it only focuses on how women could engage more in the ongoing development initiatives without seeing the sources, root and nature of women's subordination and oppression. Instead, it focuses on equalizing participation in education, employment and more. It overlooked the influence and impact of class, race, and culture as a cause of discrimination. It focuses on the productive aspect of women's work and ignores the reproductive side of women's lives. It is based on the assumption that gender relations will automatically change when women will become economic partners in development.

WAD is a neo-Marxist feminist approach. This perspective focuses on the relationship between women and development processes rather than on strategies for the integration of women to development. Although WAD has a more critical viewpoint on woman's position than WID, it fails to understand that interventionist strategies cannot solve the underrepresentation of women. Instead, breaking down the existing stereotypes and male-oriented cultural patterns can solve it.

GAD goes further than WID and WAD as investigates how and why woman have been assigned to inferior roles. It looks into the social construction of gender and the assignment of specific roles, responsibilities and expectations of women and men. It looks into the sexual division of labor and responsibility. A project in Ghana is examining the impact of technological change on women farmers.

Miha Alam
Sociology on International Development
Bryn Mawr College,
Pennsylvania,
USA