On this page we will give details of activities which team members take part in which are related to the Pathways themes but not necessarily part of the research. We will also post news and media coverage of team members to give you a flavour of who we are and what we do.
International Life Story Day
International Day for Sharing Life Stories
On Friday 16 May, Pathways of Women's Empowerment joined with the Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research at the University of Sussex to celebrate the inaugural annual International Day for Sharing Life Stories. The event showcased the life history work being done at the University and invited people to find out more about telling their lives in a variety of ways.
Parallel events to share and gather life stories took place in Africa, Australia, Europe, India and in North and South America. More than 200 individuals and organisations, including the British Oral History Society and Studs Terkel, have endorsed the establishment of the International Day for Sharing Life Stories. See Sussex University Bulletin and Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research.
Tessa Lewin, Communications Officer for the Pathways programme, was one of the winners of the 'Young Women's Choice' Award - a competition run by the International Museum of Women to represent inspiring stories by young women in various media. Tessa was the winner of the Best of Africa award - see her film and story at Imagining Ourselves
Dr Mulki Al Sharmani from the Middle East Hub attended the 106th annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Washington, D.C. from 28 to 30 November 2007. Her paper was part of a panel entitled 'Negotiating Conceptions of Family, Intimacy, and Marriage'. The panel was reviewed by the Association for Feminist Anthropology. There were five presentations in the panel. The papers drew on ethnographic research conducted in various geographical areas such as the USA, Taiwan, Dominica, Belize, and Egypt. The first paper investigated how a rapidly-growing evangelical mega-church preaches a "complementarian" view of men and women as created "equal yet different". The paper then examined how the notion of "equality", which shapes current efforts in the USA to legalise same-sex marriages, relates to, as well as diverges from, the notion of "complementarity" of gender roles.
The second paper contributed to a greater understanding of gendered relationships in Dominica. It described rural female household heads’ ideas regarding men failing in their roles as providers and fathers. The paper also highlighted men’s reactions to these roles.
The third paper examined how educated working wives and mothers in Taiwan were seeking and finding agency and empowerment in their families through local and individualised practices and strategies that negotiated rather than challenged traditional norms governing gender roles and relations within the family.
The fourth paper showed how the increasingly significant economic roles that women were playing in the tourism industry in Belize has enabled them to make choices about forming different kinds of families: some opted not to get married; others did not want to have children or had fewer children; and some were able to support their children on their own and thus ended undesirable marriages.
Lastly, Mulki's paper examined the dynamic process of reforming certain aspects of Egyptian family laws; the enactments and (sometimes) subversions of these new laws in the gender politics of court rooms; and the impact of these legal changes on women.
Through a multiplicity of theoretical approaches that included discursive, institutional, and political economy analyses, the papers in this panel shed light on the gendering of marriage and marital roles. Also, the papers highlighted transformations that are taking place in conceptions and practices of marriage and family life due to new economic roles and relations between couples, shifting discourses of marriage and family, and changes in legal and religious institutions that structure and regulate marriage and family relations.
Family Courts in Egypt: Pathway of Women's Empowerment? (pdf file 53 KB) Mulki Al Sharmani paper presented at AAA Annual Meeting, November 2007
Link to Mulki's Family Courts in Egypt project
Dr Aisha Fofana Ibrahim from the University of Sierra Leone attended the Feminist Pedagogy Conference at the CUNY Graduate Center, New York on 12 October 2007. She presented a paper entitled “Decentering a “Traditional” Classroom through War-Talk and/or Trauma”. Here is her report from the conference:
The conference started at 9am and ended at 7pm. Participants were from all over the US, Canada, and Mexico and I was the only person from Africa (which made me feel a little bit lonely!). A vast array of papers were presented and topics discussed with panels ranging from, 'Where Are We? The Space and Place of the Classroom in Feminist Pedagogy'; 'Building and Living Feminist Theory'; 'Teaching Difficult Topics'; 'Feminist Art Pedagogy'; 'Activism & Social Justice; Theoretical and Practical Applications and Experiences'; 'Teaching Against Supremacy and Privilege for Liberation and Healing'; 'Faith, Fiction, and Conservatism: Examining Literature and Religion for Individual and Social Change'; 'Authority, Power, and Institutionalizing Feminism'; to 'Healing through the Class Project: Experiential and Experimental Course Workshops and Projects', the panel under which I presented my paper.
Nancy K. Miller delivered the keynote address titled 'What's Feminist about Feminist Pedagogy?' in which she sort of revisited some of her theorizing and tried to make connections with present happenings in academia. Interestingly she talked about women that influenced her and how that generation of women are dying and what that meant for feminism.
Generally, it was an interesting conference with lots of discussion and an attempt to link ideas across panels and disciplines. One thing that presenters at my panel agreed on was the need for students to take responsibility for their own education. It was apparent from all the papers presented that students, irrespective of location, were comfortable with the “traditional” (banking model) classroom where they are “spoon fed” and not expected to think much for themselves. I was a little bit surprised by this because I did not think that it was so pervasive in a society wherein students have so much access to learning materials. In my own context it was understandable for students to latch on the lecturer because they have little or no access to learning and other materials.
Links: Aisha's Conference Paper: 'Decentering a "Traditional" Classroom through War-Talk and/or Trauma';
Conference Website: http://web.gc.cuny.edu/womenstudies/wgp/index.html
Pathways Internship Report
|By Sara Callegari
IDS MA Gender and Development
The Pathways of Women’s Empowerment research programme promoted the academic exchange among the Consortium’s partners by supporting a limited number of internships of IDS MA students at the partners’ offices. Ms Sara Callegari, an IDS student reading for a MA in Gender and Development, was awarded a grant to conduct research at the Social Research Centre of the American University in Cairo in July 2007. Thanks to the grant, Sara spent a month in Cairo, researching on gender myths which influence the development practice of microcredit in Egypt. In Cairo, Sara was supported by Dr. Hania Sholkamy, the convenor of the Middle East Hub, and the staff of the SRC. Sara conducted interviews with seventeen medium and high level practitioners working in the design and delivery of microcredit in Cairo, belonging to six local NGOs, one international NGO, four international development agencies, two local and international consultancies, one bilateral donor, a governmental organization and a research institute. Her final dissertation, conducted under the supervision of Professor Naila Kabeer, is entitled “The tyranny of replicability: myths and discourses around empowerment in Egypt”. It analyses perspectives and practises and the pervasiveness and consequences of gender myths around women’s empowerment and microcredit. As a matter of fact, microcredit is often presented by the development industry as the magic bullet which can bring about women’s empower. The dissertation argues, drawing from primary qualitative research, that the “magic” microcredit-empowerment relationship relies on myths. The Egyptian microcredit sector seems to be vulnerable to three sets of tyrannies. Firstly, the tyranny of the model has imposed the Grameen system to the Egyptian microcredit sector, despite it being not backed by appropriate impact assessment, thus overlooking cultural specificities and potential local constraints. Secondly, the tyranny of discourses has “monetarized” empowerment, limiting it to the economic realm and depriving it of its cognitive essence. It has also individualized it, downsizing empowerment to a process of mere self-enhancement rather than of structural power re-distribution. Lastly, the tyranny of interpretation has standardized female beneficiaries into non-threatening categories, ghettoizing and objectifying them. The dissertation concludes that the sum of these tyrannies threatens the efficacy of microcredit. If it is to offer sustainable development, it needs to be packaged and sifted of gender and operational myths which in fact neutralize the transformatory potential of empowerment. Sustainable microcredit needs to be inclusive to strategies that acknowledge the multidimensional, structural and collective essence that lies within the idea of empowerment. Microcredit possesses big potential for development if packaged and demystified.