Gender stereotypes have been a major part of the lives of many people. Gradually, many of these stereotypes, and gender barriers, have broken down, but there are still assumptions in most communities about the personal tendencies of people in gender groups. To understand some of the situations in which people find themselves, we will be looking in this essay at three general categories of thought. These include WID, which is integration of women in the worldwide growth of politics, economics and society. Two of the more recent focuses are also useful in this discussion: WAD, which is women and development; and, GAD, gender and development. In this paper, I will examine with a critical eye these concepts and action plans that are presumed within each of them. I will then determine which category is the most effective.
WAD is a useful framework to develop an understanding of the relationship women have had with society as a whole, and how that interaction has played out since the early 1970s when the term came into prominence. The term likely became used because the 1970s was a great time for progress among women and breaking down the gender barriers that prevented them from assuming jobs that were typically designated for men. During this period, governments were writing legislation that protected women from employers discriminating against them for their gender. WAD was needed to take a close look at the roles that were typically assigned to women and the ways they affected the needs of the capitalist system, which was experiencing an agricultural revelation during the period and required the help of women, as “The Journal of Developing Areas” points out, (Rathgeber, 1990). Frameworks such as these are often needed to keep an objective view about the material that is being analyzed, and the WAD provided a name for the transformation that was taking place in the workforce. The data that was compiled helped modernize the employment strategies and it helped create a focus on the sexual division of labor.
But it should be argued that the term, Women in Development, doesn’t provide a very insightful take on what exactly it is, even though the body of research on which it was focused is a worthwhile study. However, the term should be recognized for its simplicity. It could very easily be used as an acronym and it wasn’t long before the Women’s Committee of the Washington, DC, chapter of the Society for International Development was using the term. WID provided the beginning of the study of the gender-specific division of labor. This beginning work was effective at bringing to surface action plans that helped address an unfair division of labor. This is an important time because there was a growing need in the workforce for people who could help fill the many jobs in the agriculture sector, which was becoming much more needed due to increased production and demand from farms during the period.
The modernization exemplified in WID, also helped lead to including more women in field of the education system where a trained workforce was needed. These new frameworks helped to include women more in the modernization. Prior to this time, women were not always included in analysis. For example, women were now given specific attention because of the principles created by WID. Prior to these principles, there was an overarching attitude towards favoring men during analysis.
The overarching benefit that the WID had, was it put women’s issues and how they relate to the working economy into focus. This was much needed to get the wheels of modernization moving. And the research that WID resulted in showed that there were inconsistencies between equal rights and the ways women were treated in the workforce.
WAD takes WID one step further, but it also fails in some departments. For example, it doesn’t look at the oppression of women like WID does. In short, the term comes up short in the analysis of the subordination of women. However, it also takes a more critical view of the position of women. There is a key assumption that it is too complacent, and that is the perception that the roles of women will improve when the structures shared internationally become equal. In order for there to be changes to the development of the rights of women, the theory states, there needs to be more representation among women in political office, and in other arenas that affect their social status. The theory behind the term fails to set out actionable responses to the oppression of women in development. Rather, it implies that certain areas will be improved if there is greater participation and acceptance of women in areas where decisions that affect the gender can be created and applied at a societal level. The WAD doesn’t do a good enough job at addressing the oppressive nature of society against the interests of women. It takes a more general look at the issues in society, such as class division among both genders. WAD sees both men and women as being disadvantaged, which is correct, but an emphasis on women is needed in WAD because the term uses the word “women” in its title.
It has been argued that both WID and WAD only research the economic effects of women in development without giving any value to the social aspects of women in their role in society: “The labor invested in family maintenance, including childbearing and rearing, housework, care of the ill and elderly, and the like, has been considered to belong to the ‘private’ domain and outside the purview of development projects aimed at enhancing income-generating activities,” (Rathgeber, 1990). However, this criticism is unfounded because WID and WAD never intended to put such a value on the social contributions made by women. Perhaps an even more important point is that women shouldn’t automatically be associated with the social aspects named.
In the final approach to be discussed in this paper, GAD, the term became popular in the 1980s and is essentially a newer version of WID. In this framework, women and gender were combined as one with no regard for the various exploitations that were obvious in women. This was the crux of the issue, because in order to modernize women’s relation with the world in which they work, there needed to be progress made in mitigating, and eliminating, the oppression of women. There was only a basic set of tools designed to analyze the interaction of women and the world around them, and it didn’t get personal enough to make any progressive steps in the way women were treated in society. This is a disappointment because there were many progressions in the field of social sciences and the position of women during the WID era of the 1970s.
The main reason GAD neglected to look at the detailed aspects of women and how they relate to society, is because GAD was focused on a holistic approach that didn’t look at just one gender, but both. The focus was more on the general construction of gender and the various roles that are given to each gender. It was a stereotypical analysis, as it looked at the roles that both sexes were expected to undertake. However, the research was also based on what the most common roles are among women and men. GAD was also strong in the sense that it welcomed all perspectives, and didn’t just focus on the views of women in its development. This gave it a more general focus, but it was perhaps stronger because it was more objective. Without the subjectivity of only having the perspective of one gender, GAD was better able to become something that could fit into a society, which is obviously made up of both men and women. It should be noted that the concerns factored into GAD were from men and women who were interested in social justice. GAD uses these perspectives to attempt to provide a framework on which society can develop with both genders being considered.
GAD is largely different from WID and WAD in that it looks at the value of the work done by women in the household, and it factors in the family unit as being an integral role to a well-functioning society. It also looked at the role of both genders in the household indiscriminately, while recognizing there is a need from the state to help preserve the family unit, such as funding in situations where adequate care for children can’t be given. This differs from the two other focuses, which don’t recognize the need for public assistance in the family unit. GAD recognizes that women are prone to oppression in families, and they are the source of much of the assistance that should be given because of their higher tendency to be in situations such as single parenthood.
GAD is essentially a more evolved version of WID and WAD, and this makes it the most effective focus. When social programs are factored into the functioning in societal development, such as they are with GAD, there is greater distribution of wealth, which builds the circulation of money. This circulation helps businesses prosper and, in effect, the owners are able to hire more employees. GAD also takes the benefits of WID and WAD by factoring women’s issues and the need to improve gender equality, though WAD doesn’t do a good enough job of that point. GAD is largely what has led to the equal treatment of women and higher quality social programs that society enjoys today.
Rathgeber, E.M. (1990, July). WID, WAD, GAD: Trends in Research and Practice. The Journal of
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