HISTORY AND THEORY

Background report on gender issues in Bangladesh

AUTHOR(S): Baden, Sally, et al.
IMPRINT: Brighton, UK: Insitute of Development Studies University of Sussex, 1994. 220 p.
MATERIAL TYPE: Report - Policy Briefing
LANGUAGE: English
SUBJECTS: Economics, Education, Environment, Health, Savings & Credit

SUMMARY:
This extensive report contains sections covering economic growth, credit programs for women, natural resources management, education and health.

Reviewed By: Rachel Masika, BRIDGE Information Officer, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex


Changing roles and statuses of women in Thailand: a documentary assessment

AUTHOR(S): Yoddumnern-Attig, B., Richter, K., et al.
IMPRINT: Nakhon Pathom, Thailand: Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University, 1992. 128 p.
MATERIAL TYPE: Book
LANGUAGE: English
SUBJECTS: History/Theory

SUMMARY:
Using a framework entitled "Seven Roles and Statuses of Women", various Thai scholars and academics examine the historical roots of women's roles and summarize the literature on Thai women in the family as mothers, wives, and daughters, and in the community as workers and public figures.

COMMENTS:
The framework could potentially provide considerable insight into Thai gender relations; however, there is more description than analysis of women's historical roles and of role differences between urban and rural women. Given that Thailand, like other countries in Southeast Asia, is experiencing a "youth boom", the two chapters most relevant to contemporary social conditions are chapter 5 which discusses gender roles in the care of the elderly, and chapter 6 which describes adolescent role behaviour. Both chapters illustrate how gender inequality is rooted in family socialization and the formal and informal education system. Although religious beliefs are also cited as being a significant influence, the lack of any further discussion is disappointing. The differing viewpoints of the contributors suggests that the interpretation of gender relations in Thailand is as contentious as in western society. For example, one author stresses women's authority in the domestic sphere, while another argues that men as the head of the household are the "primary decision makers" and that even within the home women remain "the passive partners of men". Although males are seldom mentioned in this book, the authors do highlight pertinent questions about the changing relationships between Thai women and men.

Reviewed By: Nancy Peters, Northeast Thailand Foundation, Surin


Development, crises, and alternative visions: Third World women's perspectives

AUTHOR(S): Sen, Gita, and Grown, Caren
IMPRINT: New York: Monthly Review Press, 1987. 116 p.
MATERIAL TYPE: Book.
LANGUAGE: English (also available in Spanish, French, Portuguese)
SUBJECTS: Community Development, Economics, Environment

SUMMARY:
This book was written under the guidance of the Founding Committee of the network Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN). Its authors have also had the help of a number of women researchers and activists. Based on three decades of attitudes towards and reactions by Third World women, the book shows the links between gender and other issues, and how only attention to the needs and views of poor women can produce effective change.

The book had its beginnings in Bangalore, India, in August 1984 when a group of dedicated women activists and researchers committed themselves to a process that would elucidate alternative development strategies oriented toward women, and the attainment of economic and social justice, peace, and freedom from oppression by gender, class, race and nation.

The main part of this publication was presented at the UN-sponsored World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya, marking the conclusion of the UN Decade for Women (1975-1985). There it was widely acclaimed and DAWN's vision and goals endorsed. A Preamble and Introduction setting out the conditions that inspired the project and explaining the influences that prompted the mode of approach were added for publication.

COMMENTS:
The full involvement of women in the decision making process is needed. The analysis presented here can help feminists to realize their potential and power, and their responsibility to use these attributes to raise the consciousness of both women and men in the need for the full involvement of women in community, national and international affairs.

Reviewed By: Nora E. Peacocke, WAND


The emancipation of women: an African perspective

AUTHOR(S): Dolphyne, Florence Abena
IMPRINT: Accra: Ghana Universities Press, 1995, c1991. 107 p.
MATERIAL TYPE: Book.
LANGUAGE: English
SUBJECTS: Agriculture, Co-operatives, Fisheries, Microenterprise

SUMMARY:
This book examines traditional practices that disadvantage women in Africa. Marriage practices including bride wealth, child marriage, purdah, polygamy, widowhood and inheritance are examined as well as fertility issues and female circumcision. Critiquing some Western feminist assumptions, the authors argue that it is not enough to call for a ban of these discriminatory practices, but to change prevailing conditions so that they become unneccessary. For example, increasing opportunities for economic independence among women would reduce their dependence on certain oppressive marriage practices. Recent changes in inheritance laws are examined and further reforms are proposed.

Recommendations are made for the promotion of women's rights in several spheres, such as politics, education, access to income generating activities and agriculture. More opportunities for training are needed as well as increased access to land and credit. One loan program is described. In food processing, a gari-processing project is evaluated. Lessons learned from the problems faced by this co-operative are presented. Confidence building is a critical factor in the implementation and management of projects.

COMMENTS:
Includes recommendations for both national and non-governmental organizations to assist women's projects.

Reviewed By: Catherine Irving, Coady


Miss Amy and Miss May

PRODUCER/CREATOR: Sistren Women's Theatre Group
DISTRIBUTOR: Kingston, Jamaica: Sistren; Toronto: Full Frame Film and Video Distribution, 1990.
MATERIAL TYPE: Video, 40 min., colour
LANGUAGE: English
SUBJECTS: History & Theory

SUMMARY:
An account of the lives and work of two women during the politically charged period of Jamaica in the 1930s, a time of labour organization, nationalism and the struggle for women's rights. Amy Bailey, daughter of an eminent black family was a leader in the Jamaican women's movement. May Farquharson, daughter of a wealthy planter advocated taxing the rich to help the poor, reproductive rights for women and reforms to benefit the elderly. Afolashade and Honor Ford-Smith portray these history shapers with humour and complexity.

COMMENTS:
A media resource on the neglected contribution of Jamaican feminists to the making of the modern West Indies.

Reviewed By: Nan Peacocke, WAND


Mujer, amor y violencia: nuevas interpretaciones de antiguas realidades

AUTHOR(S): Grupo Mujer y Sociedad
IMPRINT: Bogota: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Tercero Mundo Editores, 1991.
MATERIAL TYPE: Book
LANGUAGE: Spanish
SUBJECTS: Group Building

COMMENTS:
An interesting book which mixes personal narrative and a largely sociological account of the women's movement, covering everything from biological debates to feminist organizations.

Reviewed By: Nanci Lee, International Rural Development Planning, University of Guelph


Natural rebels: a social history of enslaved black women in Barbados

AUTHOR(S): Beckles, Hilary
IMPRINT: London: Zed, 1989. 187 p.
MATERIAL TYPE: Book
LANGUAGE: English
SUBJECTS: History & Theory

SUMMARY:
A carefully researched study of enslaved women in Barbados as they suffered, laboured, and wherever possible, turned to their advantage colonial patterns of power and authority mediating slave society in the century between 1790 and 1890. The work draws on contemporary documents, newspapers and personal correspondence to reveal a complex social history of race and gender relations in household, yard, estate and urban centre.

The author contends that black women in a variety of contexts, whether through persistent attempts to advance community cohesion and their collective interests, or when pursuing personal, individualist goals, were motivated by an anti-slavery consciousness, as black and female, which focused their social behaviour.

COMMENTS:
A forceful contribution to restoring women's importance to Caribbean historiography.

Reviewed By: Nan Peacocke, WAND


Paying for modernity: women and the discourse of freedom in Kathmandu

AUTHOR(S): Liechty, Mark
JOURNAL: Studies in Nepali History and Society, Vol. 1, No. 1, June 1996, p.201-230.
MATERIAL TYPE: Journal Article
LANGUAGE: English
SUBJECTS: Human Rights

SUMMARY:
The author discusses changes in Nepali urban society since the democratization that, while giving greater opportunity, may have negatively impacted the freedom on security of educated urban Nepali women. The article is based on interviews with Nepali women explaining how they feel about some of the changes. For example he says, "Women are stuck in the bind of needing to risk their class status in order to claim gender equity in the new bourgeois public sphere" (p.216). Because men and women now interact more often in the public sphere, men have to learn how to deal with women in these public roles, and sometimes they have dealt more harshly with them than previously, because (to some extent) of the new freedoms.

Also he says, "Thus, entering the role of the 'public woman'--the free individual in the public sphere--is like entering a mine field; threats of harassment and sexual stigma await those women who dare to break out of a traditional femininity that was confied within dependent relations with dominant males" (p.227). And, "Since the rebirth of multi-party democracy in Nepal in the early 1990s the shape and meaning of freedom is, more than ever, on the line" (p.228).

COMMENTS:
This very interesting article shows that no change comes without a price, and in a society where gender determines may social relationships, women will need to be careful to be sure that the new changes are positive for them.

Reviewed By: Roberta Hall, Oregon State University


Thai women: recommendations for development

AUTHOR(S): Yunibhand, J., editor
IMPRINT: Bangkok: Thai NGO Working Group for World Conference on Women and the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation, 1994. 109 p.
MATERIAL TYPE: Book
LANGUAGE: Thai and English
SUBJECTS: Agriculture, Environment, Health, Human Rights, Indigenous Peoples

SUMMARY:
This is a bilingual summary of the workshop report about the status of Thai women and recommendations for development produced by the Thai NGO Working Group for the World Conference on Women, 1995. Each section includes a brief overview of the current situation, describes critical issues in Thai society and lists recommendations for change. Sections are included on: health, labour rights, women with disabilities, environment, agriculture, science and technology, economic empowerment, family, women's rights, the right of sexual preference, violence, political empowerment, education, culture and religion, information, and indigenous groups.

COMMENTS:
The report provides an overview of the spectrum of Thai women's issues and potential solutions from a grassroots perspective. Some of the topics, such as indigenous groups and women in the media, are seldom mentioned in other publications about women in Thailand.

Reviewed By: Nancy Peters, Northeast Thailand Foundation, Surin


Women's social protest in Thailand

AUTHOR(S): Pongsapich, A.
BOOK TITLE: Alternatives, volume 2: women's visions and movements
IMPRINT: Rio de Janeiro: Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN); Editora Rosa dos Tempos, 1991. p.255-268.
MATERIAL TYPE: Article in Book
LANGUAGE: English
SUBJECTS: History/Theory

SUMMARY:
This article provides a historical overview of the development of women's organizations in Thailand, focusing on specific periods in which elite groups and grassroots women's organizations were much more vocal on behalf of women and the underprivileged. The author goes on to describe some of the social, cultural and political forces which promoted change and the resulting impact upon Thai women and Thai society.

COMMENTS:
This is a useful reference for readers seeking to understand the historical context of gender relations in contemporary Thai society. By drawing attention to some of the historical tensions between women and men and shifting power relationships, this article contradicts the contention that Thai women have never perceived themselves as disadvantaged relative to men and that inequality between the sexes has always been accepted.

Reviewed By: Nancy Peters, Northeast Thailand Foundation, Surin.