North-South

Articles by Premchander, Klinck, Rist, Mueller and Dahdouh-Guebas.

 

North-South Perspectives: Gender and Sustainable Development: Case Studies from NCCR North-South

 

"Beyond Economics: Analysing Micro-Finance from Women's Perspectives Using a Sustainable Livelihood Framework" by Smita Premchander and Jason Klinck

 

Conditions of poverty in India, augmented by the caste system. Why micro-financing, organized around Self-Helps Groups (SHGs) offers better outcomes than government loans or international doners.

 

Why women are the target for micro-finance. The impact of micro-finance on the women of Koppal, which is agricultural but where water tables are severely depleted after years of drought, resulting in outward seasonal migration of young men. Devadasis.

 

Impact of micro-finance: the creation of the savings habit, ability to exert greater control over household income, increase in women's social capital.

 

SHGs: Total savings grow while loans are continuously rotated among members; the group can give loans to non-members at higher interest rates; the group can establish links with banks.

 

p. 158. "Since SHGs represent a forum that has been introduced by external actors, they do not contain indigenous structures and therefore take time to be adopted and embedded in the social framework of the community. This is a slow process, but over time it is also an effective one, as women come to regard the groups as their own rather than part of externally imposed systems. This in turn embodies a host of process benefits for building the individual and collective capacity of women..."

 

p. 160. Two mains benefits: ownership of savings, and decision-making ability. Members increase their knowledge, money management skills, ability to negotiate, and credibility. They learn through both their successes and (minor) failures.

 

Problems remain: The caste system still undermines equality within the SHGs.

 

p. 162. The difference between SHGs and formal loans, from banks and government officials; in the latter cases, there is a lack of reciprocity, which gives rise to lack of trust, opportunities for corruption.

 

p. 164. Micro financing via SHGs does not address the broader issue, of the drilling of bore wells, and the depletion of low water tables and salinity of water supply. So, p. 166, an integration of other frameworks and recommendations is needed.

 

"Ethnosciences--a step towards the integration of scientific and indigenous forms of knowledge in the management of natural resources for the future." Stephan Rist and Farid Dahdouh-Guebas.

 

p. 467. What is sustainable development? What is 'inter-ontological dialogue'?

 

p. 468. 'Sustainable development' is a normative concept. To bring this abstract notion into relation with the concrete, we have to engage in practical deliberation, social and political negotiation. In order to make it effective, to realize it, you have to win over the people who live in the midst of it. (Unless you're Stalin: see the saga of Stalin in Kazakhstan.)

 

p. 469. Considering the needs of future generations. Habermas' theory of communicative action: anti-egoist, anti-materialist.

 

We need a shared theory of 'how things are,' and not the unquestioned authority of Western science.

 

p. 470 We need a new social contract between science and the public, to achieve social equity, poverty reduction, an approach to environmental challenges. Agenda 21 (1992). How to meaningfully and effectively integrate scientific and indigenous forms of knowledge. Ethnosciences.

 

p. 471. Indigenous knowledge is holistic, functional, and adaptive to changes in the social and natural environment, and has been transmitted for thousands of generations. It is a kind of natural resource.

 

What is interdisciplinarity? Transdisciplinarity?

 

p. 472. How Western science defines itself: a universal, autonomous, value-free knowledge system. The virtues of heterogeneity, and many voices. (J. S. Mill)

 

p. 473-474. The different ways in which science and local knowledge can relate. Aristotle and Habermas: I accept the possibility that the other may be right. A search for complementarities. (Leibniz, Levinas). Identifying questions of common interest - and shared practical problems to be solved.

 

p. 475. Ethnobiology, ethnoecology, ethnology (the study of cultures and biology), &etc. What counts as a good explanation? What counts as an object? What counts as a natural resource? The starting points are at local to regional levels.

 

p. 476. "Although the starting points of ethnosciences are at local to regional levels--due to the rapidly growing interdependencies with the factors of global change--they are also highly relevant for analysing global tendencies." Ethnoscience is not merely local.

 

Specific forms of social organization are compatible with sustainable development: community based regulation of access to, and distribution and use of natural resources.

 

p. 477. Ethnoecology offers:

 

Concrete conceptual and methodological insights, for research  a propos natural resources

 

Norms, values, experience, competences. Natural resources are socially constructed.

 

Novel notions of globality

 

Better linkage and intercultural perspective. Respect, complementarity, cooperation.

 

 

"The Importance of Bio-cultural Diversity for Endogenous Development". Stephan Rist.

 

Ontology: basic assumptions about being or 'what is.'

Epistemology: basic assumptions about what we can know about being or 'what is.'

 

The testimony of the Bolivian peasant, Don Facundino. What relation exists between the moral behavior of human beings and bio-ecological and climatic processes? Is there a relation between spiritual life and natural processes?

 

p. 15. The natural sciences view a plant as the expression of its genetic structure, and its interaction with the bio-physical environment. Weather is understood only in terms of physical forces.

 

The social sciences call such concepts 'symbolic,' or 'cultural' or subjective.' They only address Don Facundino's beliefs relative to other people's beliefs.

 

p. 16. Constructivism vs. scientific naturalism. The dualism that poses a separation between what really is and what we can know about it. This dualist worldview is a hypothesis.

 

What is science is just one actor among others, in a co-production of knowledge?

 

p. 18. "Truth at the end of the day is nothing more than an inter-subjectively agreed upon view of certain phenomena.

 

Christine Mueller, "Local Knowledge and Gender in Ghana"

 

The social organization of knowledge: knowledge generation, distribution, innovation, memorizing, legitimation, discourse and struggle. All human beings, female and male, are involved in the production of knowledge.

 

What knowledge is needed to solve social problems? How is this knowledge produced, and by whom? Development agencies are coming to see the value of local knowledge; women's organizations are demanding participation; scholars are seeing the one-sidedness and limitations of Western knowledge production.

 

p. 173. Analyzing local knowledge in a village in Southern Ghana. The knowledge repertoire and the social structure of a society are intertwined. Knowledge has spatial and temporal, and social, dimensions. The uses of oral history.

 

In this area, knowledge was transmitted by gender and by seniority. Grandfathers educated male grandchildren and grandmother female grandchildren: agriculture, storage, medicine. Knowledge must always be secured and legitimated, so old women played an important role in its transmission and regulation. Thet presided over symbolic ritual spaces and helped solve problems.

 

After Ghana's independence (1957), many of these structures were dismantled in favor of 'modern' administrative structures. Women were excluded from all formal political decision-making processes at all levels. P. 177. A public discourse on gender relations and the participation of women has arisen in Ghanan. Under the Chief and the Queen Mother are Subqueenmothers (and corresponding subchiefs), elected heads of extended families. They advise, assist and preside in various way, and hold weekly meetings. They also (in rotation) attend the formal meetings of Subqueenmothers at the district and regional level. At one point, this organization requested and was granted admission to the Chief's Palace, and participate in meetings: thus they legitimized their ability to contribute to the solution of social and environmental problems: water supply, teen pregnancy, lack of jobs, poverty vis a vis expensive rituals.

 

This new re-organization combines modern and traditional elements. P. 180. "The Subqueenmothers' association is structured analogous to the newly created political bodies, in the process of decentralization, used by Subqueenmothers and Queenmothers to influence policies and request loans. Formal internal organization is based on democratic principles and does not replicate the hierarchical organization of the traditional system." This new arrangement also allows links between the villages and the regional level. This is a good example of "reflexive modernization" (Scott Lash), empowerment not as theory but as practice.

 

There is also in Ghana the monthly Women's Forum organized by the National Council of Women and Development (NCWD), organized around different topics. The forum works with Queenmothers and Chiefs, and also with researchers at the University of Ghana, who collected significant statistical data about the exclusion of women from the political process. . "This is an example of how scientific knowledge becomes an asset in the new knowledge repertoire of the women's organizations and is integrated into ongoing discourse." (p. 182.

 

The NCWD is also part of the pan-African organizaiton Women in Law and Development Africa (WILDAF), which in turn is related to DAWN, ISIS, WEDO, and WIDE. The possibilities of linking these organizations by means of the Web are only beginning to be explored.

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