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Women And Development: The Good, The Bad, And The Possible


This dissertation is based on data I collected during periods of ethnographic field research from 2006-2012 in Chiapas and Guerrero, Mexico; Kerala and Uttarakhand, India; and Addis Ababa and Lalibela, Ethiopia. Through my discussion of my experiences in these places, I explore some of the ways in which women-centered development projects are affecting the lives of the women such projects claim to represent, educate, and empower. I hope to contribute to a conversation in which development scholars, practitioners and participants alike consider women's own perspectives as a crucial starting place for understanding `women and development.' Despite the range of landscapes I have invoked by naming places as diverse as India, Mexico and Ethiopia, I highlight trends in practices and experiences that shed light on the successes and failures of women-centered development, as I ask in each site, what are women's experiences with popular development projects that claim to serve them? Projects aiming to better the lives of women socially and economically often do so in ways they did not initially intend, while simultaneously creating new and unintended difficulties for the women as well. Ultimately, I identify a range of both empowering and disempowering experiences for women involved in development. I explore the conditions in which both empowering and "unintended disempowering consequences" of women-centered development projects occur so that they might be addressed or avoided in future development work. Close analysis of these experiences from the perspective of the women at the center of this project is offered here in an attempt to highlight what women-centered development is doing well, and what could be done differently.

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