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    "Whose money is it?": on misconceiving female autonomy and economic empowerment in low-income households

    Vera-Sanso, Penny (2014) "Whose money is it?": on misconceiving female autonomy and economic empowerment in low-income households. In: Chant, S. and Beetham, G. (eds.) Gender, Poverty, and Development. Routledge. ISBN 9780415711951.

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    Policies and projects aimed at empowering women by giving them direct allocation of resources have been criticised for failing to meet their objectives or of being detrimental to women’s strategic gender interests. I will argue that the slip between intention and outcome is rooted in three assumptions: first, that individuals have clear title to their earnings, second, that the primary structuring of markets is not social and, third, that taking individuals and families as isolated units of subsistence is analytically valid. Critiques founded on conceptualisations and measurement of individualised female autonomy and empowerment do not adequately challenge these assumptions; instead they tend to rely on them themselves, sharing them with Neo-liberal conceptualisations of the individual, money and markets. I will argue that extending our analysis from a focus on income and its control to an examination of the socially derived opportunities for and constraints on meeting subsistence needs will help identify a route forward to benefit women in low- income households. For this we need to take into account the interdependencies and alliances within marriages (and the costs of not being married) as well as a thorough understanding of the wider social arenas on which men and women depend in order to understand the extent to which individual and family welfare is determined by positioning within moral economies. Using research undertaken in South India the article demonstrates that poverty and the social construction of credit, labour, housing and marriage markets are the main determinants of autonomy. Book synopsis: Serious research into the problematic and contested relationship between notions of gender, poverty, and development continues to blossom. Indeed, the work of scholars in this cross-disciplinary field supports numerous international journals, regional organizations, and global conferences. Moreover, as the formal end of the Millennium Development Goals era approaches—after which a new set of ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ for the so-called ‘Post-2015 Agenda’ are sure to feature gender—such research is destined to grow still further. To make some sense of the wide range of approaches and complex theories that have informed thinking in this area, Routledge announces a new title in its acclaimed Critical Concepts in Development Studies series. Edited by a leading and emerging scholar with an international reputation, Gender, Poverty, and Development is a definitive, four-volume collection of cutting-edge and foundational research which provides users with a ‘mini library’ on the gendered dimensions of the causes, contexts, and consequences of international poverty. The collection is fully indexed and supplemented with a comprehensive introduction, newly written by the editors, which places the gathered materials in their historical and intellectual context. Gender, Poverty, and Development will be particularly useful as a database allowing scattered and often fugitive material to be easily located. It will also be welcomed as a crucial tool permitting rapid access to less familiar—and sometimes overlooked—texts. For scholars, students, policy-makers, and development professionals, this is an essential one-stop research and pedagogic resource.


    Item Type: Book Section
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences
    Depositing User: Penny Vera-Sanso
    Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2022 18:42
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 18:14


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