Chapter 9: Myths and Realities: Gender and Participation in a Donor-aided Project in Northern China
Yang Lichao INTRODUCTION Over the last two decades, both ‘gender mainstreaming’ and participatory approaches have shaped the goals and methods adopted in donor-aided development projects in China. This study explores one such project, conducted from 2002 to 2006 in north-western Inner Mongolia. Drawing on my own experience working on the project in the last two years of its implementation, I examine how far and in what ways gender and participation were incorporated into project policies, procedures and activities, and use the project as a case study to explore the political, institutional and cultural constraints affecting the gender outcomes of participatory approaches to development in the Chinese context. The chapter contains five sections: It begins with a general review of the evolution of participatory approaches to gender issues in development, and explains how participation has become a discursive ‘orthodoxy’ in China. The second section outlines the background of the project and the gender aims, policies and implementation procedures set out in project documents. The third provides an ethnographic account of three episodes illustrating the extent to which participatory approaches were applied to achieve the project’s gender equity aims in project interventions. The fourth section analyses the gender outcomes of the project, focusing specifically on why and how participatory project planning and activities were constrained by local political, institutional and cultural processes. The final section draws a brief conclusion. This study does not mean to make an evaluation or a negative judgement on a specific project, nor does it aim to explain...
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