Chapter 4: Gender, well-being and civil society
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How to optimize women’s well-being? This question has occupied the imagination of feminist researchers and activists since the start of the feminist movement more than a century ago. Feminist influences on development studies, economics, and political science developed the concept of women’s well-being as a way to reach the broader goal of gender equality and engage more effectively in collective action through civil society channels. Of course, answering this question depends on how we understand women’s identity and agency, and how we formulate well-being, gender equality, and civil society. Some of the most important contributions formulate women’s well-being in terms of economic achievement. Economic well-being is defined according to objective structural indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP) and income levels, as well as poverty, literacy, and life expectancy indicators (Diener et al., 2009). This perspective intends to highlight the economic discrimination that many women around the globe face, particularly regarding labor market indicators. In the Middle East, for instance, the gender gap in employment is wider than in any other region; 67.7 percent of Middle Eastern men are employed, compared to only 20.5 percent of women (ILO, 2011, Table A5). However, the economic perspective of well-being often assumes a causal link between women’s economic empowerment and well-being.

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