Edited by Matthew Clarke
Chapter 12: Gender, religion and development
Gender analysis of religions as well as of the development process has radically transformed our understanding of both. Feminist studies of religion have existed since the 1970s (Daly, 1973; Mernissi, 1975; Reuther, 1983; Ahmed, 1992; Singh, 1993). Literature has emerged from within feminist theology, religious studies and, increasingly, in feminist work within the social sciences that draws attention to the negative impacts of religions that often support patriarchal values that have the potential to oppress women and limit their life chances, as well as to the potential of religion to empower women (Aquino, 1993; Pen a, 1995, 2007; Sleboda, 2001; Dube and Kanyoro, 2004; Foley, 2004; Bradley, 2006; Phiri and Nadar, 2006). From the early 1970s we also find the beginnings of a critique of the development process from a feminist perspective, with the publication of Ester Boserup’s book Women’s Role in Economic Development (1970). In this text she emphasized the centrality of women to the development process, yet their subordinate position in most societies meant that unless this was addressed, poverty was unlikely to be overcome. While neither of these traditions of feminist critique would consider their work done and remain as important today as 40 years ago, both have developed with vigour and influence, representing a crucial voice against the male bias inherent both within religions and the development process.
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