Concepts, Research, Policy
Edited by Sylvia Chant
Chapter 59: Gender, Poverty and Social Capital: The Case of Oaxaca City, Mexico
Katie Willis Introduction: social capital and poverty alleviation Since the mid-1990s, social capital has been increasingly identified as a tool in povertyalleviation strategies in the Global South. While there are significant debates about what social capital is (see Bebbington, 2008, for a useful review in relation to development), definitions usually revolve around social ties, the nature of those relations and their use. For Moser (1998: 4) social capital can be defined as ‘reciprocity within communities and between households based on trust deriving from social ties’. Social capital can therefore be seen as an asset held by individuals, households or communities to enable them to meet their needs, or to be mobilised as part of development interventions. In this chapter I focus on social capital as an asset for individuals and households alongside other tangible assets (such as property) and intangible stocks (such as cultural capital). This focus on what households (particularly the poorest) have, rather than what they lack, has been consolidated into the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) which has been adopted by international development organisations, most notably the United Kingdom (UK) Department for International Development (DFID).1 Despite the widespread adoption of the concept of social capital, gender, as Molyneux (2002) highlights, has often been ignored, or problematic gendered assumptions about social capital have been used in policy design and implementation. These assumptions include the essentialisation of women as good social networkers with well-developed contacts, particularly in the local ‘community’. As such, women are viewed as potential channels through...
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