The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty
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The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty

Concepts, Research, Policy

Edited by Sylvia Chant

In the interests of contextualising (and nuancing) the multiple interrelations between gender and poverty, Sylvia Chant has gathered writings on diverse aspects of the subject from a range of disciplinary and professional perspectives, achieving extensive thematic as well as geographical coverage. This benchmark volume presents women’s and men’s experiences of gendered poverty with respect to a vast spectrum of intersecting issues including local to global economic transformations, family, age, ‘race’, migration, assets, paid and unpaid work, health, sexuality, human rights, and conflict and violence.
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Chapter 90: Women’s Empowerment: A Critical Re-evaluation of a GAD Poverty-alleviation Project in Egypt

Joanne Sharp, John Briggs and Hoda Yacoub


Joanne Sharp, John Briggs, Hoda Yacoub and Nabila Hamed Introduction It has now become an expectation that development at all scales adopts the language of gender empowerment, assuming that women’s empowerment is a central facet of poverty alleviation, and is something that can be straightforwardly and measurably delivered. This can lead to uncritical outcomes which may reinforce the status quo or enforce inappropriate external ideas. After a brief examination of dominant approaches to women’s empowerment in development praxis, this chapter presents the example of a gender and development project established with the Bedouin desert inhabitants of Egypt’s Eastern Desert which worked with women on poverty alleviation and, as a consequence of this process, their empowerment. Reflecting on this example, the chapter concludes with a discussion of the complex and entangled networks of power to which development efforts must be sensitive. Empowerment, women and poverty alleviation With the recent recognition that standardised top-down approaches to development have generally resulted in failure, increasing numbers of academics and development practitioners have sought alternative approaches that work from the bottom-up, involving the target populations of development in their own programmes. For instance, the United Kingdom’s (UK) Department for International Development (DFID) published a gender manual in 2002 which insisted that women’s empowerment be a precondition for poverty alleviation. As echoed more widely by Parpart (2002: 338), it appears that empowerment ‘has become a popular, largely unquestioned “goal”’. For many development organisations, power is defined as ‘power over’. This is a zerosum approach which...

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