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 97: Decentralisation, Women’s Rights and Poverty: Learning from India and South Africa

Jo Beall


Jo Beall Introduction From the early 1980s decentralisation became integral to international development and by the mid-1990s 80 per cent of countries were engaged in some form of decentralisation. Much of the enthusiasm for devolved governance and for enhancing the powers and responsibilities of local units of government is based on the idea that they are closer to the people that the state is supposed to serve. It is also often assumed that the global trend towards the decentralisation of public roles, responsibilities and resources is also good for women, as a vehicle for increasing women’s participation in local government and because women are concerned with things homebound and local, such as basic infrastructure and services. Yet in reality localisation has its limits and even when the benefits of decentralisation can be demonstrated it is not guaranteed that these are extended to all women. Localisation is often associated with notions of democratic decentralisation and rights-based approaches (RBAs) to development. Rights-based approaches attempt to integrate the norms, standards and principles of the international human rights system into development and constitute an advance on a strictly legal approach to rights by including a focus on the socio-economic and political rights of poor and marginal social groups. This is especially important for poor women who have little access to lawyers and courts and who depend on the meeting of socio-economic rights for exercising their gendered responsibilities. The value of RBAs is that they have extended the analysis of women in development analysis from...

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