Edited by Tamara Jacka and Sally Sargeson
Chapter 7: Developing Yunnan’s Rural and Ethnic Minority Women: A Development Practitioner’s Self-reflections
Zhao Jie INTRODUCTION For more than a decade, I have been engaged in Gender and Development (GAD) research and intervention, specializing in the area of rural women in Yunnan.1 Frankly speaking, in all these years I have never paused to consider the question of why we GAD practitioners pay special attention to rural women in Yunnan. I have not questioned the received wisdom that rural women are illiterate or semi-literate, impoverished, have inadequate healthcare and lack basic rights. In this chapter, I take the opportunity to reflect on and question orthodox views and, indeed, my own beliefs about the development of rural women in Yunnan. I begin with a simple question: how is this subject, ‘rural women in Yunnan’, constructed and deployed in development research and practice? Why are rural women characterized as illiterate, and as suffering poverty, inadequate healthcare and the absence of basic rights? Are these accurate descriptors, or just constructed labels that allow us to arrive at simplistic affirmations or refutations because we actually are unable to explain the situation clearly? Or, is the construction ‘rural women in Yunnan’ itself actually a manifestation of gendered political processes of development? It has become a commonplace that in recent years China has experienced rapid, overall development. Yet despite that development, the gap between rich and poor continues to grow, and the gap between the economic and social status of urban and rural women becomes ever wider. These contrary trends also are part of the reason for my inquiry, and...
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