This book is the report of an International Seminar held at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex in 1977, of Academics and Practical Administrators to seek ‘practical solutions’ to the problems of rural women. The book is divided into three parts: the first part covers three task force reports. on the position of women-Family, Marriage and Law; Access to rural services; and Mobilization and self reliance. The second part deals with project case studies, that is reports from other countries, and the final part deals with guidelines for planners, researchers and field personnel. The basic point that this book seeks to make is that without efforts being made to extend the development process to women, no real rural development can take place. Unless the impact of economic development on women is taken into consideration, it can adversely affect women’s status. Hence the need for careful planning.
The Recommendations given at the end of each section are valuable but for most part are repetitive and cover old ground such as: more ‘relevant’ educational content in schools, appropriate technology to reduce the necessary labour input in domestic services, utilization of local people as leaders and so on. Some are however significant: the importance of the extended ‘share’ family in a underdeveloped country, as it provides basic social services free and the need to include non-wage earning women in the category of workers. The authors add an important cautionary note that when legislative measures are taken, frequently the imposition of a codified legal system unwittingly deprives women of the greater protection they might have had under a customary un-codified system.[ih`c-hide-content ihc_mb_type=”block” ihc_mb_who=”unreg” ihc_mb_template=”1″ ]
The authors adopt an empirical approach and confine themselves to the micro level. The emphasis is on practicality and immediate solutions with frequent references to existing projects. This book does not set out to be a theoretical analysis of the women’s issues, but the total exclusion of such analysis is a liability. The authors explain: ‘While it is recognized that the success of such an attempt would depend on the overall political system, its intentions, its willingness to reach and strengthen these .groups and the party system and its ideology, the group decided that they would discuss techniques mobilization at the micro level using their individual experience and knowledge of potential, rather than attempt to discuss the framework as it was beyond jurisdiction.’
The point is that while positing that women’s status is rooted in the existing social structure and is affected by the form of social, legal, political organization, the authors stop short of any explanation. They thus dodge the question of assessing as to what except their solutions will be successful in promoting the uplift of rural women, or to evaluate the likelihood of their reforms being acceptable.
The case studies make interesting reading, e.g. the nutrition rehabilitation project in Java, the problems of Jamaican women due to migration and so on. But given the fact that some of the reports are directly Government sponsored, especially the Jamaican and Camaroon cases, slant is on achievement, rather than on failure.
This work is a neat competent summary of the existing thinking in the social work field. It is not in depth enough to be a guide for social workers, but is more of general interest to the lay man.
Ranjana Sen Gupta, P.Phil, is scholar, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.