Empowerment through Microcredit?
Post-War Reconstruction and Gender Equality
in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Magister ...
i
Zusammenfassung (German Summary)
Die vorliegende Magisterarbeit in den Gender Studies (verortet im Fachbereich
Gender un...
ii
Table of Contents
Abbreviations ..........................................................................................
iii
List of Figures
Dialogue Box 1: Changes in Family Relationships…………………………………..43
Dialogue Box 2: Discussion on Ownersh...
iv
Acknowledgements
First and foremost, I thank the people of Maniema who have lavished me with their
hospitality and shar...
1
Introduction
In 2006, the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Price to Muhammad Yunus,
Bangladeshi professor of economics ...
2
violence committed by “normal” men against women: […] primarily a mechanism of
control and intimidation’ (Mosse 1993: 60...
3
The first hypothesis suggests that participation in a microcredit program enhances
the personal empowerment of rural Con...
4
development discourse from within. Notably, works from developing countries and
feminist works have increasingly placed ...
5
Within the broader field of development studies, this paper is located in the discipline
of social sciences, more specif...
6
that it conceals male bias (Nickel 2000: 132-133). They argue that scientific
discourse originated from a context domina...
7
exclusively theoretical, but is always already a form of activism that has concrete
practical implications.
As a White, ...
8
themselves. Empowerment thus constitutes the process of their coming into power,
of taking directed action by devising t...
9
impact with regard to women’s empowerment. Chapter seven contains my
conclusion.
1. International Development and Gender...
10
and knowledge transfer). Social services and infrastructure were created to support
the development process. The econom...
11
Regardless of these efforts, international development continues deeply intertwined
with European hegemonic power, cons...
12
1.2.1 Women’s Marginalisation and the Welfare Approach
The early theories that equated development with economic growth...
13
maintenance takes place, thereby freeing them to behave ‘as if’ they were
indeed the disembodied rational agents of lib...
14
1.2.2 Women in Development
The first work that contested the notion that women and men equally benefited from
developme...
15
did not attempt to change their relative position in society. As a result, it often placed
additional work on women wit...
16
1.2.3 Gender and Development
From the mid 1980s onwards, feminist scholars and activists brought about another
shift in...
17
social and political processes. This can involve ending discrimination in the judiciary
system, in education and the la...
18
poverty, discrimination and oppression. This denies them a chance to speak for
themselves and voice their opinions to a...
19
Based on these assertions, DAWN introduced the concept of ‘empowerment’ that is
central to this Magister thesis. It imp...
20
bodied poor don’t want or need charity. The dole only increases their misery, robs
them of incentive, and, more importa...
21
furthers women’s participation, their agency and their autonomy (Stromquist 1993:
265). Moser’s GAD tools for gender pl...
22
exploitation of the Congo through mining, logging and the extraction of natural
rubber, also known as cautchouc. In ord...
23
million dead. All warring factions have used rape and other forms of sexualised
violence as a systematic strategy to at...
24
Ndung’u 2005: 18). Economic poverty can be identified as both an outcome of, and a
major cause for, the perpetuation of...
25
or criminal activity. Forced marriage and forced intercourse between spouses is no
less a form of abuse than rape by a ...
26
All of HEAL Africa’s assets and work is locally owned and invested, lending the
organisation high credibility and accep...
27
illiteracy, isolation, material dependency and psychological consequences such as
fear, depression or a sense of powerl...
28
Rural participants are joined in solidarity groups of six, each of which elects a
president, a vice-president and a tre...
29
to create awareness to ensure that sexualised violence is outlawed, prevented and
punished. To date, the program lacks ...
30
(Harding 1986: 26-27). According to feminist standpoint theorists, men’s dominant
position in social life leads to pert...
31
limitations, fractures and contradictions stemming from my subjective position and
my attempt to create a coherent argu...
32
interviewer to steer the interview by posing a set of predetermined questions (though
there is room for spontaneous pro...
33
interviews. Interviewing was continued until the content of responses became
repetitive, indicating that a point of sat...
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  1. 1. Empowerment through Microcredit? Post-War Reconstruction and Gender Equality in the Democratic Republic of Congo Magister Thesis Desirée Zwanck Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin Faculty of Arts and Humanities III Centre for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies Department of Gender and Globalisation Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Christine Bauhardt Assistant Supervisor: Christiane Kayser
  2. 2. i Zusammenfassung (German Summary) Die vorliegende Magisterarbeit in den Gender Studies (verortet im Fachbereich Gender und Globalisierung am Institut für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften des Landbaus der Landwirtschaftlich-Gärtnerischen Fakultät) setzt sich mit der Frage auseinander, ob und wie Kleinkredite die Situation von ressourcenarmen Kleinbäuerinnen dergestalt verbessern können, dass sie deren Empowerment fördern. Die Arbeit zeigt auf, dass Kleinkredite nur dann eine positive Auswirkung auf Geschlechtergerechtigkeit haben, wenn sie von sozial und kulturell orientierten Maßnahmen begleitet werden. Dafür spielt die Kooperation mit Männern eine ebenso große Rolle wie eine entwicklungspolitische Perspektive, welche die Bedürfnisse und Sorgen, aber auch die Strategien und Stärken der lokalen Bevölkerung respektiert und sich nach diesen richtet. Dabei konzentriert sich die Arbeit auf den Kontext der Nachkriegsgesellschaft in der ostkongolesischen Provinz Maniema und auf das dortige Wiederaufbauprojekt „Heal my People“ der lokalen Nichtregierungsorganisation HEAL Africa. Bei dem Projekt handelt es sich um eine Maßnahme zur ganzheitlichen Heilung und Reintegration von Frauen die als Überlebende von Vergewaltigungen gesundheitliche und psychische Schäden davongetragen haben bzw. von den negativen Auswirkungen des erst kürzlich beigelegten Konfliktes in besonderer Weise betroffen sind (z.B. durch Verwitwung oder extreme Ressourcenarmut). In der Einleitung werden das Thema, die Hypothesen und die Fragestellung dargelegt. Die Verortung der Arbeit in den Sozialwissenschaften wird hier ebenso erörtert wie die postmoderne, feministische Herangehensweise. Das erste Kapitel stellt theoretische und praktische Ansätze zu Frauen und Gender in der internationalen Entwicklungszusammenarbeit vor. Das zweite Kapitel führt in den Kontext der Demokratischen Republik Kongo ein und beschreibt das Projekt „Heal my People“. Im dritten Kapitel werden Herangehensweise und Methodik einer weitgehend qualitativen Feldforschung dargestellt die im Oktober und November 2007 in Maniema durchgeführt wurde. In den folgenden drei Kapiteln werden die Ergebnisse der Feldforschung dargelegt und in Bezug zum theoretischen Hintergrund gesetzt. Geschlechterverhältnisse in Maniema und der Zusammenhang zwischen der Vergabe von Kleinkrediten und Empowerment werden dabei auf drei Ebenen analysiert: dem Individuum, dem Haushalt und der Gemeinschaft. Die Schlussfolgerungen werden im siebten Kapitel zusammengefasst.
  3. 3. ii Table of Contents Abbreviations ........................................................................................................................iii   Glossary .................................................................................................................................iii   Acknowledgements...............................................................................................................iv   Introduction ............................................................................................................................1   1. International Development and Gender Equality ............................................................9   1.2  Approaches  to  Women  and  Gender  in  Development ...........................................................11   1.2.1  Women’s  Marginalisation  and  the  Welfare  Approach..................................................................12   1.2.2  Women  in  Development ............................................................................................................................14   1.2.3  Gender  and  Development..........................................................................................................................16   1.2.4  Women’s  Empowerment...........................................................................................................................18   1.3  Microcredit:  A  Tool  for  Women’s  Empowerment?................................................................19   2. War and Post-War Reconstruction in Maniema ............................................................21   2.1  War  and  the  Post-­War  Situation..................................................................................................21   2.1.1  Historical  Context.........................................................................................................................................21   2.1.2  The  Post-­‐Conflict  Situation  and  Sexualised  Violence....................................................................23   2.2  HEAL  Africa:  A  Local  Approach  to  Reconstruction................................................................25   3. Methodology .....................................................................................................................29   3.1  Feminist  Perspectives  of  Empirical  Research.........................................................................29   3.2  Research  Methodology ...................................................................................................................31   3.2.1  Qualitative  Interviewing............................................................................................................................31   3.2.2  Participatory  Action  Research ................................................................................................................34   4. Gendered Experiences: The Individual ..........................................................................37   4.1  Women’s  Personal  Experiences...................................................................................................38   4.1.1  Gender-­‐Based  Discrimination.................................................................................................................38   4.1.2  Experiences  of  War  and  Sexualised  Violence...................................................................................39   4.1.2  Building  (Self-­‐)Respect  Through  Microcredit?................................................................................40   5. Gendered Hierarchies: The Household..........................................................................45   5.1  Labour  and  Income ..........................................................................................................................46   5.1.1  Labour  Distribution.....................................................................................................................................46   5.1.2  Impacts  of  Microcredit  on  Labour  and  Income ...............................................................................48   5.2  Trade  and  Mobility...........................................................................................................................50   5.2.1  Conditions  of  Trade  and  Mobility..........................................................................................................50   5.2.2  Impact  of  Microcredit  on  Trade  and  Mobility ..................................................................................52   5.3  Resource  Ownership  and  Control...............................................................................................53   5.3.1  Excursus:  Cooperative  Conflict...............................................................................................................53   5.3.2  Hierarchies  in  Resource  Ownership  and  Control ...........................................................................55   5.3.3  Impact  of  Microcredit  on  Resource  Ownership  and  Control.....................................................58   6. Gendered Networks: The Community ............................................................................60   6.1  Social  Capital  and  Reciprocity  in  Maniema..............................................................................61   6.2  Women’s  Solidarity  Networks......................................................................................................65   6.2.1  Women’s  Solidarity  Networks  in  Maniema.......................................................................................65   6.2.2  ‘Heal  My  People’  Solidarity  Groups  as  a  New  Social  Force.........................................................66   7. Conclusion........................................................................................................................70   Bibliography .........................................................................................................................74   Printed  Resources ...................................................................................................................................74   Electronic  Resources..............................................................................................................................77   Eidesstattliche Erklärung ....................................................................................................79  
  4. 4. iii List of Figures Dialogue Box 1: Changes in Family Relationships…………………………………..43 Dialogue Box 2: Discussion on Ownership During Workshop in Pangi……………57 Dialogue Box 3: Emergency Support Options………………………………………..68 Abbreviations CEDAW Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women CONADER Commission Nationale de Désarmement, Démobilisation et Réinsertion DAWN Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era DRC Democratic Republic of Congo FP female participant HMPM Heal My People Maniema HEAL Africa Health, Education, Action and Leadership for Africa IGA income-generating activity KfW Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau IMF International Monetary Fund MONUC Mission des Nations Unies en République Démocratique du Congo MP male participant NGO non-governmental organisation PAR participatory action research SAP structural adjustment program UN United Nations Q question by facilitator Glossary bwana Swahili term for ‘sir', ‘master’ and ‘spirit’ kitu kwa kitu Swahili term for barter / exchange of goods likilimba Swahili term for rotational and communal (field) work Magister In Germany, the Magister is a first degree that requires four to six years of study and is equivalent of a Master’s Degree Rega Ethnic group in Maniema tontine Investment vehicle that combines elements of group savings, group life insurance and lottery (named after 16th century Banker Lorenzo di Tonti). In Congo, it is used to describe rotational savings accounts. Zimba Ethnic group in Maniema
  5. 5. iv Acknowledgements First and foremost, I thank the people of Maniema who have lavished me with their hospitality and shared their time, concerns and hopes with me so that this survey could be completed. I also thank HEAL Africa and its ever-friendly and helpful staff that has greatly facilitated my stay in Goma as well as my research in Maniema. I am particularly grateful for the substantial advice and kind cooperation of the program manager Gwendolyn Lusi and her assistant, Harper Mcconnell. Similarly, I would like to thank the entire staff of ‘Heal My People Maniema’ for their kind support and advice in all matters related to the completion of this document. I am very grateful to the project director Muliri Kabekatyo, as well as training coordinator Julienne Chakupewa, IGA coordinator Francesca Ferusi and monitoring and evaluation officer Albert Mushiaramina. My gratitude goes out also to trainers Kahindo Vihamba and Omoyi, who took every measure to make the stay in Maniema comfortable. I would further like to express my gratitude for the outstanding cooperation of Marceline Ndarabu, supervisor of ‘Heal My People’ in Kipaka and Godelive Akilyabo, supervisor in Kampene, for their courage and inspiration as well as their excellent Swahili/French translation during my research. I would also like to thank Pastor Nehemiah and Pastor Michel Pierre Sumaili Bukanga from Kampene for their translation. I am equally indebted to the Nehemiah Committees of Kipaka, Kampene and Pangi, who supported the planning and implementation of my research in every way possible. I would like to thank members of all three committees for their curiosity and their willingness to share their thoughts and aspirations. Furthermore, I would like to thank the professionals, programs and organizations that cooperated with me in this research and provided me with their knowledge and expertise, namely Dr. Birgit Niebuhr of the KfW, Noella Katembo of Choisir la Vie, Neema Mayala of Maternité à Moindre Risque, Joseph Ciza of Heal My People Nord-Kivu, Pastor Jules Bolingo of the Nehemiah Commitees, Jules Barhalengwa of Women for Women, as well as Samuel Ferguson of Hekima/World Relief and Achim Koch of GTZ Jeunesse Kindu. Last but not least, the KAP study on sexual violence conducted by Andrea McPherson has been of tremendous help for my understanding of the subject matter. In Germany, I would like to express my gratitude to my supervisor Prof. Dr. Christine Bauhardt for her valuable input in conceptual and theoretical questions. The same is true for my assistant supervisor Christiane Kayser, whom I also want to thank because she opened up the possibility of this research to me and encouraged me to accomplish it. I further want to thank Dr. Ilona Pache, Course Coordinator of the Humboldt University’s Centre for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies for her kind support in the planning of my research trip. Last but not least, I am deeply grateful to the constructive criticism, the support and advice of my colleagues and friends, especially Danielle Lanyard and Julika Schmitz.
  6. 6. 1 Introduction In 2006, the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Price to Muhammad Yunus, Bangladeshi professor of economics and founder of the pioneering microcredit organisation Grameen Bank. His work to end poverty was honoured as an important contribution to peace. In the Committee’s words, Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such way. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights (Nobel Foundation 2006). The potential of microcredit lies in its ability to reach the most disadvantaged groups of society and to provide them with means to improve their living situation on their own account. As the Committee’s laudation shows, this development ‘from below’ is commonly regarded as a way to advance peace and equality. One of microcredit’s frequently cited qualities is that it is especially attractive to women because it provides them with a supreme avenue towards empowerment, meaning the achievement of greater social, economic and political power. The most perceptible proof of this idea is that 97% of the Grameen Bank’s eight million borrowers are female. Can we assume that there is indeed a connection between the three elements of microcredit, women’s empowerment and peace? Does micro-level economic development have empowering effects on women, and in what way may this empowerment contribute to peace? In exploring these issues, the present Magister thesis attempts to tie in theoretical considerations regarding women’s empowerment with research on the everyday realities of resource-poor rural women in societies affected by war. By explicitly connecting the issues of war, sexualised violence and women’s empowerment through microcredit, the paper offers a unique perspective within the field of development studies. The empirical part of the study was carried out in the framework of the ‘Heal My People Maniema’ (HMPM) microcredit program in Maniema province, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The program constitutes a post-war reconstruction effort that mainly focuses on women who have survived rape. Feminist thought has long challenged public perception of rape as a crime committed by abnormal men unable to control their lust and instead regarded it as ‘an act of
  7. 7. 2 violence committed by “normal” men against women: […] primarily a mechanism of control and intimidation’ (Mosse 1993: 60). Therefore, the prevalence of rape in war and post-war situations can be understood as both a result and a constituent of women’s lack of power. However, the issue of rape survivors is largely missing from discourses on microcredit and empowerment. Since 1993, war and armed conflict have dominated the Eastern provinces of the DRC, which include North and South Kivu as well as Maniema. Though Maniema has experienced a relatively stable period of peace starting in 2005, the conflict’s aftermath still weighs heavily on the population. Communities suffer from profound lack of capital, which is further amplified by the absence of functional infrastructure for secure and adequate social services, as well as unfavourable political and legal conditions. In addition to the adversity experienced by the entire population of Maniema, women are faced with gender-related forms of discrimination that put them at a relative disadvantage to men. During the war, women were frequently subjected to rape, and many women still suffer negative consequences for their health and social status. In addition, factors such as limited control over economic resources and limited access to education restrict women’s agency (their capacity to make choices and to act on these choices), making them especially susceptible to sexual and economic exploitation. At the same time, women play a central role as economic providers and social networkers, with a strong potential to enhance post-war reconstruction efforts and foster peace. All of the above factors expose a need to strengthen the social, economic and political position of resource-poor women in rural Maniema who have survived rape and/or have been otherwise negatively affected by the consequences of war. The primary cognitive interest of this thesis is whether and how this can be achieved with the help of microcredit. In order to examine this issue, the argument is structured into three hypotheses, each of which corresponds to one are of women’s development at the microlevel of society: the individual, the household and the community. Though all of these three sub-levels are interconnected, they are treated separately here in order to facilitate a differentiated microlevel analysis of empowerment. The paper does not address the broader and more impersonalised macrolevel of national and international development.
  8. 8. 3 The first hypothesis suggests that participation in a microcredit program enhances the personal empowerment of rural Congolese women who have survived rape. Individual empowerment is defined here as increased awareness of personal value, strength and interest, as well as an increased ability to act on this awareness. The paper asks how exactly this change be achieved by using the tool of microcredit. The second hypothesis proposes that women’s access to microcredit strengthens their position at the household sub-level. At this level, empowerment is characterised by a change in gendered hierarchies in the distribution of labour, resources and decision-making power that reduces women’s relative disadvantage to men. The paper examines how the introduction of microcredit induces this change. The third hypothesis put forward here is that in the post-war environment of rural Maniema, microcredit can empower the concerned group of women at the community sub-level. At this level, empowerment is defined as the creation or recreation of women’s solidarity networks and women’s heightened social and political influence. The paper inquires how microcredit encourages this process. With its focus on social, economic and political development of the resource-poor, the thesis pertains to the field of development studies. Academic discourse on international development evolved from the preoccupation with economic progress for newly decolonised countries in the 1950s and 1960s. From its beginnings, development studies exposed a strong practical focus in trying to delineate paths for action against the perceived ‘problems’ of these countries, such as poverty or lack of social services. Initially, development policies and programs were strongly influenced and informed by economics and natural science, which were believed to be universally applicable to all societies. When an increasing number of scholars realised that this focus was not sufficient to address the specific cultural, social or political conditions in different societies, development studies came to encompass a more diverse range of disciplines, such as social and political science. Though multidisciplinary in character, development studies often remain limited to a eurocentric viewpoint. This is due to the hegemonic character of European-originated development thought. The ideas of progress, modernisation and the free-market economy that constitute the mainstream of international development have been postulated as universally valid ‘truths’ that other societies should adhere to. At the same time, development studies have offered a fertile ground for alternative visions that challenge mainstream thought and attempt to change international
  9. 9. 4 development discourse from within. Notably, works from developing countries and feminist works have increasingly placed the local, micro-level realities of resource- poor people at the centre. In doing so, they have often been successful in informing more differentiated and inclusionary development policies and programs. The present thesis is a contribution to this more critical stream of development studies. It recognises the hegemonic underpinnings of the idea of international development, but it does not reject the idea per se. As this paper intends to show, some of the ideas and analytical tools created by critical development scholars can be utilised to promote equality within individual societies as well as between developed and developing countries. From this vantage point, the use of language is critical. The term ‘Third World Country’ will be avoided here, as it was coined in the 20th century to describe those countries that were considered to be the least developed. Today, development scholars regard the term as obsolete and derogatory because it fixates resource-poor countries at the bottom of a scale of measurement that was created from within the so-called ‘First World’ of capitalist, industrialised, and mostly European nations (Hermassi 1980). In an attempt to avoid this form of implicit judgement, the term ‘developing country’ is employed here. Its transitory nature suggests that resource-poor countries are in a process that wealthier, ‘developed countries’ have completed to a larger degree. The state of a country’s development is not considered an actual reality here. Instead it is regarded as an ideological concept, a way of interpreting certain nations according to standardised economic criteria - such as infrastructure, industry, gross domestic product, democratic structures and implementation of human rights. Development language tends to describe the people in developing countries as ‘the poor’ or ‘the rural poor’, which implies a general state of lack and victimhood. This terminology does not allow for a view of economically disadvantaged people that recognises their capacities and potential. People in many African societies may, for instance, lack financial capital and tangible resources, but they possess a wealth of social networks and traditional knowledge. This is why the term ‘resource-poor’, which is now commonly used in development literature, seems more appropriate. It signifies a relative disadvantage in some resources, thereby defining a circumstance rather than an innate state of being.
  10. 10. 5 Within the broader field of development studies, this paper is located in the discipline of social sciences, more specifically in the field of sociology, or the scientific study of societies. On first sight, we may intuitively consider economics to be a more suitable discipline for an analysis of a rural microcredit program. Yet we need to consider that dominant economic discourses, namely classical and neoclassical liberalism, see human beings as nuclear entities that are driven by rational self-interest and compete with each other in an impartial, ‘free’ market (Blau and Ferber 1986: 20-21). Such a view does not allow for the importance of other factors that inform human life, e.g. the relationships between people or the cultural dimensions of social interaction. In contrast, sociology focuses on social context. It proposes that individuals are integrated into, and influenced by, social networks that form their identity and provide them with a framework of knowledge, beliefs, values, rights and obligations (Weber 1925). Moreover, sociology sees social relations not as egalitarian, but hierarchical, signifying that they are stratified by inequalities in resources, status and capabilities. If we examine microcredit with regard to women’s empowerment from a sociological viewpoint, we describe a process that breaks down and changes these social hierarchies. Nonetheless, sociology is subject to some limitations that are similar to development studies, as it also originates from and reflects European scientific thought. Early 19th century theorists in sociology were still firmly dedicated to the methods of natural science with its paradigms of rationality and objectivity. This school of ‘positivists’ suggested that social phenomena could be understood through empirical evidence, which they equated with incontestable and universal ‘truth’. Their views were partly challenged by antipositivists such as Weber, who claimed that sociological research should not use the same tools and methods as the natural sciences (1949: 63; 110-111). Based on the recognition that human societies are governed by unique principles such as cultural norms and values, antipositivists called for a more suitable conceptual framework for social analysis. This movement ultimately led to the development of the tools and methods that were implemented both in the empirical research and the evaluation of results that inform the present thesis. Despite sociology’s push away from natural sciences, its methods continue to be influenced by the idea that scientific research and discourse can be neutral or objective. Feminist sociologists have challenged this supposed objectivity by arguing
  11. 11. 6 that it conceals male bias (Nickel 2000: 132-133). They argue that scientific discourse originated from a context dominated by European men and is imbued with the inherently subjective viewpoint of this group - even if today, the scientist may be non-European or female. The problem of male bias can be exemplified by sociology’s long-standing omission or misjudgement of women’s specific concerns and the concerns of other marginalized groups (Nickel 2000: 132-133). One of the great achievements of feminist scholars since the 1970s has been to bring these concerns to the attention of scientific debates. This push has eventually led to the introduction of an interdisciplinary body of discourse that is subsumed under the term ‘gender studies’. ‘Gender’ can be defined as a constitutive element of social relationships that is based on perceived differences and deeply embedded in the attitudes, knowledge and practices of both women and men. Gender is generally cited as a cultural construct in opposition to the immutable, ‘natural’ difference of sex. Butler contests this view by claiming that sex is ‘as culturally constructed as gender’ (1990: 7). Biological difference is thus a signifier of the gendered structure of society, which is reinforced through economic imbalances, religious beliefs, cultural practices and educational systems. These imbalances point towards Scott’s proposition that ‘gender is a primary way of signifying relationships of power’ (2007: 66). She asserts that gender relations are not only a field in which power is articulated and manifested, but that gender is a constituent of power itself. Beyond social relations and the institutionalised inequalities between women and men, this perspective is particularly useful when analysing a context of sexualised violence in wartime. In this setting, power is signified and asserted based on symbolic attributions of masculinity and femininity. In analysing relationships of power, gender offers a guide to contestation and resistance, making it a key tool for feminist thought and activism. The term ‘feminist’ is defined here as any individual who perceives and is ready to act against the prevalence of hegemonic power and inequality within a given context. Even though this paper focuses mainly on women’s empowerment, feminism is not limited to women alone and does not only relate to ‘women’s issues’. Feminism is an attitude, a perspective that is critical of all forms of power and dominance. It compels to take action, to challenge hierarchies and to change them. Therefore, feminism is never
  12. 12. 7 exclusively theoretical, but is always already a form of activism that has concrete practical implications. As a White, European feminist scholar in the field of development studies, I find myself in a double bind. I desire to take action against the oppressive systems that often affect women from developing countries, but at the same time, I operate from within a position of economic, cultural, political and racial privilege. In doing so, I am inclined to take a eurocentric standpoint, thereby reinforcing and reproducing some of the very same social hierarchies that I intend to deconstruct. To the extent that this means that all women are not equal, we may argue with Mohanty that there is no common ground for women’s activism, no ‘global sisterhood’ united by a universal female experience of male oppression (1989-1990: 180). In order to approach to this dilemma, I employ postmodern feminism. This stream of feminist thought discusses multiple forms of oppression along the lines of race, class or ethnicity. It deconstructs scientific paradigms of objectivity and neutrality by asserting that the researcher is equally as embedded in social context as is the ‘object’ of the research. This signifies that any ‘truth’ that we produce is always already biased, and we can only deconstruct this bias through self-reflectivity (Spivak 1990: 19). With this in mind, I do not reject the idea of sisterhood altogether, but rather the notion that this is a natural state or an abstract principle that exists as a given. Much rather, I agree with Sen and Grown that sisterhood, signifying a specific kind of sharing and solidarity, is ‘a concrete goal that must be achieved through a process of debate and action’ (1987: 24). This concrete goal of solidarity between women can at least partly be achieved through an approach to development that gives women’s empowerment a paramount role. The idea of empowerment did not evolve from European academia, but from the work of feminists in developing countries. It creates favourable conditions for debate and action because it allows a twofold view on power imbalances that correlates with postmodern feminist thought: it simultaneously addresses hierarchies between women and men, and hierarchies between developed and developing countries. The empowerment approach challenges development literature’s recurring bias that resource-poor rural women are a homogenous group of passive victims who need feminists and experts from developed countries to come to their rescue. The task of development interventions should not be to ‘empower’ women, but rather to create a favourable environment and provide the ways by which they can empower
  13. 13. 8 themselves. Empowerment thus constitutes the process of their coming into power, of taking directed action by devising their own strategies for agency and autonomy. The present thesis draws from the theoretical work of sociologists and other scholars from developed and developing countries that are mainly concerned with issues of feminism and gender analysis and development. In addition, the paper is based on an empirical research carried out from November to December 2007 with women and men in resource-poor rural communities across Maniema province in Eastern DRC. The research was commissioned by the Congolese non-governmental organisation (NGO) HEAL Africa, that sought to measure the impact of the HMPM microcredit program, seeking recommendations on how to improve the program. Rather than being ‘prescribed’ a gender analysis by a foreign donor, the organisation actively sought the perspective of an external, European-educated researcher. As a foreign scholar, I was able to learn from the experience and knowledge of the Congolese staff at HEAL Africa, who proved to me more than once that it does not take academic theory in order to understand the value of feminism and women’s empowerment in people’s lives. Thanks to them, the present thesis has become the live account of a learning process. My argument is thus situated at the intersection of theory and practice, which is characterised by contradictions and fractures. Theories on empowerment that have been developed within the academic settings of development studies may often not apply to the actually realities of resource-poor women. Similarly, these realities may contest academic theories. If we are able to recognise and to brave these tensions, our theoretical considerations may be useful tools to analyse and inform development practice. The paper is structured into seven main chapters. The first chapter deals with the background of theories and paradigms within development studies that concern women and gender. The second chapter takes a closer look at the research location of Maniema with particular regard to its post-war status, the issue of sexualised violence against women, and the work of HEAL Africa and HMPM. Chapter three discusses the methodology for measuring empowerment from a feminist standpoint. Chapters four to six each present one part of the results of the empirical research as they relate to the three sub-levels of the individual, the household and the community. These chapters examine the status quo of gendered hierarchies at the respective sub-levels, the interventions of the HMPM microcredit program and their
  14. 14. 9 impact with regard to women’s empowerment. Chapter seven contains my conclusion. 1. International Development and Gender Equality This chapter begins with a brief overview of the context of international development. It then discusses different development approaches to women and gender from the 1950s until present, namely the welfare approach, Women in Development (WID), Gender and Development (GAD) and women’s empowerment. The final section introduces microcredit as a possible tool for women’s empowerment. 1.1 International Development The countries nowadays described as ‘developing’ have frequently been controlled directly or indirectly by European or North American powers during colonial rule. Especially between the 17th and the 19th century, these countries became subjected to a European-dominated ‘world system’, of trade, colonisation, financial investment, political relationships and military aggression. The economic and political control over subject territories under colonial rule turned them into ‘sources of cheap raw materials, food, and labour, as well as markets for ruling country’s manufacturers’ (Sen and Grown 1987: 29). Forced commercialisation and systems of private property turned subsistent, self-provisioning communities into dependents. The concept of development emerged from the 19th century experience of modernisation and industrialisation in Europe. It was founded on a strong belief in the linear progress of societies and that it could be achieved based on ‘scientific’ disciplines like economics or natural science. Based on these ideas, Europeans tended to perceive and describe foreign societies as backwards (De Groot 1991: 111-12). When former colonies reached for independence in the post-World War II era, the economic development of these nations became an issue of international concern. The principal development actors of the time were the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank, who in the 1950s and 1960s were joined by numerous non- governmental organisations. ‘International development’ was equated economic growth. Newly created nations were thus encouraged to follow European models of economic growth, for instance through capital inputs and technical assistance (meaning training
  15. 15. 10 and knowledge transfer). Social services and infrastructure were created to support the development process. The economic benefits of this transition were believed to eventually ‘trickle down’ throughout society, reaching even its least privileged members (Mosse 1993: 11). Especially on the capitalist side of the iron curtain, economic growth was seen as a measure to guarantee individual freedom. In 1955, William Arthur Lewis, one of the founders of development economics, made the following remark: The advantage of economic growth is not that wealth increases happiness, but that it increases the range of human choice (…). The case of economic growth is that it gives man greater control over his environment, and thereby increases his freedom (2003: 420). However, while development policies and programs had raised the Gross National Product of many developing countries by the 1970, the problems of the resource- poor persisted. The promise of freedom hinged on the failure to provide adequate social opportunities for all members of society. Development scholars and practitioners began to promote measures that were directly aimed at the resource- poor (Arndt 1987: 101). Beginning in the 1970s, the orientation of multilateral development organisations shifted to pursue ‘basic human needs’, with development projects focusing nutrition, health, water, sanitation and housing. Proponents of this strategy argued that the provision for basic needs was indispensable to offer micro-level strategies and opportunities to resource-poor people in order to enable their full participation in the development process (Sen 1999: 20-22). Meanwhile, scholars from developing countries were commonly critical of the basic needs approach, believing that its hidden agenda was to diminish economic growth in developing countries and lock them into a state of backwardness (Kabeer 2001: 7-8). Eventually, criticism of development led to a paradigm shift. Resource-poor people were no longer regarded as passive recipients, but as active stakeholders in the development process. Economic self-help activities became a main focal point of governmental and non-governmental development organisations, with the underlying idea that if people can provide themselves with economic profit, this does not only improve their actual situation but also promote their self-dependency in the future. (Deutscher Bundestag 1995: 3-8; 48). Development organisations have since adapted their programs to foster the participation and capacity building.
  16. 16. 11 Regardless of these efforts, international development continues deeply intertwined with European hegemonic power, consolidated during colonisation and reinforced through the expansion of world markets commonly known as ‘globalisation’. Development critics claim that even though today, this system may also benefit other, non-European actors, it is still marked by profit-oriented behaviour and high deficits in ethical standards. The strong links between international development and global financial institutions and trade agreements dedicated to neoliberal models of unregulated economic growth are seen to undermine local decision-making processes (Mies 2002: 60-77). Development interventions often leave unequal economic treaties and political imbalances between developing and developed countries unquestioned, thereby reducing the potential to instigate significant changes. The humanitarian nature of many development efforts has therefore been accused of simply lending a friendlier face to globalisation, while deep-seated structural inequalities persist (Mies 2002: 71-73). Critical examinations of development expose the contradiction between its declared goal of ending inequalities and its investment into an inherently unequal, globalising world system. While it is important to recognize this inherent weakness, it should not obstruct the practical need for well-directed measures in developing countries that directly reach out to those most negatively affected by economic inequality. As Barakat and Chard point out, it’s especially in regions suffering from war and armed conflict where development interventions can be ‘a response to endemic, deep- seated deficits that undermine people’s lives both physically and psychologically’ (2005: 175). 1.2 Approaches to Women and Gender in Development Women’s situations in developing countries are often marked by discrimination, marginalisation, and extreme resource poverty. The following chapter offers an overview of some of the ways in which development policy and practice have handled the ‘woman’s question’. The approaches discussed here have often evolved simultaneously and are not always mutually exclusive. They all continue to be employed in development, often even simultaneously. However, for reasons of clarity, they are presented in chronological order.
  17. 17. 12 1.2.1 Women’s Marginalisation and the Welfare Approach The early theories that equated development with economic growth rarely addressed women explicitly. If women were mentioned, it was to show that they would profit from growth and modernisation, since they were believed to ultimately overcome any discriminatory traditions (Andorfer 1995: 10). In 1955, Lewis stated that: Women benefit from growth even more than men. (…) Woman gains freedom from drudgery, is emancipated from the seclusion of the household, and gains at last the chance to be a full human being, exercising her talents in the same way as men (2003: 422). These words imply that only participation in the free market allows human beings to realise their potential, and not the supposed ‘drudgery’ that is household work. In fact, Lewis implies that it is only participation in the market that allows women to become fully human. His statement is a reflection of classical economic theory, which views the household as a secluded sphere in which ‘reproductive’ (informal, unpaid and ‘feminine’) work takes place. Classical and neoclassical models of society and the market exhibit strong tendencies to ignore and/or devalue this ‘reproductive’ sphere, placing singular emphasis on ‘productive’ (formal, income-generating and ‘masculine’) activities, which are viewed as the single contributing factor to generating economic growth (Blau and Ferber 1986: 20-21). Feminist economists have challenged this view by defining the reproduction of labour power as ‘the renewal of the capacity of energy to labour expended in production’ (Bujra 1979: 20), thereby highlighting the significance of women’s ‘reproductive’ contribution to the economy. The production of goods and their consumption also takes place within the household and that the actual humans that undertake ‘productive’ activities are created and nurtured from within the ‘reproductive’. The distinction between the two spheres thus appears to be an artificial construct, which stems from gendered hierarchies in economic thought and has little relevance to the actual realities ‘in the field’. As Mackintosh (1984: 9) suggests, the sexual division of labour in society should be viewed as an ‘intersection of two sets of social forces: capitalism and patriarchy’: while the former is a system of economic hegemony, the ladder is a system of male hegemony. This idea is confounded by Kabeer’s assertion that Women’s labour in the home relieves men of the tasks associated with maintaining both their own bodies and the domestic locations where such
  18. 18. 13 maintenance takes place, thereby freeing them to behave ‘as if’ they were indeed the disembodied rational agents of liberal theory (2001: 29). Classical economic theory thus confounds hierarchies in the way that labour, resources, recognition and power are distributed (Jacobsen 1994). During these early development decades of the 1950s and 1960s, the focus on neoclassical policies in capitalist countries led to a marginalisation of women (Sen and Grown 1987: 31). Policies sought to transfer control of the economy from the public to the private sector through deregulation, decentralization and promotion of a global free-market economy. This entailed commercialisation and private property, which reduced women’s access to resources. Development efforts tended to get directed to men, thereby failing to recognize the central role women play as household managers and producers1 . In many cases, social and cultural norms that ensure women’s economic and legal dependency on men were enforced in this way (Gittinger 1990: 3). Mainstream development efforts were mainly directed towards men, focusing on jobs and the industry (Kabeer 2001: 5). Accordingly, men entered the development process as household heads and ‘productive’ agents, while women were supposed to become better housewives, mothers and ‘at-risk’ producers. Lewis’ theory that women would automatically benefit from economic growth was disproved when women turned out to be disproportionably represented among the resource-poor and powerless of the world, leading to a ‘feminisation of poverty’ (Mosse 1993: 116). If development programs and policies addressed women, it was in terms of the welfare approach. Welfare provided women with food aid and family planning measures. The welfare approach attempted to ease the burden of ‘women’s labour’, but it did so from a narrowly defined, eurocentric view of gender relations that ignored women’s ‘productive’ capacity. While this constituted a first recognition that women had different needs than men, it almost entirely eclipsed their ‘productive’ role, their social and economic capacities and their potential for agency. Women’s subordination was left unchallenged. 1 According to studies from sub-Saharan Africa, African women make up approximately 70 percent of the total food production by engaging in agricultural and commercial activities mostly geared at household consumption (Gittinger 1990: 3).
  19. 19. 14 1.2.2 Women in Development The first work that contested the notion that women and men equally benefited from development was Ester Boserup’s study ‘Women’s Role in Economic Development’ published in 1970. Boserup stated that economic modernisation had increased men’s labour productivity but ousted women from most productive processes (1970: 1-15). She was the first to draw attention to the fact that international technical cooperation focused almost exclusively on teaching new farming techniques to male farmers (1970: 53-57). Boserup’s work inspired liberal feminist scholars and practitioners to push for a broader inclusion of women into development. Studies focusing on the intersection of women’s ‘reproductive’ and ‘productive’ labour were now carried out in all regions of the world, with the goal to appropriately recognize women in all policy and programming (Rogers 1980: 181-192). This new discourse was subsumed under the term ‘Women in Development’ (WID). In the light of new policy approaches that emphasised basic needs, women were now identified as crucial development agents and the UN became one of the central platforms for the promotion of WID, declaring the years 1976 to 1985 as the ‘UN- Decade for Women’. Over the course of these ten years, three international women’s conferences were held, 1975 in Mexico, 1980 in Copenhagen and 1985 in Nairobi. In 1979, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was passed. Today 185 countries have ratified it, making up over 90 percent of UN member states (United Nations 2006). The two major approaches that emerged from WID were anti-poverty and efficiency. The anti-poverty approach attempted to end the marginalisation of women in development by no longer limiting them to the ‘reproductive’ sphere and instead recognising their potential as providers. It directed ‘women-specific’ measures towards them in order to improve their access to resources and income and to increase their productivity. This was often done in terms of special projects for income generating activities (IGAs), such as handicraft or small-scale agricultural production and trade. The anti-poverty approach constituted a first step away from limiting women solely to their roles as housewives and mothers. However, it showed similarities to the welfare approach since it did not handle women’s poverty as an issue of subordination and
  20. 20. 15 did not attempt to change their relative position in society. As a result, it often placed additional work on women without improvements in their autonomy or agency. After the 1980s debt crisis, numerous developing countries faced growing macroeconomic problems, which they tried to tackle with loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF tied these loans to policies of economic efficiency and debt repayment through structural adjustment programs (SAPs). These programs became the central macroeconomic approach in development, obliging developing countries to further market liberalisation, export-oriented production, privatisation and reduction of social services. From this context, the efficiency approach emerged. While promoters of anti-poverty had still been preoccupied with proving that development marginalised women, promoters of the efficiency approach were preoccupied with showing the negative effects this had on development. The efficiency approach proposed that the liberalisation process could be enhanced if women were explicitly recognized. Women then were mostly regarded in their capacity to compensate for the negative results of SAPs. Their poverty was seen more in terms of their lack of participation and agency within ‘formal’, ‘productive’ structures, which was to be balanced out through opening up new opportunities of resource and capital ownership and broader access to the labour market. The efficiency approach also promoted IGAs as a central tool. It focused on women’s role as subsistence farmers, improving their opportunities for the processing and marketing of products, typically through creating and supporting women’s cooperatives and providing them with technological innovations such as rice mills. Since the efficiency approach did not challenge neoclassical premises or the supposed need for SAPs, it came to be highly persuasive to development organisations such as the World Bank (Kabeer 2001: 25). In the process, women’s domestic duties were ignored while they faced increasing pressure to produce goods and social services, which did little to balance out their relative disadvantage to men (Elson 1995: 168-185; Moser 1989: 1814). Both WID approaches, anti-poverty and efficiency, thus had in common that they sought corrective reforms that largely left the status quo of dominant social and economic hierarchies of society untouched (Kabeer 2001: 12).
  21. 21. 16 1.2.3 Gender and Development From the mid 1980s onwards, feminist scholars and activists brought about another shift in approaches to women and development. They were still dedicated to the general goal of efficiency, but focused more on the structures that determine women’s and men’s relative positions within society. Whereas most WID scholars rejected the emerging notion that women’s capacities were in any way different from those of men, the new paradigm specifically emphasised gender differences. This approach was subsumed under the term Gender and Development (GAD). GAD scholars contended that women and men inhabit different roles in society that are based on inequality and give rise to different needs. Because women start from a position of relative disadvantage, they need to be specifically strengthened and encouraged in order to participate in development and benefit from it. This constituted another difference to earlier approaches, which tended to see women as a homogenous group. GAD thereby pursued a more just and equitable distribution of assets along the lines of relevant social factors such as gender, class, ethnicity and age. Resource-poor women were differentiated by these additional factors. Caroline Moser created a central conceptual framework to plan for development interventions from a GAD perspective. She suggested the use of gender as an analytical approach to development planning: Women will always be marginalized in planning theory and practice until theoretical feminist concerns are adequately incorporated into a gender planning framework, which is recognized in its own right as a specific planning approach (1989: 1800). According to Moser, women’s development should be addressed in terms of practical and strategic needs (1989: 1804-06). ‘Practical needs’ result from differences in labour distribution. They can be tackled by facilitating and supporting women’s specific roles, for example by giving inputs in healthcare and water. Though these material assets constitute an important first step to improving women’s living situation, it does not necessarily help to end their subordination. Moser stated that the satisfaction of practical needs did not question existing gendered hierarchies. Instead, it may have contributed to their reproduction by ascribing women to the domestic sphere or burdening them with ever increasing workloads. ‘Strategic needs’ of women concern the underlying structures of society that create and perpetuate gender subordination. Strategic needs are met when women obtain control over their own bodies and sexualities and can participate as equal partners in
  22. 22. 17 social and political processes. This can involve ending discrimination in the judiciary system, in education and the labour market as well as eliminating sexualised violence. In addition, Moser (1989: 1801) designed an analytical planning tool named the ‘triple role of women’. It includes the common distinction between women’s ‘reproductive’ and ‘productive’ roles, while adding a third component of women’s community managing work. This involves women’s roles as protectors and caretakers of the community, for example by creating solidarity groups and engaging in reciprocal exchange. Moser asserts that women’s support for the community is often not valued, since it is seen as an extension of women’s ‘natural’, domestic role as housewives and mothers, and thus ‘non-productive’. The analytical tools of practical and strategic needs and the triple role of women allowed for a more differentiated view of the activities of resource-poor women in developing countries, laying the groundwork for well-conceived development interventions. Gender-specific research after GAD models has been highly efficient in proving that much of a development project’s success, if not all of it, depends on sensitivity to gender issues. The need for gender-segregated analysis of labour and income is now widely recognized in academic research and practical development planning and policy (Andorfer 1995: 35). Due to its interdisciplinary character, gender analysis can be adapted into diverse fields of discourse and action, a characteristic that corresponds well with the diversity of development issues and stakeholders. Further, gender analysis acknowledges that each discipline or situation requires a uniquely modified response. This is a sensible point of departure, considering that each developmental effort needs to adapt to specific local conditions and requirements. Gender analysis places each situation in a broader context of inequality, such as male dominance, colonialism or globalisation. Despite a generally high level of differentiation and social consciousness among GAD scholars and practitioners, they are not free from European-originated development discourse that sets developed countries as the standardised ideal all societies have to reach. The focus is on integrating resource-poor people into this project rather than questioning the unequal and often exploitative relationships between developed and developing countries (Andorfer 1995: 46). GAD scholars thereby continue to imply a view of women from developing countries as victims of
  23. 23. 18 poverty, discrimination and oppression. This denies them a chance to speak for themselves and voice their opinions to an attentive audience. 1.2.4 Women’s Empowerment At the end of the 1980s, a new development paradigm emerged from the Southern side of the globe. Often labelled ‘Third World Feminism’, it was most closely associated with the political manifest ‘Development, Crises and Alternative Visions’ delivered by a women’s network, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), during the preparations for the final conference of the UN-Decade for women in 1984. DAWN, which at the time consisted of activists and scholars from over 60 developing countries, demanded adequate recognition of women’s diversity and the multitude of feminisms across the world (Sen and Grown 1987: 18). The manifest discussed development as a structural transformation of economic, political and cultural power at three levels: the local, the national and the international. DAWN rejected the idea that integrative approaches such as GAD could be a panacea to women’s diverse problems in a globalising world order. Instead, they voiced a sharp and direct critique of the capitalist world system and the model of neoclassical globalisation: ‘A development process that shrinks and poisons the pie available to poor people, and then leaves women scrambling for a larger relative share, is not in women’s interest’ (Sen and Grown 1987: 20). DAWN regarded the unchallenged top-down approach to development (project identification, planning and implementation) as both a result of, and a way to reproduce, economic and political inequalities. They demanded that the voices of the resource-poor would be heard and promoted a people-centred approach, asserting that ‘absence of local participation in favour of a more bureaucratic approach is not only undemocratic and inequitable, but highly inefficient’ (Sen and Grown 1987: 40). Since DAWN evolved almost simultaneously with GAD, both approaches mutually influenced one another. While addressing interlocking and multiple forms of oppression, DAWN always allotted gender equality a paramount role above all other struggles: For many women, problems of nationality, class, and race are inextricably linked to their specific oppression as women. Defining feminism to include the struggle against all forms of oppression is both legitimate and necessary. In many instances gender equality must be accompanied by changes on these other fronts (Sen and Grown 1987: 19).
  24. 24. 19 Based on these assertions, DAWN introduced the concept of ‘empowerment’ that is central to this Magister thesis. It implies that while some parts of society hold economic, social or political power, some groups have less, or no power at all. Women are thought to be on the losing side of this equation due to their subordinate position within a patriarchal system that is solidified by cultural norms, social divisions of labour, marital customs as well as educative and legal systems. Empowerment differs from previous approaches because it places women’s participation and agency at the centre: it is neither seen as an added contributing factor to efficiency, nor as an elite, top-down approach for development planners and policy makers, but as a central motor for social change: Only by sharpening the links between equality, development, and peace, can we show that the ‘basic rights’ of the poor and the transformation of the institutions that subordinate women are inextricably linked. They can be achieved together through the self-empowerment of women (Sen and Grown 1987: 81). The use of the word ‘self-empowerment’ is significant. It stresses that DAWN does not favour a setting in which women are being empowered by any external agents. They may benefit from gender-sensitive programs that provide them with useful tools, but resource-poor communities must initiate change themselves. Women’s grassroots initiatives and local organisations of Women from developing countries are promoted as the central nuclei for social change. They present an opportunity for community organizing and a potential arena for transformation. From the perspective of women’s self-empowerment, power is not a form of dominance over others in the sense that ‘women gain and men loose’. Instead, power is crucial for its potential to increase women’s capacity for inner strength and self-reliance, their right to determine life choices and gain control over material and nonmaterial resources, to shape their own environment and influence decision- making processes (Moser 1989: 1814; Schultz 2002: 63). While this means that men need to share certain privileges, they gain the opportunity of an equal partnership with women with direct and measurable benefits to the entire community. 1.3 Microcredit: A Tool for Women’s Empowerment? In recent years, empowerment discourse has gained ground. Microcredit and IGAs have been appropriated as essential tools to support the idea of self-empowerment. According to the previously mentioned noble laureate Muhammad Yunus, ‘the able-
  25. 25. 20 bodied poor don’t want or need charity. The dole only increases their misery, robs them of incentive, and, more important, of self-respect’ (2003: 205). The most compelling argument for microcredit is that the formal finance sector is ill prepared to make credit accessible to the resource-poor. This especially affects women, whose lack of resources leads to a lack of liability and bars them from accessing credit from conventional banks. Microcredit offers small denominations and alternative security measures such as savings groups and women’s solidarity groups in which liability and risks can be shared. Loan takers invest their credit into IGAs that are often supported by special vocational training programs, focusing on women’s capacities as entrepreneurs in informal, small-scale business. Yunus points out that women are more reliable loan takers, because their payback rates are higher and they use their assets more effectively for poverty-reducing measures than men (2003: 70-72). Based on the case of Bangladesh, he observes that resource-poor women are willing to work harder to lift themselves and their families out of poverty than men. According to Yunus, ‘when a destitute father earns extra income he focuses more attention on himself’, whereas women’s aspirations are geared towards the need of their children and the household (Yunus 2003: 72). Though some scholars are critical of microcredit, they do not challenge the concept per se, but its appropriation by neoclassical economists (Wichterich 2007). Today, the World Bank is the strongest promoter of microcredit. Their policies tend to treat resource-poor women as an ideal ‘target’ of economic investment, but do little to improve their actual status in society. In doing so, neoclassical policy makers remain dedicated primarily to the goals of WID efficiency (Batliwala and Dhanraj 2006: 382). Yet women’s empowerment does not come as an automatic benefit of microcredit. While not negating the successes made by microcredit programs, critical studies warn that microcredit schemes may expose women to great pressure while failing to adequately recognize risks such as male control over women’s income or women’s failure to reimburse. While it can be confirmed that resource-poor women sacrifice themselves for their families and communities, are reliable in debt repayment and are more impervious against corruption, these potentials arise from women’s struggle for survival and should serve their own empowerment, and not political and economic ends of ‘poverty alleviation’ (Batliwala and Dhanraj 2006: 373-74). Microcredit can be a tool for empowerment can be achieved through microcredit under the condition that strategic complementary measures ensure that microcredit
  26. 26. 21 furthers women’s participation, their agency and their autonomy (Stromquist 1993: 265). Moser’s GAD tools for gender planning can be helpful here, as they provide a framework to ensure that microcredit programs for women are effective in breaking down barriers to gender equality. As DAWN has argued, all action concerned with resource-poor women has to be reflective of global inequalities and respectful of the voices and opinions of women from developing countries. 2. War and Post-War Reconstruction in Maniema The following chapter provides an introduction to the research location of Maniema province in DRC. It outlines the historical background of war and armed conflict while highlighting some trends in the post-war situation. The chapter emphasises the issue of sexualised violence and introduces the work of the local non-governmental organisation (NGO) HEAL Africa. 2.1 War and the Post-War Situation 2.1.1 Historical Context The DRC is six times the size of the Federal Republic of Germany and has a population of 53 millions. The population consists of almost 250 different ethnic groups, almost each with their own language or dialect. In pre-colonial times, the most common system of political organisation was the kinship group ruled by a local chief. The Portuguese, who first arrived at the Congolese shore in 1482, did not comprehend of these lose and dynamic structures as a form of civilisation and instead labelled them as primitive (Chiari 2006: 15-16; 20-21). Europeans subsequently used this form of cultural discrimination to legitimise enslaving the people they encountered in the Congo and selling them to colonies in the Caribbean and the Americas. In 1885, the Belgian King Leopold II secured the entire territory of the Congo for himself in the course of the Berlin Africa Conference in 1885. He thereby ended the dominion of Arab-Swahili slave hunters and traders operating in the Eastern region of what is nowadays the DRC. While the experience of slave hunts and Arab-Swahili culture left a strong imprint on societies in the region, it was European rule that created the structures of systematic exploitation affecting them until today (Ngongo 2007: 36-55). Leopold commissioned Belgian companies with the economic
  27. 27. 22 exploitation of the Congo through mining, logging and the extraction of natural rubber, also known as cautchouc. In order to achieve maximum profits, local peoples were brutally enslaved and abused, leading to the death of millions.2 As these atrocities became publicly known and denounced across Europe, Leopold was pressured into selling his personal colony to the Belgian state in 1908. However, this shift did little to improve the situation of the Congolese, mainly because the companies that were in charge of exploiting raw materials did not change. The ‘Force Publique’, Leopold’s original colonial army consisting of white European officers and an ethnically mixed African soldiery, stayed in place until 1965 and put down repeated uprisings and rebellions. After the end of World War II, a national liberation movement developed and finally achieved independence in 1960. In 1965, after a period of wars and civil wars, General Joseph Désiré Mobutu took power as president of the independent Congolese state. Through a political project of ‘Africanisation’, Mobutu attempted to define an authentic nationalism and a return to pre-colonial structures that entailed the eventual disenfranchisement and the expulsion of all foreigners and foreign companies. This was followed by a gradual collapse of the national economy from the late 1970s onwards. The state abandoned the public sector, leaving the Congolese citizenry to fend for itself. In the meantime, Mobutu’s government recklessly exploited the country’s rich resources. Regardless of these actions, the USA and other Western powers regarded Mobutu as an ally against communism and backed his regime until the end of the Cold War. In the early 1990s, while Mobutu’s opponents tried to seize power and establish a democratic parliament, ethnic conflicts over territorial resources led to a war in Masisi territory. This constituted the first in a long series of wars largely fought in the Eastern provinces of the country. In 1994, members of the Hutu ethno-political group, who were mainly responsible for the genocide in Rwanda, fled across the border to Eastern Congo. The militant core moved on to form the FDLR rebel group that continues to destabilise the region until this day. After the overthrow of the Mobutu regime in 1996/97, the country experienced a number of wars that to a large extent also involved its Eastern neighbours Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. The effects on the population were devastating, with several 2 According to Hochschild, the number of Congolese that died during colonisation may be as high as ten million (2000: 220- 233).
  28. 28. 23 million dead. All warring factions have used rape and other forms of sexualised violence as a systematic strategy to attack their respective ‘enemy population’, which has been destructive to the social order of society. Though war supposedly ended in 2003, the DRC remained in an unstable state of political transition until 2006. The MONUC (Mission des Nations Unies en République Démocratique du Congo) was therefore installed across DRC. They remain the largest UN peacekeeping mission worldwide as the ongoing insecurity in the country has not yet allowed setting a date for their withdrawal. On the 30th of July 2006, the DRC had their first free elections in 46 years and the Congolese voted for a new parliament with Joseph Kabila as president. In most parts of the country, the population now experiences a phase of relative stability. Yet, all- pervasive insecurity, armed conflict and a culture of violence continue to exist and are particularly rampant in the Eastern provinces of North and South Kivu as well as in Ituri district in Province Orientale. Relative peace could be established in Maniema province, though the state of security is fragile due to local rebel groups (Mai-Mai). 2.1.2 The Post-Conflict Situation and Sexualised Violence Even after the successful elections, the DRC is marked by corruption, mismanagement, violence, ethnic conflict and battles over economic resources. Involved in these conflicts are local and provincial leaders, who often instrumentalise ethnic fault lines to fuel conflict and employ various militias (Djateng, Kayser and Mavinga 2008: 21-22; 50). In the Eastern region, all conflict parties, including the Congolese national army, behave like occupying powers, recklessly exploiting resources and violating human rights. Foreign investors are equally involved as they seek to access Congo’s mineral resources (Johnson and Tegera 2005: 13-14; 22). In Maniema province, were fighting lasted until 2005, the local population is only beginning to recover from the effects of war. Though improved by recent reconstruction efforts, Maniema’s infrastructure remains the least developed of the entire country. Development efforts are severely hindered by the lack of viable transport routes, the lack of hospitals, schools and training centres and the near non- existence of financial institutions. The population has limited access to capital, technical training and employment opportunities. Other regions across the continent are faced with similar problems, with one in every five people in Sub-Saharan Africa directly affected by civil war (Elbadawi and
  29. 29. 24 Ndung’u 2005: 18). Economic poverty can be identified as both an outcome of, and a major cause for, the perpetuation of conflict. As Elbadawi and Ndung’u point out: Conflict and post-conflict countries face a development tragedy. Without political stability and peace there can be no lasting economic development. Countries emerging from conflict continue to suffer poverty and therefore, lingering risks of renewed conflict (2005: 20-21). Barakat and Chard define violence as the central feature that distinguishes a post- war situation from natural catastrophes or chronic poverty. Violence damages social institutions on every level. For this reason, interventions cannot be limited to financial assistance, ‘nor can collective violence be regarded as a temporary aberration on an aid-to-peace continuum’ (2005: 177). In order to get out of the ‘conflict-poverty trap’, other root causes of conflict besides resource poverty need to be addressed. Rule of law, the legal system, political liberalisation and democratic accountability are equally important preconditions for peace. At present, the international community plays a central role in ensuring peace in post- war situations, helping to mediate and recreate trust between warring factions (Fosu 2005: 237). These needs are particularly urgent where women are concerned. As we will see in chapter 4, the poorly addressed post-conflict situation in Maniema has negative effects on women’s social and economic condition. The combination of economic poverty, insecurity and impunity makes women especially vulnerable to violence, reducing their capacity to participate in the reconstruction process on equal terms with men and to make their own contributions to building peace. In the Congolese wars, soldiers have used sexual aggression as a way to destroy entire communities and reduce their perceived enemy to a weaker, ‘female’ status. The heavily reported act of raping women in front of their male relatives in order to humiliate them exemplifies the symbolic nature of this act. Moreover, men have also been subjected to various forms of sexualised violence, including the mutilation of male sexual organs. This evidence suggests that rape is not related to sexual desire, but to a desire for power, just as gender signifies relationships of power that are not necessarily connected to the physical ‘reality’ of the body (Scott 2007: 66). ‘Rape’ in this context refers to the act of forced penetration of a person's body. Yet, rape is not the only way that violence can be exercised through sexual abuse. The term ‘sexualised violence’ allows for a broader understanding of what constitutes an abuse, e.g. forced coercion into other sexual practices, sexual exploitation of minors and subordinates or forced prostitution. Sexualised violence is not limited to outlawed
  30. 30. 25 or criminal activity. Forced marriage and forced intercourse between spouses is no less a form of abuse than rape by a stranger (HEAL Africa 2007). Even though fighting has stopped in many parts of Eastern Congo, sexualised violence still prevails. For women in Maniema, sexualised violence has not ended with the war. They continue to be affected by widespread incidents of rape and a culture of impunity that results from the absence of a strong Congolese state, incapacity to enforce the penal code and the weakening of traditional authorities (e.g. community chiefs). For the women and young girls who have had the courage to publicly identify their rapists, prosecutions are slow to nonexistent. The ongoing assaults against women create a society in which security is not available to a considerable part of the population. This issue cannot be tackled by foreign support alone, but must evolve from within society, building on people’s capacities for social action and change. Like many other regions that suffer from prolonged conflict, societies in the East of the DRC fall back on a great diversity of local, ‘informal’ and often traditional structures. As Kayser highlights, it would equal a boycott of people’s hopes not to recognize, rehabilitate and strengthen these networks (2006: 141). Especially regarding sexualised violence, numerous local and international organisations operate in Maniema. Church groups, faith-based organisations, female lawyers, women’s cooperatives, health services and the UN all make their own contribution to ending sexualised violence in Maniema. These can be viewed as part of a larger process towards rebuilding a functioning, just and equitable society. Especially non-governmental organisations are crucial elements of civil society that can potentially further women’s empowerment. 2.2 HEAL Africa: A Local Approach to Reconstruction HEAL Africa is a grassroots organisation that is led by locally based program directors. Its name stands for Health, Education, Action and Leadership for Africa. The organisation works in multiple partnerships with stakeholders of Congolese civil society as well as national and regional institutions and international donor organisations. HEAL Africa is engaged in several development coalitions to tackle issues such as HIV/AIDS, sexualised violence, reproductive health and early childhood development.
  31. 31. 26 All of HEAL Africa’s assets and work is locally owned and invested, lending the organisation high credibility and acceptance among Congolese communities. The director of HMPM, Muliri Kabekatyo, who has been a leader in HEAL’s programs to address sexualised violence since 2003, has lead a provincial group of protestant women’s union (Division Femme et Famille de l’Eglise du Christ au Congo) for 20 years. A female leader like ‘Maman Muliri’ is able to organise communities while providing relevant education and advice. A crucial element of HEAL Africa’s work is its primary focus of training and equipping new leaders in a long-term approach, rather than just solving short term needs. Due to its inclusionary approach in working through the faith-based community in DRC, HEAL Africa reaches a large proportion of rural communities. HEAL Africa's programs actively involve all faith communities in Eastern DRC (Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Animist). With support from the Congolese National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (CONADER) and the German Development Bank (KfW), HEAL Africa launched HMPM in 2005. It is as a holistic program for the medical, psychological and social rehabilitation of women who have been raped during or after the war. HEAL Africa is a local partner within the joint effort of the German and the Congolese government to further the reintegration of former combatants into society and to rebuild peace. The economic revival of the region is seen as a crucial factor in achieving this goal. This involves support for small agricultural projects, provision of microcredit and reconstruction efforts in basic infrastructure. A project that has been exported from a foreign country is likely to differ from one that has been created within the country where it is needed. If a project is planned at the desks of foreign ‘development experts’, it may lack adequacy and create new conflicts within communities. HMPM is locally conceived and implemented and well adapted to local needs and strategies. KfW contributes financial support and some technical assistance. This setting may be characterised as a synergy between developing and developed countries that is based on collaboration and participation. The HMPM program attempts empower women by providing holistic care that addresses a broad range of issues affecting local communities. A holistic approach has multiple dimensions, targeting multiple disadvantages such as poor health,
  32. 32. 27 illiteracy, isolation, material dependency and psychological consequences such as fear, depression or a sense of powerlessness (Kabeer 2005: 67). Rape survivors are provided with medical care and surgery to heal the physical damages resulting from rape and to treat sexually transmitted diseases. Medical personnel in local health centres and hospitals are receive training, equipment and medication. In order to address the psychological consequences of rape, the program trains and employs 120 local counsellors do engage in trauma work with rape survivors. They identify rape survivors and establish the contact with the program, counsel them to help them overcome traumatic experiences and aid them in their return to a ‘normal’ way of life. In order to reintegrate rape survivors into their social life, the counsellors also mediate with husbands and other family members of survivors. In order to further the socio-economic reintegration of survivors, but also as a general reconstruction effort, the program offers microcredit and vocational training. This is seen as a way to provide economic opportunities to resource-poor women, rebuild self-esteem among rape survivors and ensure their sustainable integration into the community. Other microcredit programs in Eastern DRC mainly focus on farmers and small entrepreneurs who already possess some notions of financial management. Due to women’s lack of financial and other resources, these programs often fail to respond to their specific needs. When introducing microcredit into a community, the program organises a meeting with community members to learn about their living conditions and needs. Individual and collective concerns are brought up and discussed in order to agree on core issues and strategies. It is ensured that all stakeholders, and especially the participants in the microcredit program, are able to influence the planning and implementation processes. The local counsellors serve as mediators, or negotiators, between the program and the community in weighing options and defining the program procedure. Even though this process is time-intensive it is of great importance because women’s needs can vary greatly depending on their social and economic environment. In Kindu, the provincial capital of Maniema, where commercial activities are strong, women tend to express a need for small enterprise start-up capital. In rural areas, where women still regard cash as tied to risks and rely mostly on barter, they lean towards microcredit in form of ‘life assets’ like livestock.
  33. 33. 28 Rural participants are joined in solidarity groups of six, each of which elects a president, a vice-president and a treasurer. They sign an agreement, read out in public, that states all conditions, including those of repayment. They then receive a micro-loan in form of livestock. The program does not yet ask for any interest. The investment that women make consists of sparing their time and energy in what is already a very busy working week. However, the animals are not a gift, since they must be reimbursed in full. If a group has received six goats, they must breed them and give six goats back to the program eventually. The animals are then used to form new groups. In this way, other women can also become participants and receive microcredit later on, making the program expansive and potentially self-sustaining. If adequately prepared, women’s solidarity groups may reach a state in which they can administer the goats self-dependently. This would signify a high level of self-empowerment. When new participant enters the program, they receive a basic training in livestock rearing and animal health. The program also offers training in tailoring, baking and soap production so that the women can diversify their activities. In addition, it contains literacy classes in order to prepare them for broader social, economic and political activities and increase their capacity for participation in society. Consensus building at the household and community levels is a core objective of the program. Therefore, counsellors ensure the husband agrees with his wife’s loan and participation in a solidarity group. In some households, this requires several negotiating sessions, but the counsellors are generally successful in achieving the consent of male family members. The success of solidarity groups is monitored in two major ways. Firstly, the local counsellors regularly report back to the central program management. Secondly, group formation works as a ‘tangible collateral’ (Osmani 1998: 69): because the whole group is liable for their success or failure, a bond of mutual responsibility ties the members together. The peer pressure that arises from this system is a mechanism of control that is meant to ensure the timely reimbursement of lent livestock. As a final component, HMPM lobbies against impunity and cooperates with local, mostly faith-based leaders to mobilise communities against sexualised violence. Sensitisation sessions are meant to create a more favourable environment for rape survivors and who would otherwise get rejected by their communities. They also aim
  34. 34. 29 to create awareness to ensure that sexualised violence is outlawed, prevented and punished. To date, the program lacks a judicial component. In the future, HMPM will offer training on women’s rights and install legal clinics where rape survivors can receive counselling. The external evaluation process is conducted regularly in close cooperation with the donor, who appoints development consultants from the DRC and Germany that regularly conduct evaluations in the project area. This synergetic process allows to define goals clearly, to set indicators and to reflect if activities are in line with the initial goals or if these goals need to be reconsidered and reset. 3. Methodology This chapter discusses feminist approaches to empirical research and defines the methodological framework for the present Magister thesis. In addition, the chapter elaborates on the specific methods and tools that were implemented during the research, namely qualitative questionnaires and participatory action workshops. 3.1 Feminist Perspectives of Empirical Research Academic studies frequently deal with rural women’s work in terms of ‘feminist empiricism’. Empiricism is a scientific epistemological theory emphasising sensory experience and evidence as the basis for knowledge. All hypotheses and theories must be verified by testing them against the natural world, while discounting innate ideas or the inborn mental capacities that are advocated by ‘rationalists’. Pro- empiricist feminists do not challenge the existing methodological norms of science but use traditional, objectivist means in order to correct sexist or eurocentric bias in science. Feminist criticism has been concerned with empiricism’s failure to understand meaning in context, leaving aside cultural distinctions in its search for rules and laws that apply to all people all the time. As Harding argues, empiricists distort reality with concealed subjectivism, as their emphasis on the supposed objectivity and rationality of science fails to question the tacit biases of scientific work (Harding 1986: 24-25). By contrast feminist, feminist standpoint theory rejects the very idea of scientific objectivity and argues that every scientist is embedded in social context that influences their academic agency, choice of topic and interpretation of results.
  35. 35. 30 (Harding 1986: 26-27). According to feminist standpoint theorists, men’s dominant position in social life leads to pertinacious and partial understandings of reality, while women’s subjugated position renders their worldview more complete. This unique female perspective is defined as ‘a morally and scientifically preferable grounding for our interpretations and explanations of nature and social life’ (1986: 26). Objections of standpoint theory echo the criticisms of a ‘global sisterhood’ of women in feminist development studies (see above, page 7), as both insist that there is no unified perspective of women per se. Class, ethnicity, culture and other factors divide women’s social experience, rendering a universal standpoint questionable. In attempting to identify a universal structure of reality, feminist standpoint theory exchanges a man-centred approach for a woman-centred approach, thereby failing to deconstruct the alliance between power and knowledge inherent to scientific discourse (1986: 138). From the vantage point of postmodern feminism, it may be an important step to formulate a woman-centred hypothesis, yet the ultimate goal of feminist scholarship should be freedom from gender loyalties. Postmodernism may integrate elements of feminist empiricism and standpoint theory while renouncing the possibility of any essential, super ordinate scientific theory or narrative, since it is ‘the very view of the ruler that falsely universalises’ (Harding 1986: 26). As Spivak indicates, feminism needs universal narratives in order to dismantles the deeply rooted alliances between scientific thought and sexism, racism or imperialism. In order not to be trapped by these narratives, theorists need to continuously question them, and in doing so, reflect on their personal standpoints (1990: 29-30). Spivak calls this process of self-reflection a ‘radical acceptance of vulnerability’ (1990: 18) – the recognition that any claim of universal truth is vulnerable to subjectivity and limitation. My thesis contains elements of all three feminist perspectives of empirical research. The empiricist element consists of using empirical evidence to prove or disprove my hypotheses and to provide answers to my questions. To the degree that these answers are used to draw general conclusions, they are presented as having universal value in the empiricist sense. The standpoint element highlights the specific social embeddedness of both researcher and researched. Also the focus on women’s specific experiences and capacities to promote post-war reconstruction and peace supports the idea of a distinct feminist standpoint. Finally, by acknowledging the
  36. 36. 31 limitations, fractures and contradictions stemming from my subjective position and my attempt to create a coherent argument, I adhere to the principles of postmodern feminist thought. 3.2 Research Methodology During a period of one-month period in October and November 2007, I carried out a qualitative research to observe impacts of the HMPM microcredit program on women’s empowerment at the three sub-levels of the individual, the household and the community. The research sites included the towns of Kipaka, Kampene and the recently incorporated Pangi, as well as some of the surrounding villages. During this time, I conducted 31 semi-structured interviews with individual female participants in the microcredit program. In addition, I designed a participatory action research workshop for each of the three research sites. 3.2.1 Qualitative Interviewing Qualitative interviewing is adaptable to feminist sociological research because it respects interviewer and interviewed, their positions and their respective versions of ‘the truth’. By comparison, the stripping away of context and the interchangeability of interviewees that are characteristic for quantitative surveys can have a homogenising effect. Quantitative methods often reject the idea that there may be several realities, as evidenced when interviewees offer different reconstructions of the same event. This makes them less suitable for feminist research. Qualitative interviews can be regarded as modifications or extensions of ordinary conversations, allowing for a focus on the understanding, knowledge and insights of interviewees. The interview content, specifically the order and choice of questions and issues, may be adapted to the interviewee’s state of knowledge and understanding (Rubin and Rubin 1995: 6). As I focused on the people-centred, participatory concept of empowerment and on women in their capacity as autonomous individuals, I extended the implications of what one studies to the methods of doing research, ruling out quantitative surveys. In qualitative research, there are two kinds of questionnaire design: unstructured and semi-structured. With an unstructured format, the researcher suggests a broad topic for discussion and lets the interviewee elaborate freely on the issue. The semi- structured format is used in order to ask for more specific information, allowing the
  37. 37. 32 interviewer to steer the interview by posing a set of predetermined questions (though there is room for spontaneous probing and deviation from the order of questions). Due to the narrow time frame the need to examine well-defined areas of people’s lives, I chose a semi-structured format. Prior to using my initial questionnaire design, I rapidly encountered the very limitations to scientific ‘objectivity’ that I discussed previously in this chapter (see 3.1). As I choose which areas of women’s lives would be the most relevant to their empowerment, I applied my own subjective judgement as a European feminist. For instance, I defined women’s empowerment strongly in terms of personal autonomy and equal access to education and income. Through preliminary interviews with HEAL Africa project staff and other NGOs, I learned that these factors do not have the same significance in Maniema, where women’s personal strength is defined more in terms of their ability to provide to the basic needs of their families and their communities. As I gained a better understanding of the situation in the field, I adapted the questionnaire as far as possible to the everyday realities of resource-poor rural women. I then conducted pilot interviews among rural refugee women staying in Goma. This test showed that I had to restructure some of the questions for better understanding, while adding or discarding others. During the one-month research trip to Maniema, I visited interview partners in their homes in small towns and remote villages in the areas of Kipaka and Kampene (HMPM had not yet started a microcredit program in Pangi, so no interviews were conducted there). Interviewees were chosen from a list of HMPM program participants by random probability sampling. The interviewees included women aged 25 to 70 who could be married in mono- or polygynous unions, divorced or widowed. All interviewees were rape survivors and/or otherwise marginalized, e.g. due to extreme resource-poverty or widowhood. All interviewees had received microcredit up to 15 months prior to the time of research. During the actual research, the questionnaire had to be lightly adjusted in order to adapt to concepts and realities distinctive to Maniema (for example, to ask about local concepts such as likilimba and kitu kwa kitu that will be explained further below). All interviews were recorded both in written form and using digital recording. I analysed data simultaneously to the interviewing process in order to examine concepts and themes occurring repeatedly and to emphasize them during later
  38. 38. 33 interviews. Interviewing was continued until the content of responses became repetitive, indicating that a point of saturation was reached. I worked with local translators to facilitate French-Swahili translation. Swahili is the African lingua franca of the East of the DRC3 . Some of the women could not understand or speak Swahili properly, in which case the local translators resorted to local languages such as Kirega and Kizimba. Though women with a sufficient educational status are rare in rural Maniema I insisted on working with female translators. Since cultural conventions in Maniema often hinder women from speaking confidently and openly with men, it was particularly important to provide female translators to interview women. The need for translation evidences the limitations of a foreign researcher neither versed in the local language, nor familiar with the concepts, mentalities, norms or values that inform people’s speech. Several incidents of avert misunderstandings could be corrected through double-checking and reiteration. However, it is likely that others went unnoticed or were coloured by my own subjective understanding of what was said, leading to distorted research results. Adhering to ethical standards, all interviewees were informed about the nature and objectives of the interview and asked whether they were comfortable with answering the questions. To encourage open and critical remarks, interviewees were assured that their replies would be considered in the program implementation, but be kept anonymous. This appeared especially important because many of the interviewees have survived rape, rendering talk about their life experiences highly sensitive. The fact that none of the names of interviewees were marked down created a paradox. Even though the intention was to respect the individual privacy of interviewees, the result was that they were homogenised as nameless, and therefore arbitrary, ‘program participants’. In retrospect, this incapacitated me to acknowledge the contribution individual contributions of rural women, giving more textual weight to development scholars and practitioners whose names are, after all, listed in the acknowledgement section and the bibliography of this paper. In retrospect, it may have been more consistent with the proposed feminist principles of this research not 3 Arab-Swahili slave traders in the second half of the 19th century introduced Swahili to the Eastern provinces of what is nowadays the DRC. As such, it is not a native language of the DRC. Few rural Congolese learn it as their mother tongue, yet most people (even with very basic education) know to speak Swahili as it is one of the four official African languages of DRC. French is the lingua franca of educated Congolese (secondary school and higher). Due to their better educational status, their heightened participation in public life and their greater mobility, men are more proficient than women both in Swahili and French.

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