Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا

Gender in the Construction of the Democratic Developmental State

12-14 November 2006, Cairo, Egypt

Number of visits: 1524

In the period since the beginning of the 1990s, CODESRIA has been at the
forefront of the quest to harness the efforts of African scholars in both extending
the frontiers of knowledge production around issues of gender, and doing
so in a manner that ensures that for as many scholars as are active in its networks
and at other African sites of scholarly work, gender is integrated into
their frames of analyses. This has been done in line with the Council’s institutional
commitment, integral to its Charter mandate, to produce knowledge that
is not only anchored in the realities of the African continent but which also contributes
to the progressive transformation of livelihoods and is premised on contributions
drawn from multidisciplinary perspectives. The results which have
been accumulated from the experience of the Council and other like-minded
institutions have, at one level, culminated in an efflorescence of studies on various
aspects of the gender dynamics of development, an expansion in the community
of African scholars with an active interest in gender research, the networking
of that community on a sub-regional and pan-African scale, and the
projection of the voices of its members on a global scale.

At another level, however, few will doubt that for all the progress which has
been made in promoting the idea of the centrality of gender to the robustness
of any social research and the completeness of any project of social transformation,
a considerable amount of work still remains to be done. The challenges
that are posed are many but in summary could be said to centre around the
need to consolidate the many critiques of development that have been made
from various gender – and feminist perspectives into a comprehensive, internally
coherent and consistent set of alternatives on the basis of which further
advances in theory, method and praxis could be achieved. Engendering African
development requires close attention not only to the analytical tools of the
researcher but also a gendered critique of development that questions the very
foundations on which the African developmental process rests and the terms on
which it has proceeded as a pre-requisite for new theoretical approaches and
policy instruments. In sum, what is called for today is a complete paradigm shift
for which new scholarship will be necessary.

To be sure, the Women in Development (WID), Women and Development
(WAD)/Gender and Development (GAD) strategies that shaped policy interventions
and informed scholarly reflections in the 1960s and 1970s went some
way in addressing some of the gender-based silences and contradictions in the
development process. However, they were limited by the fact that they mostly
remained within the established parameters of the conventional theories of development
and the discourses of the exponents of the mainstream approaches.
Also, they tended to limit the terrain of analysis to either narrowly economistic
considerations or perspectives that were beholden to a notion of development
as economic growth. Furthermore, women continued to be treated more as objects
of history rather than makers of history in their own right; they “received”
development but were not the makers of development. Gallant efforts that
were made to draw attention to trends in the informal economy, the cultural
and artistic expressions of women’s developmental work, the status of the domestic
economy of care, the transformation of gender identities in the production and commercial processes, and innovations in science and technology did
not succeed in altering the terms of the debate and generating a fully liberating
alternative discourse in part because of the increased donorisation of gender
as a tool of policy.

The decline of the state-interventionist strategy of development that occurred in
the wake of the neo-liberal revolution of the 1980s represented a setback for
the WID – WAD/GAD approaches precisely because their intellectual roots
were undermined by the radical shift in direction that occurred as the ideology
of the market and IMF/World Bank structural adjustment programmes gained
ground. Subsequent efforts made to transcend the WID-WAD/GAD framework
initially centred on strategies for expanding access to micro-credit and safety
net schemes in order to mitigate the costs of neo-liberal economic adjustment
and enhance women’s participation in market processes. Later on, investments
were made in exercises designed to modify dominant macro-economic models
and policies in order to better accommodate gender concerns. In this connection,
gender-budgeting enjoyed perhaps the highest profile. The political corollary
of this was the rise of state feminism symbolised by the office of first ladies and
the campaign for greater gender balance in the institutions of state power. But
these approaches too, for all their success in keeping the Gender Question on
the radar, did not, in most cases, transcend the parameters set by the new discourses
of the market and the political economy of neo-liberalism; their political
flipside may have served to reinforce existing structures of unaccountable

Looking at the Africa of the 1980s and 1990s, there is a lot to be regretted by
the failure of dominant discussions on development to tackle the roots of the inability
of scholars and practitioners to break out of the (self-imposed) prison
represented by the theoretical and institutional boxes from which they work.
For, as the state went into decline, market failures proliferated, violent conflicts
burst out or acquired a new lease of life, new local and international diasporas
were born, the boundaries of the informal economy expanded, the HIV/AIDS
pandemic took its toll, and the economy of care grew further in significance, the
role of women in the well-being of the household and society became ever
more significant. Without doubt, the continued reproduction of economy and
society in Africa depended on the tenacity and ingenuity of women. In this
changed context, the nature of the gender relationship became ever more central
to the prospects for development whether viewed from the vantage point
of the production process (including labour markets), the state-citizen relationship,
the negotiation of the market and market relations, efforts at reinventing
the state, and innovations in the arts, culture and technology. These developments
added up to create a radically different context for gender relations
that must, of necessity, be taken into account in a holistic re-thinking of development
in Africa.

The agenda of social transformation in the development process has remained
a live one which is in need of being creatively re-visited at a time when questions
are cumulating on the limits of the market and the costs of the maladjustment
of African economies and societies. The questions which are being raised
have been accompanied by a revival of academic and policy interest in development
and the role which the state could play in it. In this connection, the notion
of the developmental state has been revived and is rapidly regaining currency.
Among the most enlightened exponents of the renewed developmental state
thesis as a path for Africa both to overcome its prolonged socio-economic crises
and transcend the maladjustments brought about by the IMF/World Bank market
fundamentalism of the 1980s and 1990s, a fundamentalism that may be
less confident than before but which has not yet been decisively defeated, their
primary concern has been to avoid the errors that hobbled the efforts that were
made in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s to foster development and promote a
developmental state project. These errors are primarily seen as being located
in the arena of politics as captured by the deficit of democracy. It is on account
of these deficits that the renewed discussion on the importance of the revival of
a developmental state project has placed an accent on the need to ensure that
this time, Africa strives to build democratic developmental states. Different authors
have identified different entry points for the democratic import of the developmental
state project they have in mind but these differences need not detain
us for now. What is really important is that it is inconceivable that the democratic
developmental state, however defined, can be built without a clear
integration of gender in the equation. And it is precisely here that the silences
have been loudest and, where gendered voices have been noted, it has been
more for their feebleness than for their bold staking of a claim. The need to
correct this early enough is clear: It will ensure that the struggle to more effectively
engender development in Africa will avoid the historical errors of the
past, namely, seeking merely to add gender garnishing to a meal that has already
been cooked ready to serve. It is this challenge that constitutes the core
objective of the 2006 CODESRIA Gender Symposium which, like the 2005 edition carries forward the broad theme of development alternatives that also constituted
the primary focus of the 11th General Assembly of the Council held in
Maputo, Mozambique, in December 2005.

Participants in the CODESRIA 2006 Gender symposium will be invited to engage
the renewed debate on the developmental state in Africa whether built
on its democratic underpinnings or its social/institutional embedness with a view
to squarely engendering its theoretical underpinnings and weaving gender concerns
into the fabric of its proposed operational policies. This will require a critical,
gendered reading of the emerging body of new developmental state literature
in all of its variants; it will also involve an engagement with the epistemological
foundations of the theory and practice of development, the theory of
the state, the theory of democracy, and the question of public institutions. To this
end, CODESRIA is commissioning think pieces that will speak to all aspects of the
developmental state debate in order to permit the participants in the symposium
to consider and, to the extent possible, jointly develop new conceptual perspectives
and theoretical possibilities on the basis of a re-reading of history, a
re-thinking of inherited knowledge and the generation of fresh evidence. Such a
bold re-reading is necessary because of the changes that have occurred in African
economies and societies in the period since the initial efforts after independence
to foster developmentalism. Whether it be at the level of the household
or in the formal and informal sectors of the economy, women have gained
an increasing role – perhaps even share – of the economy on a scale that is
much higher today than at independence even though this is not reflected in the
computation of the national wealth or in the distribution of power. It is incumbent
on the scholarly community to correct this anomaly and, in so doing, ensure
that the gender factor is placed at the centre of the quest for new developmental
democracies in Africa. Among the sub-themes around which reflections will
be organised are:

i. Coming to Grips with Gender in Africa’s Experiences of Development:

- a. The Theoretical and Conceptual Challenges;
- b. The Methodological Challenges.

ii. Engendering the Theories of Democratic Developmental States:

- a.Gender Silences in the Theory and Practice of Development;
- b. Gender Silences in the Theory and Praxis of the State;
- c. Gender Silences in the Theory and Practice of Democracy.

iii. Gender in the Macro-Economic Foundations of the Democratic Developmental

iv. Gender in the Macro-Social Foundations of the Democratic Developmental

v. Gender in the Political Institutional Fabric of the Democratic Developmental

vi. Gender in the Construction of the Political Institutions of the Democratic Developmental

vii. Gender in the Labour Regimes of the Developmental State Project

viii.Gender in the Financing of a Developmental Democracy

ix. Towards New Forms of Women’s Participation in the Democratic Developmental


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