Developing Power
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Arvonne S. Fraser

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Irene Tinker

more about this author

Developing Power

Edited by Arvonne S. Fraser & Irene Tinker

In every nation around the world, women have long occupied the pivotal place in social and economic life on its most basic and meaningful levels. Yet the international development programs that grew in the mid-twentieth century largely ignored or bypassed women’s ideas, women’s rights, women’s work, and the realities of women’s lives. More often than not, these development projects served to reinforce patriarchal structures rather than to support or empower women. In Developing Power, women from around the world tell how they fought to ensure that the unprecedented political and economic changes in the developing world would benefit women as well as men.

Organizing, often against crippling odds, to demand their place at the table, they helped to create one of the most important social movements of the last century—the global women’s movement. This movement saw a rare collaboration between women from the global North and the global South, as they worked together to alter the established order both inside the UN and in NGOs, national and local governments, universities, think tanks, and on-the-ground development projects.

In these compelling testimonies, a distinguished group of 27 pioneering women from 12 countries tell their own stories, revealing the moments when they realized that they could challenge the received wisdom of the day, and the struggles involved in turning their ideas into actions. These varied accounts come from women involved in creating the four major UN conferences on women held from 1975 to 1995, women scholars, women in institutions that provide development funds, and women in development agencies. While a good deal of work remains to be done before women achieve full equity in international development, the changes achieved in the past 30 years are enormous. The stories in Developing Power reach beyond their individual contexts to provide a model for progressive social change. At this crucial historical moment, when women in Afghanistan and Iraq are being excluded from “rebuilding” plans in the wake of U.S. wars abroad, Developing Power offers both instruction and inspiration.

"This is a 'must-read' book. Yes, these are stories of struggle, but also of wit, solidarity, humor, fifth-column infiltration of establishment structures, and soul-uplifting gritty persistence. They have effectively created the thousand small (and a few big) revolutions that will cumulatively create a world in which women and men both bloom, develop, and contribute to making it better. This is their story. Read it."

—Margaret Catley-Carlson, CIDA, UNICEF, Population Council, Global Water Partnership

"This timely and thoughtful collection, by women leaders around the globe, highlights the role the UN conferences on women have played in bringing together the diverse strands of the global women's movement and providing a platform to advance calls for gender equality and women's rights. Contributors offer deep insights from their experiences in different struggles—inside government, the academy and in local, national, and international women's groups. As we approach the ten-year review of the commitments made to women at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, this reminds us of the urgent need to develop strategies to hold governments and the international community accountable for keeping their promises to the world's women."

—Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director, UNIFEM

"Through the voices of the women who shaped international development policy and women's human rights over the past 30 years, this memoir documents the struggles and triumphs of the Women in Development movement. This international history of women's contributions is significant for women and men in all cultures around the world, including the United States."

—Former United States President Jimmy Carter

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