Development projects and questions of empowerment: a Salvadorean women's cooperative Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/bz60d0042

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  • Many development organizations now recognize the importance of culturally sensitive project design and implementation. Unfortunately most of these groups continue to disregard the significance of gender. This qualitative research examines a women's cooperative in rural El Salvador which formed in order to find a means of generating income and to improve the general status of women in this region. One purpose of this qualitative research was to investigate what, if any, economic and social benefits the cooperative members received through their involvement. Another purpose was to analyze the models of development employed by the agencies involved in implementing four cooperative projects, as well as the member's attitudes toward those projects. Data presented in this thesis was collected during a fifteen-month period in 1994 and 1995, and a one-month period in 1998. Twenty-six cooperative members were interviewed in 1998. The four projects investigated include cows and nutrition, land and reforestation, artisan crafts and corn mills. These findings indicate that the empowerment model of development, in which self-reliance is maintained and strategic gender needs are met through mobilizing around practical gender needs, is the most successful. Focusing on local knowledge and preserving the agency of the target population are critical to project success. The findings also show that social power is attained by many women in the cooperative as increased self-esteem and involvement lead to gaining a legitimate voice in community affairs. Economic power, however, is only achieved by maintaining a paid leadership position within the cooperative. This research makes recommendations centered on improved access to credit.
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