A quiet revolution : strategies for the empowerment and development of rural women in the Solomon Islands : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [in Development Studies] at Massey University
The purpose of this thesis is to locate effective strategies to promote women's development in Third World countries. It is argued that many past development efforts aimed at women have failed to significantly improve their lives because while they may have alleviated women's burdens, they have not attempted to challenge the existing structures in society which have accorded women secondary status. Unequal power relations, rather than a lack of resources, explain why women have not benefited from development to the same extent as men thus women need greater access to power. An approach which focuses on empowering women to help them to challenge the status quo was, therefore, established as providing a good model for development agencies to follow. Fieldwork in the Solomon Islands revealed that many development agencies and planners adopted a conservative, home economics approach to women's development which focused largely on women's roles as wives and mothers. Many other concerns facing women, including their rights to land, access to safe contraception and literacy were largely ignored. It became apparent that many development agencies had a poor conception of gender needs and interests and how they could be addressed largely because they had failed to consult their supposed beneficiaries. Analysis confirmed that there was a strong relationship between the amount of input rural women had into a development initiative and the likelihood that they would be empowered by it. Despite the narrow approach adopted by many agencies attempting to assist rural women, however, a movement for change did emerge. Women's organisations played a key role in this movement, providing women with a space in which to define and pursue their future priorities, and building collective solidarity so that women would have the confidence to confront forces which were obstructing their progress. These groups, and agencies supporting their work, were not afraid to address the causes of women's subordination although subtle strategies, rather than outright confrontation, proved to be most effective in catalysing changes in women's lives.