Work, women and welfare: a critical gendered analysis of social development with special reference to income generation projects in the transition period in South Africa (1994 – 2001)
Minnaar-McDonald, Marie L.
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Studies by feminists frequently investigate reasons why poverty reduction strategies involving income and work generation projects for poor women fail to deliver on set economic and social goals to provide jobs, income, education and skills training. Several reviews over a number of decades indicate a prevalence of welfare-oriented interventions that apparently contradict the intended transformative potential of economic empowerment, gender equality goals and anticipated outcomes included during the design of national policies and programmes. Different theoretical frameworks have, over time, been called upon to account for and have attempted to explain these shifts, changes and contradictions. Studies of women and work in developing countries in the 1970s and 1980s were mostly led by economists who commented on the perceived failure of policies and projects, and continued to investigate the cause of this anomaly. Given that the majority of these experiments combined both social and economic goals these policy findings were later viewed with skepticism leading to further probes about recurring failures, and the lack of progress to improve the status of poor women. After decades of scientific research on gender inequality and a slow pace of change with regard to poor women’s economic status in developing countries, feminists revealed a disturbing finding: the lack of sound, ethical evaluation criteria and frameworks. This influenced a dramatic shift to alternative normative (value-based) approaches in which ethical and moral debates on development policy implementation flourished. Pointing to a general lack of empirical studies addressing policy implementation, arguments by these standpoint feminists proposed that policy and project implementation in different contexts lag far behind achievements in research and policy evidence. This assumption about the lack of integration of policy evidence with appropriate feminist theory, underpins my main motivation in this thesis. My intention is to apply a new feminist lens in order to examine the gendered nature of the historical period in which transitional policies in South Africa were implemented in the aftermath of authoritarian apartheid policies. The current thesis argues for adoption of the political ethics of care (PEOC) as an appropriate normative feminist policy research approach providing excellent criteria for exploring the gendered dimensions of new social policies and programmes implemented during the first policy cycle of reform towards democratising South African society (also referred to as the transition 1994-2001). At the time of its conception, my investigation proceeded with the realisation that iv many projects and programmes were evolving; and that contextual impact assessment criteria in the field of gender and development policy remained an emerging new research terrain lacking appropriate and critical gendered social indicators for monitoring, evaluation and theory building. Most of the newly formulated policies included results of previous research recording the historical role and socio-economic effects of apartheid policies. However, an urgent need existed for new critical gender perspectives to address important post-apartheid issues of vulnerable groups – such as women, youth, physically challenged and children – and arguing for their full citizenship, including economic citizenship and integration into job creation. The evolving policy relational structures that were embarked on during this reform, such as democratic state-civil society partnerships, new democratic decision-making, dialogical processes and policy service programmes, were in dire need of exploration and re-examination using alternative and new feminist theoretical lenses. This study explored the field of social policy implementation in the context of this transition period. It investigated the phenomenon of income generation projects (IGPs), being a development that was new to the South African professional social work disciplinary field. Used as a key macroeconomic policy mechanism, IGPs were embedded in policy relational structures (in the form of partnerships or consortiums) during the transition period. They formed a key part of policy interventions in social development as prescribed by the White Paper on Social Welfare (Department of Welfare, 1997b) having a dual purpose: to reduce poverty and unemployment, and to promote gender-sensitive strategies. The qualitative nature of the design used for this study is combined with a post-modernist and post-structuralist, gendered case study approach drawing on programme evaluation research techniques. Direct observation, documentary analysis, depth interviews and focus groups sessions formed part of a comprehensive data-gathering research strategy used in different micro-project and community settings in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Three broad research questions were pursued throughout this enquiry, addressing the following: the extent to which income generation projects as proposed within the National Developmental Policy Framework were addressing poverty and gender inequality in a satisfactory way; what appropriate normative frameworks and concepts to study these existed; and whether the PEOC could serve as an alternative framework; and how a user perspective could be incorporated in public debates and policy-making. v A sample of four partnership project cases, targeting poor black women (and men) from three different community settings – being semi-rural, peri-urban and urban – as primary beneficiaries met the selection criteria for this longitudinal, in-depth study that drew on purposive and theoretical sampling approaches. All the projects or programmes included in the sample were engaged in job creation and social development work involving multiple stakeholders and partners. A significant part of the study focussed on the formation of partner relationships or consortiums between government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), together with grassroots community-based self-help project participants (beneficiary) groups and individuals. Information and data collected were audio-taped, transcribed and analysed to assess the impact and social effects of newly implemented policy structures and processes on subjects. Alternative feminist theoretical and analytical approaches, being a care perspective that combined critical gender assessment methodologies and feminist ethics (political ethic of care) were applied to argue for more critical and appropriate, gendered research studies that could capture the important link between macroeconomic policies and evidence of unpaid care work embedded and performed within the development sector. By foregrounding the invisible unpaid care work performed by low intensity citizens in this sector, the state’s role and interaction as a development partner with NGOs and poor citizens in the implementation of social development policies that involved job creation and IGPs became apparent. This thesis concludes by reiterating feminist proposals for a more inclusive notion of citizenship and calling for on-going studies to monitor perspectives on gender equality and work creation. More importantly, it suggests that PEOC could serve as an important research and analytical framework to document and integrate the right and access, by both men and women, to care, a critically important gender equality principle so often neglected in existing studies and scholarship.