ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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To Be or Not to Be

This paper discusses some of the problems women face in gendering public policy. The paper elaborates on how women's collective identity can be forceful politically when backed by knowledge and gives examples of this from Karnataka. New developments in decentralisation of governance have opened possibilities for women's agency at the local level. Paradoxically, developments at the global level have the possibility of undermining this process. The author argues that we can only therefore confront this not by integrating into the existing development paradigm and attempting small changes at the local level but by evolving a different development paradigm that will ensure justice for the majority of the poor and women.

W omen face three problems in incorporating their concerns in public policy. Firstly, how can we have woman as an exclusive category given the heterogeneity among women. Women belong to all the classes, castes, religions, political ideologies and cultures in society. Thus to project an identity of woman as defined by feminine experience to represent a collective point of view or opinion is a challenge. Yet a case can and has been made for taking woman as a specific category (as an imaginary) on the basis of the fact that across these conventional divides various forms of discrimination converge. Indeed it was this recognition, namely, the experience of discrimination against women across all social groups, that led the pioneers on womens rights, the founding mothers of the UNs conventions, to craft the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The universality of discrimination against women gives them an identity across differences. But discrimination alone cannot overcome the other problems of gendering mentioned below [Morrisson and Jutting 2005].

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