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An interview with two experts:

By Kristin Helmore / December 23, 1985



What were the major obstacles to women's progress in recent years? Tinker: It's important to understand the difference between modernization and development. Uncontrolled modernization in many countries has spelled increased hardship for large portions of the population. Modernization has produced the feminization of poverty. Development is what one is trying to do instead of misplaced modernization. Walker: Women are a crucial cog and have to be seen as such. But they're seen as peripheral and will be while governments are predominantly male. This is not a criticism of men, it's a criticism of a system. There are many men who are aware of the dangers of this system. Is there any particular area of concern today where you feel the factoring-in of women's roles would make an important difference? Tinker: The famine in Africa is certainly an example. Everybody understands that 80 percent of Africa's food is grown by women, but none of the development programs take this fact and deal with it. They are all still acting as if small farmers were men.

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The most immediate need is for women agricultural development workers. This would force agricultural establishments in each country to deal with the issue of who the farmers really are: women. Then the important question will be, how do we get this information mainstreamed into national and international development programs? What do you see as the major signs of progress for women in the developing world? Walker: There has been an awakening to the idea that the whole question of women in development isn't just a women's concern. It's the major concern for development. Without women's expertise and involvement, a country suffers. We're not talking a women's issue, we're talking a nation's issue, a world issue. At last, awareness of this is taking hold. Tinker: There's no question that women are beginning to have the floor, that they're slowly moving up in status. There are some material improvements, and tremendous psychological improvements. There has been a real change in the way women view themselves and in the way they are viewed by men. You can see it.

We needed statistical ammunition, and now we have it -- though we still need more. But women will find friends in the mainstream. We have to convince the hard-headed economists, the bankers, and the planners. What do you feel are the most serious impending threats to progress in developing countries? Walker: I think militarization and the threat of nuclear war are the greatest dangers. Women in developing countries are increasingly aware of how these issues play a part in their lives. All this is part of the whole patriarchal system taken to extremes. It can be translated into military repression or the power of people in decisionmaking positions, which before you know it becomes nuclear priorities.

These things effect women enormously, as they effect everyone. But women are not involved in the decisions on these issues. They have a lack of funds, a lack of power. Of course the patriarchal system plays a part in how far women can go in the power struggle.

I see enormous possibilities of crisis, and whether it's a military, a nuclear, or an economonic crisis, they're all part of the same thing. I feel a definite sense of urgency to see more women in decision-making posts that effect the livelihood -- and the future -- of the whole world. Where do you see the women of the developing world in the year 2025? Tinker: I would like to think that the understanding and insights of third world women into their own positions and roles -- particularly their importance in the family and in society -- would wash over into the feminist movements in the US and Europe, which have become too individualistic. I hope Western feminism will evolve.

Arguing that men are ``not so awful after all'' is the beginning of this change. But by using men as a measure for themselves, women set themselves up to be second-class. We have to make our own measure. I don't believe in saying women are better, but it's very clear we're different. As long as we want what men have, we're going to be second-class. Walker: I have to be positive. I have to be optimistic. I have to believe that many of the things that are holding back development, leaving women out, will no longer be there, and that many of the major crises of our time will be dealt with by both men and women -- that together they will work from a more balanced perspective.