Does the ‘development discourse’ ignore women? No. Not today. It certainly does not ‘ignore’ women.

In fact, the development narrative casts its gaze evenly across a range of women, homogenises experiences and contexts, refuses to delve deeper into women’s life experiences, and is content to have counted women as participants, beneficiaries, victims, and case studies. Content to have counted her in, but not necessarily explored the complex socio-political, cultural and economic dynamics that she lives through everyday.

Three and a half decades ago, there was an overall lack of consciousness, sensitivity, and understanding of how our well-oiled structures of patriarchy functioned within families, homes, villages, cities, and society at large. Women were indeed ignored. But this very ignorance generated a counter-intuitive process of delving deep into individual experiences, and unpacking patriarchy through them. It gave birth to new perspectives, a feminist consciousness, reflections on the productive and reproductive roles of women, their practical and strategic needs, the impact of patriarchy on women’s individual and collective lives and their abilities to cope, counter, and resolve.

We believed then, as a sector, as citizens, activists, educators, and researchers that the subjective experience of each gives expression to the experiences of many. So we delved deep into the lives of individual women, because when you are immersed in one, you are immersed in all, and can understand the collective experience of people.

Read the full article about development in India by Sushma Iyengar at India Development Review.