“Using the master’s tools” is a familiar feminist strategy. It means using the tools, institutions and language of mainstream, gender blind politicians and policy makers to convince them that investing in women and girls is the smart thing to do.
Over the years, feminist economists have been driving the analysis that has fed activists, policymakers and development workers with the knowledge we need to achieve women’s empowerment. Most importantly for our work at WUSC is that this analysis helps us to devise programming strategies that respond to these needs.
Concepts like the gender division of labour, gender disaggregated data, gender development index, gender gap monitoring have advanced our understanding of inequalities in helpful ways.
Feminist economics also challenge the master’s tools – suggesting new ways of thinking that capture more and allow more analysis than a narrow economics-only approach.
Marilyn Waring (former MP in New Zealand, current Professor of Public Policy) is a leading thinker in this area. She challenged us to think about what counts and doesn’t count in the commonly used economic measures. Take GDP for example, it doesn’t capture the productive work of smallholder female farmers, female traders in the informal economy, not to mention the socio-economic contribution of running a household! Marilyn suggests we need new and different ways of capturing productive, reproductive and other work.
Tools like “time surveys” and the concept of “time poverty” have been developed to track the differential role in reproductive, community and household work that women play. This information has helped advance a big platform for women’s equality related to the double, often triple role that women play.
In her plenary remarks, Rebecca Grynspan, former VP of Costa Rica and current UN Under-Secretary General applauded feminist economists for their critical contributions to development economic theory and policies. Just the encouragement we need to keep crunching the numbers, analyzing the data and crafting strong recommendations for change!