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Mind the Gap: Where Feminist Theory Failed to Meet Development Practice - A Missed Opportunity in Bosnia and Herzegovina


Walsh, Martha. 1998. "Mind the Gap: Where Feminist Theory Failed to Meet Development Practice - A Missed Opportunity in Bosnia and Herzegovina." European Journal of Women's Studies 5 (3): 329-43.

Author: Martha Walsh

Topics: Development, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gender Analysis, Post-Conflict Reconstruction Regions: Europe, Balkans Countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina

Year: 1998

The Relief-Development Continuum: Some Notes on Rethinking Assistance for Civilian Victims of Conflict


Sollis, Peter. 1994. "The Relief-Development Continuum: Some Notes on Rethinking Assistance for Civilian Victims of Conflict." Journal of International Affairs 47 (2): 451-71.

Author: Peter Sollis


Humanitarian assistance is being reconceptualized in terms of a continuum from relief to development. The new thinking should also reflect issues of beneficiary participation, gender and the distinction between poverty and vulnerability. For example, policies directed toward alleviating poverty may increase vulnerability by altering traditional practices. Furthermore, the special needs of women and children, who make up the majority of refugees, should be taken into account. Beneficiaries are most empowered by being included in the planning of projects, but organizations have not reached consensus over the appropriate level or timing of participation.

Topics: Development, Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Economies, Poverty, Gender, Women, Girls, Boys, Humanitarian Assistance

Year: 1994

The Payoff From Women’s Rights


Coleman, Isobel. 2004. “The Payoff From Women’s Rights.” Foreign Affairs 83 (3): 80-95.

Author: Isobel Coleman


Over the past decade, significant research has demonstrated what many have known for a long time: women are critical to economic development, active civil society, and good governance, especially in developing countries. Focusing on women is often the best way to reduce birth rates and child mortality, improve health, nutrition, and education, stem the spread of HIV/AIDS, build robust and self-sustaining community organizations, and encourage grassroots democracy. Much like human rights a generation ago, women's rights were long considered too controversial for mainstream foreign policy. For decades, international development agencies skirted gender issues in highly patriarchal societies. Now, however, they increasingly see women's empowerment as critical to their mandate. 

Keywords: economic development, women's rights, community health, gender issues, womens empowerment

Topics: Civil Society, Democracy / Democratization, Development, Economies, Education, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Governance, Health, HIV/AIDS, International Organizations, Rights, Women's Rights

Year: 2004

Human Trafficking and Development: The Role of Microfinance


Getu, Makonen. 2006. "Human Trafficking and Development: The Role of Microfinance." Transformation 23 (3): 142-56.

Author: Makonen Getu

Keywords: economics, Africa, microfinance, human trafficking, armed conflict


  • Getu argues for the use of microfinance in combating human trafficking, as “the overwhelming majority of the employment and income opportunities it offers go primarily to women who constitute 70-80% of trafficked persons” (155).
  • In setting up his argument, Getu outlines the main causes of human trafficking, including armed conflict. In this brief section, he focuses primarily on Africa where there has been a widespread recruitment of child soldiers due to the large amount of armed conflicts in Sub-Sarahan Africa.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Development, Economies, Humanitarian Assistance, Livelihoods, Militarized Livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Trafficking, Human Trafficking Regions: Africa

Year: 2006

Modern-Day Slavery? The Scope of Trafficking in Persons in Africa


Fitzgibbon, Kathleen. 2003. "Modern-Day Slavery? The Scope of Trafficking in Persons in Africa." African Security Studies 12 (1): 81-9.

Author: Kathleen Fitzgibbon


Hundreds of thousands of African men, women and children are being forced into situations of labour and sexual exploitation both on the continent and abroad every year. Internationally, trafficking in persons has been identified as a serious threat to human security and development by governments, pressure groups and the UN. But for many African governments, the problem has only recently been acknowledged. This article, the first in a two-part series on the issue, outlines the types and extent of trafficking in Africa, with a focus on West and Central Africa. Contributing factors, in particular the high profit margins and low risk of arrest and conviction, are reviewed as well as the impact on human rights, public health, community and family development and the growth of organized crime. The second article in the series will consider successful strategies and international programmes, with a focus on the lessons learned for Africa from West Africa. 

Keywords: child soldiers, conflict, internally displaced people, Africa, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, organized crime


  • Fitzgibbon makes note that civil unrest and internal armed conflict are often to blame for human trafficking in Africa, as populations grow increasingly vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, and trafficking when they are destabilized and displaced. She points to such examples as the Sudanese civil war, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and civil wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo-Brazzaville, the DRC, Uganda, Somalia, and Sudan, all of which involve the abduction of men, women, and children for combat, forced labor, and/or sexual exploitation.   

Topics: Armed Conflict, Development, Gender, Women, Men, Girls, Boys, Livelihoods, Sexual Livelihoods, Rights, Human Rights, Security, Sexual Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, Sexual Slavery, Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Sex Trafficking Regions: Africa, Central Africa, West Africa

Year: 2003

Women's Organizations During and After War: From Service Delivery to Policy Advocacy


McNulty, Susan. 1998. Women's Organizations During and After War: From Service Delivery to Policy Advocacy. Washington, DC: Center for Development Information and Evaluation, US Agency for International Aid.

Author: Susan McNulty


The recent increase in the number of conflicts and their changing nature has led more women to suffer from and participate in war. Women take up arms to combat oppressive regimes, suffer from rape used as a weapon of war, and adopt new responsibilities due to the absence of men in their homes and communities. Many women form organizations to address their needs, thereby revitalizing civil society. USAID, in an effort to promote post-war reconstruction through service delivery, a politically active civil society, and sustainable democratic reforms, frequently works with women’s organizations that seek to empower and serve those citizens who are among the most vulnerable.

Support for women’s organizations during and after war is derived from two USAID strategic goals: humanitarian assistance and democracy and governance. Support for women’s organizations also relates to USAID’s policy of promoting women in development (WID). According to a 1984 USAID WID policy paper, USAID affirms that “gender roles constitute a key variable in the socio-economic condition of any country and can be decisive in the success or failure of development plans” (Internet WID Policy Paper 1984, 1).

This paper provides background information for a USAID evaluation series assessing the role of women in post-conflict situations. Two central research questions drive this paper. First, what role do women’s organizations play in war-torn societies? Second, how does support for women’s organizations during and after war contribute to USAID’s goals? While more research is needed in order to answer both questions, academic and donor literatures provide some preliminary observations and conclusions.

The paper is organized as follows: 1) a discussion of recent trends of war; 2) a conceptual framework drawn from findings in developing countries and war-torn societies; 3) examples of organizational efforts to address women’s needs during and after conflict; and 4) a discussion of how support for women’s organizations fits into USAID’s Strategic Framework. A bibliography and an annex of terms that are frequently used in this paper follow the conclusion.


  • Four groups of war-affected women most vulnerable during post-conflict discussions: refugees, internally displaced persons, female heads of households, and ex-combatants. The role of women’s organizations in developing countries: self-help or service provision, empowerment, democratization.

  • Women’s organizations serve several functions in democratization processes: strengthening grassroots organizational capacity and the democratic culture at the microlevel during war or after the war, instigating a transition to peaceful democracy, providing a means of collective action to advocate for women’s rights during and after war, increasing women’s participation in political process.

  • However, women’s organizations face a number of challenges in conflictive societies...women have little time for political activism due to their double and triple duties; women suffer from the lack of financial and political experiences; premier democratic institutions are predominately male dominated; women’s organizations tend to seek distance from the state thereby limiting their involvement; and differences among women make it hard to set a broad agenda.

  • Women’s involvement in peace efforts tends to be located at the grassroots. Women’s peace activism does not always translate into involvement in peace negotiations or women’s formal inclusion in the transition process.


Topics: Civil Society, Combatants, Female Combatants, Development, Displacement & Migration, Economies, Governance, Post-Conflict Governance, Humanitarian Assistance, International Organizations, NGOs, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Rights, Women's Rights

Year: 1998

Promoting Cultural Diversity and the Rights of Women: The Dilemmas of 'Intersectionality' for Development Organisations


Van der Hoogte, Liesbeth, and Koos Kingma. 2004. "Promoting Cultural Diversity and the Rights of Women: The Dilemmas of 'Intersectionality' for Development Organisations." Gender and Development 12 (1): 47-55.

Authors: Liesbeth Van der Hoogte, Koos Kingma


Work with women belonging to indigenous groups in Latin America needs to take into account both their identity as women and their identity as indigenous people, and the interplay between these identities. Indigenous women do not reject their culture, but want to change certain traditions in order to promote justice. Novib and Hivos, two Dutch development organisations, organised a workshop with local experts to discuss how to support indigenous women. Two important dilemmas were identified: the tension between collective and individual rights, and the need to link and address social and economic exclusion with cultural discrimination. Holistic solutions are needed. Changing power relations is a long-term process, which also needs to deal with fighting gender-based violence. NGOs need to change their attitude towards their target groups, and think and work for the long term. This is a challenge, given the current emphasis on short-term, measurable results.

Topics: Development, Gender, Women, Indigenous, Justice, NGOs, Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Americas

Year: 2004

The Role of Women's Organizations in Post-Conflict Cambodia


Frieson, Kate G. 1998. The Role of Women's Organizations in Post-Conflict Cambodia. Washington: Center for Development Information and Evaluation, USAID.

Author: Kate G. Frieson

Keywords: post-conflict, women's organizations, intersectionality, socio-economics


"Two decades of conflict and genocide in Cambodia, in particular the rule of terror of the Khmer Rouge, have had devastating social, family, interpersonal, economic, and political effects on women. This report, one in a USAID-funded series on women in post-conflict societies, explores the role of the indigenous women's organizations (WOs) created and nurtured by the international community to improve the lot of Cambodian women. The WOs, though numbering only 18, are empowering women through vocational training and microcredit programs and by assisting victims of HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and trafficking and forced prostitution. They are also beginning to influence the political landscape through voter education and advocacy programs. According to one trainee: "Men cannot abuse women if women know their rights. Now we understand how to work together for justice." Yet WOs continue to face many obstacles. The country has no tradition of civil society organizations, government support is unstable, and WOs' dependence on external assistance limits their autonomy and capacity to fashion new programs. WO leadership is dominated by one charismatic figure reluctant to delegate authority. Most of the WOs have yet to develop an open management system in which the staff can discuss issues and problems freely. WOs require continual international support to survive and play an important role in improving women's social and economic conditions.

"The Cambodian experience inculcates the following major lessons: (1) Comprehensive, targeted interventions based on a coherent policy framework are needed to help women and reconstruct gender relations in post-conflict societies. Gender-blind policies and programs are not sufficient. (2) The war undermined the traditional sexual division of labor, creating new economic and political opportunities for women. Women entered into occupations closed to them earlier and held important national and local offices during the conflict. After the war, donors developed programs to consolidate those gains. This course can be followed in other post-conflict societies. (3) Education and training of women in refugee camps can prepare them to assume leadership roles in post-conflict societies. (4) Newly founded WOs can be used by the international community to channel humanitarian and developmental assistance in post-conflict societies. But WOs are also a means to help women gain self-respect and participate in decisionmaking. (5) WOs in post-conflict societies can develop local roots and gain political legitimacy despite dependence on international resources. (6) Donors should consider multi-year funding to allow WOs to focus on social, economic, and political development activities. (7) WOs often follow the example of international NGOs in their working conditions, spending considerable resources on four-wheel-drive vehicles, spacious offices, and large support staff. Such operations are questionable under the conditions of post-conflict societies. (8) Cambodian WOs should be encouraged to specialize instead of competing for external resources for similar programs." (This annotation is from

Topics: Civil Society, Development, Displacement & Migration, Refugee/IDP Camps, Economies, Education, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Genocide, Indigenous, Justice, Political Participation, Post-Conflict, Rights, Women's Rights, Violence Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 1998

Gender-Sensitive Programme Designe and Planning in Conflict-Affected Situations


El-Bushra, Judy., Asha El-Karib, and Angela Hadjipateras. 2002. Gender-Sensitive Programme Designe and Planning in Conflict-Affected Situations. Nairobi: Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development.

Authors: Judy El-Bushra, Asha El-Karib, Angela Hadjipateras


The project’s goal was to contribute to the reduction of poverty and suffering through enhancing gender-awareness in the design and management of development projects in contexts affected directly or indirectly by conflict. It aimed to achieve this by increasing understanding of the gender dimension of conflict, both for the humanitarian community and for development practitioners. The project ran from April 2000 to December 2001: field research was carried out in Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Mali and Angola, with complementary desk studies for Eritrea and Rwanda. It builds on ACORD's experience of operating development programmes in conflict-affected areas, and on its research and policy development in the fields of gender analysis and conflict analysis.

Keywords: conflict, humanitarian aid, recovery



“This project sought to address two particular questions, namely how do gender relations change as a result of conflict? and how might conflict itself be fueled by aspects of gender identity? It also examined the strategic and research implications of these findings for project design.” (3)

“ general, changes in gender roles at micro level have not been accompanied by corresponding changes in political or organisational influence.” (4)

“It could be argued that even where gender roles have changed, they have done so in line with existing gender ideologies. In this view, the increase in women’s economic responsibilities results from, rather than challenges, their role as family nurturers.” (5)

“Gender ideologies seem resistant to change even when their outward manifestations are re-ordered. Interventions aiming to take the opportunity of rapid change in conflict and post-conflict situations to encourage transformations in gender relations may therefore be unrealistic. Conflict may create space to make a redefinition of social relations possible, but in so doing it rearranges, adapts or reinforces patriarchal ideologies, rather than fundamentally changing them.” (5)

“...if gender analysis is to ‘dismantle patriarchy’, as one workshop participant put it, it needs to forego a narrow focus on women’s autonomy and instead adopt broader, more inclusive parameters. This would permit context-specific analysis of masculinity alongside femininity, and of the relationship of both to violence and militarisation.” (7)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Development, Economies, Poverty, Gender, Women, Humanitarian Assistance, International Organizations, NGOs, Post-Conflict Reconstruction Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa Countries: Angola, Eritrea, Mali, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda

Year: 2002

Refugee and Internally Displaced Women: A Development Perspective


Cohen, Roberta. 1995. Refugee and Internally Displaced Women: A Development Perspective. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.

Author: Roberta Cohen


This paper examines the actual experience of refugee and displaced women in light of the need for their greater integration into development-oriented programs for refugees, displaced persons and returnees. It looks at women’s access to basic services, their role in planning and delivering emergency assistance, their opportunities for economic self-reliance, and their role in reconstructing their home countries after they repatriate. It identifies the obstacles impeding their full integration into economic and social programs and recommends steps to overcome these barriers. It recommends the greater involvement of development agencies and multilateral development banks in programs for refugees and displaced persons, and in particular in efforts to make refugee and displaced women self-sustaining.

Keywords: female refugees, humanitarian aid, reconstruction, resettlement



“Providing development-based assistance to internally displaced persons caught up in conflict situations is an even more difficult challenge...much more could be done to assist the internally displaced to become self-reliant...UNIFEM has developed several low-budget projects for war-torn countries that include the provision of seeds and tools and income-earning activities for refugee and displaced women.” (5)

“The ability of refugee and displaced women to sustain themselves in [reintegration] largely depends on the extent to which they are included in reconstruction and development programs and have been trained sufficiently to participate in them; and whether sufficient international relief and development assistance is made available.” (27)

Topics: Development, Displacement & Migration, IDPs, Refugees, Economies, Gender, Women, Humanitarian Assistance, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction

Year: 1995


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