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Participation and empowerment : an ethnography of Miao women in rural China

Authors Wong, Chau Ying
Issue Date 2003
Summary This thesis is an ethnographic study of Miao women’s experiences of ‘participatory’ development and ‘self-empowerment’ in organizing a women’s center in their community. Focusing on how women struggled to organize projects on their own, I argue that the participatory projects are largely mediated by the dynamic of local power struggle and individual transformation. The power complex that occurred in the process of participation created obstacles and difficulties to the women’s initiation and engagement in the project implementation. By investigating the night school and midwives projects as case studies, I examine how conflicting ideologies and practices rooted in government policies and a patriarchal society act as counter-powers that influence the women’s group’s organization and projects implementation. I will also show how the women’s project groups act as active actors who attempt to challenge the prevalent ideologies and practices in women’s education and women’s pregnancy. I argue that only by doing so can the women’s project groups increase their access to knowledge that will enable them to empower themselves and take control over their lives. Therefore, I argue that ‘participation’ is a process that leads to the production of women’s consciousness and the generation of self-empowerment. Through ‘participation’, women learn to develop practical strategies for change, though they are always subjected to new contested interests and conflicting positions. Giving three active participants’ stories and connecting their life experiences with participatory experiences, I analyze how women learn to articulate their needs, resist oppression, and nurture power in the process of self-empowerment. By examining the participatory projects that the women’s project groups in rural Guizhou took part in, this thesis provides insight into the stories of empowerment and collective women’s agency. Considering empowerment as unobtainable from the outside, but self-generated, the empowerment process of the individual woman is vital to the collective empowerment that can help to challenge the unequal social relations and bring about social transformation.
Note Thesis (M.Phil.)--Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, 2003
Language English
Format Thesis
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