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8146 - (Re-)interpreting Gender Equality in Andean ways. Bolivian development NGOsŽ approach to gender equality agendas

Women empowerment and gender equality is among the main aims of contemporary Western development aid strategies. The “gender equality concept” has developed in a particular historical context in the West. Nonetheless, local ownership and participation is approved internationally as a condition for success in international development interventions. It might look like just another rhetorical device, but does it open new rooms of agency for the global South?

I am interested in how intercultural partnerships in development cooperation may work in practice given that the power and resources are unequal. In this paper I will discuss how the gender equality agenda is culturally interpreted and put into practice in Bolivian development NGOs that work among indigenous people in the Andes. What do ‘empowering women’ and ‘gender equality’ mean in this context?

My cases are from two NGOs with similar aims and indigenous target groups, both with their financial support from Scandinavia through Scandinavian NGOs, both focus on educational projects and leader training and empowerment of women. Both make use of participatory methods. On the other hand, the organizations diverge highly in values, organisation, and model of cooperation; one is evangelical Christian and the other secular and indigenous. I will argue that the organizations under study have capabilities to make their own interpretations of the gender equality agenda.

While the Scandinavian policies promote a feminism of similarity, the Bolivian organizations are promoting a feminism of difference.

Keywords: gender equality agendas, development projects, NGOs, empowerment

Author: Ytrehus, Line Alice (NLA University college, Norway / Norwegen)

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