Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Towards A Modern Approach To Development

According to the World Bank, in 2011, seventeen per cent (17%) of the people in the developing world lived at or below $1.25US a day. This means that 1.4 billion people or twenty one per cent (21%) of the world’s population live in extreme poverty. Undoubtedly, the fight against poverty and gender inequality requires multiple approaches involving government and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s). Recently, there has been an increase in the number of countries investing heavily in social protection programmes to address the needs of the most susceptible in their societies. As a result of such investments in conditional cash transfers, cash grants from the government to poor household in exchange for sending their children to school and for regular health check up there has been an improvement in the standard of living for many families. For example, in The Philippines conditional cash transfer has reached 4.4 million families and has made a significant change in the quality of life they now enjoy. In Jamaica, the social safety net programme is administered generally through the Programme for Advancement through Health and Education (PATH). It is estimated that since its inception in 2002, the PATH programme has transformed the lives of more than 400,000 Jamaicans. Additionally, there is also the National Health Fund (NHF), which provides assistance to Jamaicans to purchase specific prescription drugs used in the treatment and management of selected chronic illness.  There are five broad categories of beneficiaries for the NHF benefits. These are children from birth to completion of secondary education, elderly, 60 years and over and not in receipt of a pension, persons with disabilities, pregnant and lactating women and poor adults 18-59 years. The National Health Fund also administers the Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme (JADEP) which provides a specific list of prescription drugs free of cost to elderly Jamaicans sixty years and over.  According to the 2012 Survey of Living Conditions published by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) more than 500,000 Jamaicans or one out of every five Jamaicans lives below the poverty line. The statistics clearly indicate how important such a social safety net programme is for Jamaica in terms of transforming the economic and social well being of citizens. It can be argued that a country cannot progress without making the requisite investments in their human capital. Governments must view social safety net programmes as a tool for development both for urban as well as for rural development.  Historically, development programmes institutionalize male power and privilege; however, we need to interrogate this patriarchal approach. A recent World Bank report indicates that rising incomes can counter gender inequality. When incomes go up, fertility rates fall which facilitate more women to participate in the workforce. We must therefore welcome this relative new shift in gender and development which posit the view that women’s invisibility and economic worth must be taken into account in a country’s economic output.
The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that by advancing women’s equality could add US&12 trillion to the world’s yearly gross domestic product over the next decade.  Regrettably, the tendency is for developmental policies to marginalize women’s specific conditions and needs by adhering to the belief of women’s inferiority. Countless women have suffered globally through the patriarchal structures and policies which have rendered them as second class citizens.
Gender as a social indicator must be seen as a critical pillar of development in which women are integrated more into the process. We need to move away from the top down, urban centered approach to development which unfortunately many governments still subscribed to. There is an urgent need to incorporate more gender sensitive policies in the development progress to benefit all our people.  A process of gender analysis is essential since it is only through an integration of gender into development that we can truly better understand the realities of both sexes and provide by policy makers which the tools necessary to overcome inefficient resource allocation to encourage a holistic approach to development. Jamaica stands at a critical juncture as the country moves to achieve its 20/30 vision of making Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business. However, in order to realize this we must redouble our efforts to eradicate poverty and move towards and embrace a paradigm shift in which gender and development (GAD). As we approach the new year let us emphasize more on gender and development as active contributors to development planning and action as we  encourage more women to participate equally in the decision making process at all levels of the society. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “as long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.