1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World


From Chapter 1 – After Beijing: Uneven progress in an unequal world

Ten years on from the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, the question being posed by many women’s organizations across the world is, how much has been achieved in the past decade? For those involved in the search for gender equality this is an important question to ask, but by no means an easy one to answer.

The task of evaluating progress in gender equality poses many challenges. The standard indicators of income and well-being offer some guidance, but a proper and grounded assessment demands much more than they alone can provide. The challenge lies not only in developing an adequate analytic approach, but in understanding that the terms of engagement may themselves be questioned. What counts as progress is often a contested field in which there are competing visions of “the good society”, and of women’s place within it. The concept of progress has itself undergone revision and qualification, along with the realization that the complex process of social change does not follow a uniform path and offers few guaranteed outcomes. Social and economic development may not always enlarge the realm of human freedom, nor is the idea of “development” always, or simply, associated with one version of modernity.

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