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>> 63 4 Empowerment Boom or Bust? Assessing Women’s Post–Armed Conflict Empowerment Initiatives As a member of the Revolutionary United Front, Kadie took part in the amputation of civilians, looted and burned property, and was subjected to multiple sexual abuses. Although she went through the DDR process in Sierra Leone, Kadie complained that the program “ended too quickly” and did not provide her with the skills or the resources that were initially promised. She recounted how pro-government forces were given priority whereas antigovernment forces were discriminated against within the DDR process. She admitted that she knew little about the process in general and felt that most of the information about it was not successfully made public. She called the program “a lie” and felt that its resources had been “directed to particular political groups.” She described her current situation as “frustrating” because she felt she was “economically and socially poor” and faced public stigma and ridicule as a result of her soldier status. She described women’s situation in Sierra Leone generally as desperately unequal. She reported that women are “treated with gross exclusion in decision making” and in “all aspects” of development. Kadie recommended that the program should have included education for women soldiers. “Empowerment” has become one of the most frequently used terms in development discourses today. From the creation of water wells to microfinance programs to political awareness campaigns, development initiatives have lauded themselves as sources of empowerment for their beneficiaries. As with many other buzzwords in development, actors offer vastly disparate , and often vague, definitions of empowerment. Despite the varying conceptions of the term, empowerment is consistently associated with progressive , representative, and inclusive development policies and programs. Specifically, for many development actors, empowerment programs are advertised as proof that development approaches have evolved in response to previous criticisms of the top-down, centralized nature of such initiatives . Empowerment is meant to signal the new face of development, one 64 > 65 such as Uma Kothari and Bill Cooke, who have pointed to development discourses as a source of reincarnation for development actors whose priorities are to gain power, stay in business, and institute a particular social, political, and gender order.2 Second, it addresses the tension between critical, alternative, and truly local visions of development and the hegemonic status of neoliberal development with its emphasis on economic openness, individualism, and productivity. Third—inspired by the work of feminist scholars such as Christine Sylvester, Laura Sjoberg, and Cynthia Enloe—this chapter reveals how embedded notions of conjugal order and gendered norms are within Western-led development as well as the hypermasculine nature both of conflict and of post-conflict reconstruction and peacekeeping.3 Cynthia Cockburn has argued that there are two schools of thought in peace and post-conflict studies: those who “stand above conflict and look for rational value-free solutions” and those who “take issue” with notions of neutrality in post-conflict reconstruction.4 This chapter is inspired by the latter premise. The aim of highlighting these wider concerns is not to convince the reader that all is lost; rather, the objective is to make the case that making slight adjustments to conventional development models or framing old policies with new discourses is not enough. Gender hierarchies and norms are deeply ingrained within dominant approaches to development; therefore, discursive dodges or shifts cannot replace radical critique and reform. Approach This chapter develops the argument that development policies serve as a source of regulation and discipline. Drawing from Foucault’s and Hansen’s work on discourse and discipline, this chapter is focused on the language of post-conflict development policies in Sierra Leone and the power relationships and norms that are instituted and regulated by these policies. In addition, Jacqueline Stevens’s work on the phenomenology of the natural is utilized to help understand the specific gendered power dynamics associated with post-conflict policy making and the significance of conjugal order to notions of social order and peace. As mentioned earlier, Stevens argues that normalizing or making the nuclear family seem natural renders the family as “impervious,” prepolitical, and “immutable.”5 From Stevens’s analysis, it becomes worthwhile to reconsider representations of the nuclear family unit specifically and conjugal order more broadly within development policy discourses as natural and prepolitical. Depicting the family and conjugal order 66 > 67 Empowerment and Development Over the last decade perhaps no term has been both as generously employed and as woefully ill-defined as “empowerment.” In particular, women’s...


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