£20.99 | $39.95
1 June 2001
Gender and Sexuality
Gender and Sexuality, Sociology, Middle East
Victims and Heroines
Women, Welfare and the Egyptian State
Poverty and inequality are on the increase in developing countries forced to struggle with economic stabilization programmes. But, as this book shows, in addition to an anti-poor bias (despite rhetoric to the contrary), which almost all governments carrying out liberalization now display, women in particular suffer. Dr Bibars looks at one very large category of socially deprived women in Egypt: those who support and manage their own households. These households now comprise something like 18-30 per cent of all urban Egyptian families. Bibars investigates how these women cope with poverty and how they seek to extract benefits, welfare payments and pensions in particular, from both state agencies and religious (Coptic as well as Muslim) welfare organizations. In both cases, she finds that Egyptian women encounter a serious gender bias which is especially directed against those women forced by circumstance to head their own households.
This work is a profoundly insightful investigation into the gendered nature of the state. Iman Bibars shows how this bias distorts not only the delivery of social services but also the response of women. However much women may wish to oppose their oppressive conditions and try to manipulate an oppressive system, they are severely limited in their efforts and strategies for changing their subordination to men. This finding, reached in spite of the author's own commitment to women's equality, is an important corrective to any undue optimism about gender relations and the direction in which they are moving.
' By giving voice to those very women who are at most risk and vulnerable during Egypt's restructuralization policies, the reader gets a wonderfully nuanced understanding of how the state's welfare system works from the perspective of those who are its intended recipients... It is both original and sensitively researched and a must for all those interested in what is happening to women in societies in transition in the Middle East. Also very relevant to those teaching coures on women, the state and the feminization of poverty' - Cynthia Nelson, Director of the Institute for Gender and Women's Studies at the American University in Cairo
'This volume raises important and thought provoking questions on the interface between state policies and the social construction of gender in Egypt. By focusing on female-headed households, it highlights both mechanisms of resistance and survival and processes of discrimination and exclusion.Its implications reach far beyond the Egyptian context.' - Deniz Kandiyoti
'Dr. Bibars' book is a gripping investigation into the causes and conditions of female household headship in low-income communities in Egypt. Her case studies reveal fascinating details about the lives of women and adolescent girls who try to reconcile the contradictions between norms of male provision, traditions of female subservience, and the brutal facts of male unemployment and women's need to fend for their own families. In analysing women's efforts to resist patriarchal and class domination, Dr. Bibars bravely challenges the current post-modern orthodoxy which, in the name of cultural sensitivity, makes much more of women's everyday forms of resistance than is really there. This is what social science should be: careful, committed, and courageous. This book will be of interest not just to those concerned about the poverty of female headed-households, but anyone interested in modern social policy in a context of economic liberalisation, feminist analyses of the state, and the relationship between conservative religious groups and modern state power as it affects the survival chances of women and children outside of the conventional male-governed family.' - Anne-Marie Goetz
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Gendering the State
2. The Feminist Researcher Among the Women 3. Defining Female Headship
4. Women, Welfare and the State
5. The Politics of Exclusion
6. Beyond the Veil: Religion and Welfare
7. Women as Victims, Women as Survivors?
About the Author:
Iman Bibars acquired her PhD in Development Studies at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University. She is a co-founder and chairwoman of The Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women, an NGO providing credit and legal aid for poor women who head their households. As an Officer at UNICEF for six years, Dr Bibars managed the 'Urban Community Development' and 'Children in Difficult Circumstances' projects. An independent consultant since March 1998, she has worked with a number of international and multinational organizations such as the World Bank, UNDP Kuwait, UNDP Lebanon, UNIFEM, UNICEF Cairo, the Population Council MENA Offiice and the European Commission in Cairo.
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