Women's participation in urban development programmes

Seminar Paper 2005 38 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Topic: Development Politics


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Methodology
2.1 Method and research design
2.2 Data collection
2.3 Definitions and delimitations

3. Theory and literature Review
3.1 Participation approaches
3.1.1 Introduction
3.1.2 Participation in urban areas
3.2 Women’s participation in development programmes
3.2.1 From WID to GAD
3.2.2 Women and participation
3.2.3 Women’s participation in an urban setting
3.3 Summary

4. El Nasseriya Participatory Urban Development Project in Aswan
4.1 Outline of the project
4.2 Relevant institutions
4.3 Women participation and donors policies
4.3.1 Planning phase (1985-1987):
4.3.2 Project implementation phase I (1987-1992)
4.3.3 Project implementation phase II (1992-2000)

5. Conclusion:

List of Abbreviations


Internet Sources

1. Introduction

The rate of urbanisation throughout the world is increasing. According to the World Bank, the world’s population living in urban areas rose from 39% in 1980 to 48 % in 2002.[1]

This development proceeds predominantly in the developing world. Many cities that were once viewed as “heavens of escape” from rural poverty became a foundation for many informal settlements whose communities compete for limited jobs, housing, transport and healthcare. UN-Habitat states that one third of all 3 billion people living in cities worldwide, live in informal settlements (UNHABITAT, 2003). Today, many international organisations have established urban development programmes in order to upgrade living conditions within such areas.

Women are the ones that suffer the most from these conditions, as they still own less, earn less and control less then men. However, women make up half of the world’s population and are responsible for many day-by-day activities, like maintenance of the households or networking within the community (Larsson, 2003:4). The global Feminist movement in the 1970s[2], the UN Decade of Women (1975-1985)[3] and finally, the publication of Ester Boserup’s book “Women’s Role in Economic Development” in 1970 led eventually to an increasing awareness of women in society, economy and development (Larsson, 2001:4).

This paper aims to combine the themes of “urban development”, “gender” and “participation” by using as a base a case study of a participatory urban development programme by the GTZ. This programme, which took place between 1985 and 2000, is situated in Nasseriya, an informal settlement in Aswan in the south of Egypt. The case highlights the current problems of urbanisation in Egypt and in a wider sense, the debate on the role of women within traditional Arab societies.[4] Moreover, the GTZ has been engaging in that particular area for more than 20 years and has published several publications about the relevant themes.

By applying a participatory component within the programme, the GTZ aimed to involve the community throughout the phases. But the case shows that in the beginning of the programme, the policies focused more on the technical and physical outcomes than on the participation of the community. Later on, participatory approaches involved men and children but did not ensure the involvement of women. Afterwards, entirely unforeseen initiatives of women made the GTZ implement a gender component in order to support their initiatives and to further integrate them into the programme. The participation of women in turn led to many conflicts between men and women and within the whole community.

In sum, the research question will be:

How was women’s participation incorporated in the urban development project in Nasseriya?

First, chapter two will present the methodology, introducing the research methods and defining and delimitating the most relevant terms.

Afterwards, the theory and literature review part will introduce approaches and critiques of “participation”. Later on, the focus will be on participatory approaches within urban areas, trying to give a general overview on urbanisation processes in the developing world.

The next part will discuss the concepts of gender and its development from WID (Women In Development) to GAD (Gender and Development) and its different perceptions. These concepts will be then narrowed down by presenting women’s roles, functions and needs in urban areas.

Thirdly, the paper will present the case study of a participatory urban development programme, situated in an informal urban area in Nasseriya near Aswan in Egypt. This specific programme of the German donor agency GTZ will serve as a base for a following analysis. Finally, the paper will round off by a conclusion and prospects for the future.

2. Methodology

This chapter gives an overview on the research design and data generating methods. Relevant terms, such as “urban development”, “participation” and “gender” will be defined in order to facilitate the understanding of the paper.

2.1 Method and research design

The paper primarily employs a qualitative approach to methodology although it also draws upon quantitative methods.[5] Within the literature it is stated that qualitative methods are well suited, if the researcher wishes to apply the introduced theories on a specific case in order to “test” these and in order to explore new perspectives or angles of the theory (Zigmund, 2000:104). This is applicable for the paper, as I will apply several approaches that are discussed in the development literature on a case in order to find limitations of those approaches. Furthermore, qualitative methods are useful when one wishes to focus on a specific context that provides the researcher complex realities with real life character (Yin, 1994:14). This allows us, according to Miles/Hubermann (1994:10), to link the theory with “naturally occurring events in a natural settings.” This is reflected in my intention to present a case study of a real development assistance programme, which existed in real life between 1985 and 2000.

The most relevant advantage of qualitative research design is that is allows to explore “human realities” in the sense that one considers anthropological and sociological aspects, like attitudes, perceptions and opinions of people, and moreover, their interactions and behaviours in several events (Yin, 1994:14). This paper tries to elaborate on how and under which conditions human beings behave in certain contexts.

The paper consists of quantitative methods in the sense that parts of the analysis will be based on numerical data (e.g. how many women participated in comparison to men). One drawback of quantitative methods is that it does not take into consideration human behaviour in different contexts[6], which is a crucial requirement for this paper.

The paper generally applies a mixture of deductive and inductive approaches, even though the deductive approach overweighs[7] as the paper departs by applying the theoretical framework on a specific case. Moreover, an inductive component can be identified as the findings within the analysis will trace back to the theory and will try to elaborate to which extent the findings will be generally transferable to other contexts.

The research design is based on a single-case study, which can be defined as “an intensive study of a specific individual or specific context.”[8] One advantage of a case study is the “exploration of a bounded system” (Creswell, 1998:61), which allows to illustrate a specific action within a specific environment. The nature of the programme is regarding geography, bounded to an area in Aswan/Egypt and regarding time processes, to a period of 15 years. The analysis of my case study serves to give an example on how, in a specific context, donor policies were applied, and how they affected the participants and consequently, how the participants affected the policies. According to Yin (1994), a well chosen case needs to meet all the conditions for testing whether the introduced theory is correct or not. The development programme of Nasseriya presents a very complex and changing reality by involving several actors on different levels and touches therefore upon the introduced relevant themes (urban development, participation and gender). Hence, this case study serves very well for discussing the introduced theory.

2.2 Data collection

The sources of Information include primary and secondary data. I am fully aware that a paper that discusses participation processes demands a methodology that generates information “from within the community” in order to ensure information from the participants and not only from the “interpreted observations” by the donors or consultants. Since it was impossible to go to Egypt myself, the paper tries to compensate this drawback by accessing the following profound primary and secondary data. Yin (1994:14) confirms that case studies do not always have to “include direct, detailed observations as a source of evidence.”

The used primary data will be interviews that are according to Yin (1994:85) essential, as they deal with “human affairs”. I conducted semi-structured interviews with open-end character as the interview partner shifted themselves to very interesting insights about their experiences and knowledge. Moreover, the interviews were carried out by telephone as that allowed me to ask directly, which in comparison to email correspondence, assure that the interviewed people answer back. On the other hand, bad telephone lines to Egypt made it very hard to understand the persons.

Thanks to a telephone list on the programme’s homepage[9], I was able to find participants of the programme. As the programme has started in 1981, many involved participants dropped out of the programme or knew only little about it. In addition, I faced several problems like old numbers that did not work or people that only spoke Arabic. Nevertheless I was able to contact two vulnerable persons:

Mr. Christian Kreutz (interviewed on the 19th of April, 11 h):

Mr Christian Kreutz is an employee of the GTZ and is in charge of gender issues at the GTZ office in Cairo. He has not been involved from the beginning of the programme, but could nevertheless give some information and insights that he accessed from old documents. He also gave some general insights about GTZ policies concerning participation and gender. In fact, the interview contributed to the overall donor perspective.

Ms. Soraya Abdel Fattah (interviewed on the 18th of April, 14 h and at 19 h):

Ms. Soraya Abdel Fattah is a sociologist and gender expert. She consults several NGOs and donors on “gender” and on other development issues. GTZ set the contact between her and the women of Nasseriya that engaged in the Women’s Committee and the following Nahda Society. Her husband worked as an urban planner in Nasseriya as well, which gave her a very good overview about the processes in Nasseriya. As she worked together with the women and since she is a women living in Egypt herself, she was a very inspiring and important interview partner.

The two relevant interview partners allow the paper to have a subjective insight on that specific programme and contribute to the overall argument. I am aware that a wider range of interview partners would have been more appropriate concerning the validity of the findings.

The secondary data consists of programme descriptions from the homepage of the GTZ, the programmes' homepages[10] and several programme papers by the GTZ[11]. In Addition, the analysis will be based on a document by the United Nation that published within their Urban Management Programme in the Arab States Region (UMPASR) an analysis that discusses “gender” and other related themes in that particular programme of the GTZ in Egypt. Reviewing and using information from this paper will be a crucial part of the analysis. The research method of that paper is a participatory field study involving all the relevant stakeholders by using the methods of reviewing documents, conducting structured and semi-structured group and individual interviews and focus groups.[12]

The use of the reports, internet links and the interviews will allow me to define my research design as a “multiple data collection technique” that contribute to the completeness function of triangulation, as several insights from different sources and perspectives are used.[13]

2.3 Definitions and delimitations

Within the literature, the terms “urban development” and “urbanisation” are often used synonymously. However, “urban development” focuses more on the dynamic progress of an area, whereas “urbanisation” refers to the increase in the proportion of a nation’s population living in urban areas (Cheshire/Mills, 1999:1675). “Urban growth” is defined as the “rate of increase of urban population.” (Cheshire/Mills, 1999:1675)

In the 1980s, urban planning programmes were designed by bilateral and multilateral donors and implemented through planning, controlling and promotion of the individual resources in order to upgrade a particular area (Adams, 1994:8).[14]

The term “informal settlements” covers according to Cheshire/Mills (1999) several structures and forms of spontaneously developed urban areas, whose conditions vary from simple tenure hats to well-remained structural areas. Most of those areas are not recognised by local and central authorities and show lacks of clean water, electricity, sanitation and other basic services. Osman/Soleiman (2000) distinguish between 12 different types of informal settlements concerning size, structure, legality and location (cemetery housing, boat housing, park housing and garbage collector areas etc.). Within this paper, the nature of informal settlement will be the one of Nasseriya, which will be described in the case outline (see 4.1).

Throughout the paper, the concept of “urban development” and “urbanisation” is important, as it will create a frame of conditions that differ from rural areas. The objective is hereby to analyse these particular conditions and difficulties in urban areas by particularly focusing on the community facilities and social programmes than on infrastructure upgrading. Also, the term “urban areas”, which is often used throughout the paper, is a bit abstract as it can refer to cities in general or to informal settlements. Most of the times, “urban areas” will have in focus the area of Nasseriya and reflects therefore conditions and symptoms in informal settlements.

As there is not only one definition of participation, it will be more appropriate to present the individual approaches of participation with their context in the theoretical framework. Ruster (2003:4) present participation as a process in which “people, and especially disadvantaged people, influence resource allocation and the formulation and implementation of policies and programs, and are involved at different levels and degrees of intensity in the identification, timing, planning, design, implementation, evaluation, and post-implementation stage of development projects.” Participation can hereby be seen as an end in itself or, more commonly, as a means for achieving other objectives (Schübeler, 1996:35).

In the broadest sense, the term “gender” distinguishes “cultural and social perceptions of what is considered by society to be male and female from the biological differences linked to the term “sex”.” (Larsson, 2001:5) Furthermore, Schlyter (2001:28) explains that gender is a social concept that refers to “relationship” as it “…does not necessarily focus on women, but (…) looks at the relations between women and men”. Since the UN Conference on Women in Beijing 1995, gender is a consistent theme in development assistance. This paper will particularly focus on WID-approaches and GAD approaches (see 3.2) and on the inter-linkages with the themes “participation” and “urban development”.


[1] Cp. http://www.worldbank.org/urban/upgrading/docs/summary-upgrading-lac.pdf

[2] Women all over the world proclaimed legal and administrative changes in order to ensure the elimination of all sorts of gender discrimination

[3] The UN Decade of Women consisted of several conferences that provided space for women to communicate and to express their needs and to exchange experiences, further information: http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/37/a37r058.htm

[4] This paper does not intend to evaluate the role of the women within countries that are shaped by Arab and Muslim traditions, as Egypt is far too heterogeneous to find similar patterns. Even though Egypt is categorised as an Arab country situated in the Middle East with a majority of a Muslim population, there are also e.g. Christian and Jewish minorities living in Egypt

[5] One needs to take into the account that the distinction between qualitative and quantitative data is very vague in the sense that quantitative data is based upon qualitative judgments and that qualitative data can be described with numbers, cp. www.socialresearchmethods.net

[6] Cp. http://www.social-marketing.com/research.html

[7] Deduction is a way of arguing from general premises to reach specific conclusions, whereas induction is the way of arguing that starts from specific limited premises to reach general conclusions, cp. http://www.problemistics.org/courseware/textbook/research.html

[8] Cp. http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/qualdata.htm

[9] Cp. http://www.egypt-urban.net

[10] Cp. http://www.gtz.de/urbanet, http://www.urban-egypt.net, http://wwwlifegypt.org

[11] Documents that can be found under “publications” on www.urban-egypt.net, they are all listed in the bibliography

[12] UMPASR (2000a): The Nasseriya Participatory Upgrading and Development Project in Aswan; and a summary in: UMPASR (2000b): Mainstreaming Gender in Urban Development - Activity Description and Synthesis, the Egyptian and Palestinian Cases, further information in the bibliography

[13] Please see for definition of Triangulation: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangulation

[14] Urban planning programmes can hereby target water supply, waste management, drainage, transportation, housing, land use planning, sanitation and hygiene, employment generation, institutional setting and provision of services for the community.


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Title: Women's participation in urban development programmes