Soc 460

Women in Poor Countries

Credits: 5

Course time(s): every other year (usually spring term), DDE version every spring

General Education: Not offered for this course

Catalog description: This course examines women’s lives in less developed countries, and the forces that shape them. It is an introduction to a broad, interdisciplinary and international literature focusing on issues related to women’s work, health, education, social, economic and political status, their property rights, within local, regional, national and global contexts. Economic development is often seen as both a contributor to gender-based inequities, and a vehicle for addressing them.
This course will focus on the development of the subdiscipline, the status of women in various social and geographic settings, social theory that offers insight into the women/development nexus, the actual ‘practice’ of development via policy, projects, organizational initiative and social movements, and some of the broad social, economic and political processes and their differential impacts upon women.

Prerequisites: None, but at least junior-level standing.

Course website:

Most recent syllabi: Spring 2017 (on campus); Spring 2017 (online)

Textbooks used:

  • Nalini Visvanathan, Lynn Duggan, Nan Wiegersma and Laurie Nisonoff (editors). 2011. The Women, Gender & Development Reader (2nd edition). London: Zed Books.
  • Visvanathan, N, Duggan, L, Nisonoff, L and N. Wiegersma (eds). 1997. The women, gender and development reader. London: Zed Books Ltd.
  • Maggie Black. 2010. The No-Nonsense Guide to International Development. London: New Internationalist.
  • Farr, Kathryn. 2005. Sex Trafficking. New York: Worth.
  • Ester Boserup. 1970. Woman’s role in economic development. London: Earthscan.
  • Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild. 2002. Global Woman: Nannies, maids, and sex workers in the new economy. New York: Henry Holt.

General topics covered: development history, measures and meaning of development, gender bias, agriculture, urban migration, informal economy, sex trafficking, community develoment, health, development organizations

Course objectives

  1. To better understand the lives of women in poor countries.
  2. To understand the concept of development, and the importance of gender.
  3. To become more familiar with broad social processes that will affect women’s potential to participate in development.
  4. To better understand approaches and processes to development with the best chances for success in helping women.
  5. Reading materials will mix concepts, theory, empirical research, case studies, and Web-based resources.

The general education curriculum assumes that ‘every educated person should have some acquaintance with certain traditional areas of human knowledge and experience and be able to synthesize and contextualize this knowledge within their own lives.’ This course examines two important concepts: development and gender. Students will be exposed to how people in most of the rest of the world live, why they are so poor, and what can be done to address global inequalities, especially as they affect women. As our society becomes increasingly global, an understanding of other cultures and our relationships to them will help students adjust to changes we will likely face in the coming decades. This course fulfills the gen-ed requirement of Logic, language and culture (LC), or Social Science in the old gen-ed curriculum.

Upon completion of the course, you should have a much better understanding of how women live in various parts of the world, how they have been affected by various ‘development’ initiatives, how specific individuals, groups, movements and organizations are working to effect social change, and how larger structures and processes may affect the course of development and women’s fortunes.