Coming from India, when asked to evaluate livelihood activities I used to wonder why development agencies introduced beauty parlours. After all, do not they not promote stereotypes that women should be 'beautiful' in the eyes of men. I used to ask agencies why do not you promote non traditional activities for women like driving, two wheeler mechanic, masonry etc.
The women who run these parlours explained to me
"Madam I get good income, more than by working in a super market. My household's basic needs are met, I am independent. My husband shouts less at me. I agree women should not become commodities, but we can look good for ourselves too, no?
When I went to another place, there was opposition to poor women being trained as beautician in some districts. The opposition came from male traditional leaders, say beautification was against their religion. That is the activity became transformative, challenging authority of men in power over marginalised women.
Thus evaluations need to keep context in mind during evaluations. Global checklists do not work. Evaluations also need to see the benefit to women, beyond the activity. Perspectives and lens of women matter!.
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