Research Portfolio Post #8: Qualitative Data Sources for Interpretativist Research

I am proposing to research women’s decisions and women’s rights in context because I want to find out why the narrative of the “Third World Woman” that emerged in the 1990s,  remains dominant in intergovernmental organizations and non-government organizations to help my reader understand the framing of  women’s local experiences , agency and decision making from international organizations perspective and development practices.

This idea of the “Third World Woman” is based on the pivotal works of Chandra Mohanty in The Third World Woman: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourse [1] as the framework of generating and anlyzing discourses from NGOs and IGO as actors and agents in women’s realities. In the sources and texts, I am looking for representations of victim-hood by NGOs, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and feminist activists in portraying and framing women’s local experiences and agency within the narrative and understandings of a “Third World Women”. These may be evident in sources produced from UN experts such as UN committee Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts,  working groups, leading feminists’, activists, scholars and NGO volunteers. Interpreting how these experts from academic, local and official levels reinforce or exert women’s participation or perceived lack thereof  in  their decisions within both social and individual constraints.

International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW), an non-government organization created under provisions of the CEDAW, published a book on Assessing the Status of Women : a Guide to Reporting Under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women[2]. These set of guidelines are methods for analyzing and evaluating women’s status and creates certain criteria for a women’s status to be achieved and frames these as questions for states and women. The language of the women fitting into these criteria become a central part in studying the way IGOs  framed and perceive women’s changes rather than how women’s attitudes and responses to their own agency and status. This continual eclipsing of women’s gendered local experiences become the  basis of whether women view their progress and change within development discourse as impacting and therefore relevant to them.

A 2017 statement from CEDAW Committee newly elected Chairperson Dalia Leinarte, frames violent acts against women and challenges to women’s rights are perceived within the social rather than the individual. [3]  In this statement, the framing of women as agents and actors is underlined as a “social rather than individual phenomena”[4] as women become points of analysis representative of the whole but are not evaluated by whether these women see themselves as socialized within these so called phenomena or instances as outlined/ stated by the UN. Understanding these assumptions that NGOs and IGOs take and how these shape or influence women’s perceived and or actual lived experiences.

Complacency, victim-hood and challenges to change within the context of change and development discourse from both officials and experts also become representative in feminist discourse. In an article from the Women’s Major Group, “Women must Want Change: The City Advertiser, 2* Edition].”as a part of their “Media Advisory” from the New Straits Times in Malaysia outlines underlying feminist perspectives that perpetuate the narrative of Third World Women as requiring change for progress and assumption that change has been pushed onto these women in instances where they view themselves as changed. [5]  Through development certain attitudes and demands through Western feminist lenses and a sense of “othering” towards victims and women as analysis rather than agents.

The discourse framing women particularly within their social rather than individual realities maybe eclipsing more localized experiences  in practice by women and for women but is an interesting starting point for my research that will require more in depth analysis and data collection to depict more clear representations and relevant discourses.

[1] Chandra Talpade Mohanty. “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses.” Feminist Review, no. 30 (1988): 61. doi:10.2307/1395054.

[2] Jane Frances Connors, and Andrew Byrnes. “Assessing the Status of Women : a Guide to Reporting Under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” 2nd ed. London: Women and Youth Affairs Division, Commonwealth Secretariat, 1996.

[3] Dalia Leinarte, “Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women” s. 72. A/ 2017. (United Nations: New York)

[4] Ibid.

[5] Caroline Yap. “Women must Want Change: The City Advertiser, 2* Edition].” New Straits Times, Aug 13, 2001, (accessed November 10, 2019).


Connor, Jane Frances and Byrnes, Andrew. “Assessing the Status of Women : a Guide to Reporting Under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” 1996. 2nd ed. London: Women and Youth Affairs Division, Commonwealth Secretariat.

Leinarte, Dalia “Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women” s. 72. A/CONF/ 2017. (United Nations: New York)

Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses.” Feminist Review, no. 30 (1988): 61-88. doi:10.2307/1395054.

United Nations, Department of Public Information, “International Day of the Girl Child,11 October 2019: Agents for change: Girls take up the fight for a better world.” 11 October 2019. (Accessed 10 November 2019).

Yap, Caroline. “Women must Want Change: The City Advertiser, 2* Edition].” New Straits Times. Aug 13, 2001. (Accessed November 10, 2019).


Research Portfolio Post #5: Puzzle Proposal

    1. I am proposing to research female infanticide
    2.  because I want to find out what explains the resilience/persistence of son preference
    3. in order to help my reader, understand how women’s decisions to commit infanticide within changing fertility and economic landscapes can be continually reinforced

In reading Amartya Sen’s 100 Million Missing Women,[1] I was most interested in factors influencing women’s decisions as well as women’s choices within societal constraints but upon reading a critique of Sen’s framework, I began to see a gap in understanding on the role and influence of certain factors in women’s decisions to commit infanticide. In the critique, Amartya Sen’s 100 Million Women, Croll states that “the status of women and discrimination against girls has shown that improvements in women’s education and economic status may be associated with fertility decline but do not necessarily lead to reduced son preference”[2].

If we investigate son preference as a constant within the literature of infanticide, then what explains women’s continued decisions to commit infanticide or sex-selective abortions. How is son preference understood by the literature and by mothers and society itself? And how is son preference so persistent and seemingly resistant to certain demographic trends than others?

Demographic transitions and changing the landscape of fertility has placed increasing emphasis on women’s decisions within these changing contexts as policy-relevant to broader issues of sex ratio will be required to better understand the existence and continuation of son preference.

In a 2017 survey study by Economic Survey, on son preference, women’s agency was evaluated using 17 variables on women-specific issues such as how involved they were in decisions concerning their own health, contraception, education and most notably “prefer more or equal number of daughters over sons”[3].

The growth and increased availability and access to sex determination technologies have greater facilitated decreased fertility but have facilitated means of implementing son preference however technology should be considered as a tool in which son preferences are enacted rather than a solution and my puzzle would like at the consequences of such tools on facilitating preference an and how preference interact with innovation.

Son preference is outlined as a cultural custom of “cultural embeddedness” or cultural “determinants” (discussed in RPP4) but exists in the literature as a socially reinforced behavior. Professor Zhu of Xi’An Jiaotong University stated in the “Care of Girls” campaign that “Bias against girls is not something new; it has existed for a long time in [China’s] history” [4]. Zhu’s claim echoes many of the scholar’s assumptions of son prevalence as inherent and seemingly unchanging. Bongaarts claims son preference as “ a long-standing cultural preference” [5] and elaborates on the implementation of such cultural customs through infanticide and sex-selective abortion but this and literature that assume that preference itself continues to exist and will continue to exist on the basis of cultural but rather does not ask why preference is seen as the constant and if that is necessarily true in terms of policy solutions.

Within foundational research, the preference of sons is based on two questions: (1) does son preference exist and (2) why does son preference exist? These questions also frame an assumption in the literature on fertility data and sex ratio being indicative of son preference as seen in Gupta et al claim that decreased fertility ‘intensified’ sex bias [6]. Furthermore,

The economic and social analyses fail to explain women’s decisions to continue to act within the discovery of their own or society’s preference. They recognize the existence and claim to explain preference but do not assess women’s relative understanding of preference and subsequent response (infanticide, abortion etc) in spite of this knowledge. If policy intends to asses these preferences a greater emphasis on gender equality and social campaigns may help to counterbalance or at least recognize additional factors contributing to preference. Furthermore, fertility understood through policy framework does not intend to explain the continuation and prevalence of certain cultural embed or engrained practices that can greatly contradict well-intentioned rationale and rather create an opportunity to improve the framework and reassert the narrative of women and mothers


If we can greater understand the landscape that women are navigating in terms of their decisions to commit infanticide, we can greater understand women’s roles. Demographic trend and fertility transitions as they relate to women’s decision to commit infanticide are significant as it intends to question assumptions of women’s situations and thus disabled assumptions of women acting in constraint but rather acting upon greater resource and availability of fertility tools but rather what are the cultural mentalities surrounding these increasingly independent solutions.


  • What explains the persistence of son preference?
  • What explains regional son preference differences between India’s North and South



[1] Amartya Sen, “More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing,” December 20, 1990,

[2] Elisabeth J. Croll, “Amartya Sen’s 100 Million Missing Women,” Oxford Development Studies 29, no. 3 (October 2001): 225–44,

[3] Subramania Bharati, “Pudumai Pen”, Maithlisharan Gupt, “Gender and Son Meta-Preference: Is Development Itself an Antidote?”, Economic Survey 2017-18, no.1 (2017): 102-118,

[4] “Care for Girls Gaining Momentum” China Daily, July 8 2004,

[5] John Bongaarts, “The Implementation of Preferences for Male Offspring,” Population and Development Review 39, no. 2 (2013): 185–208.

[6] Monica Das Gupta and P. N. Mari Bhat, “Fertility Decline and Increased Manifestation of Sex Bias in India,” Population Studies 51, no. 3 (1997): 307–15.