Date of Award

Winter 2002

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources and Environmental Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Mimi Larsen Becker


This is a case study of a Gender and Development implementation evaluation in several rural, Baha'i communities in Andean Bolivian. "Traditional Media as Change Agent," funded by UNIFEM (UN International Fund for Women) and implemented by BIC (Baha'i International Community), was an innovative, non-economic approach to change gender attitudes and behaviors by including men in a consultative process using traditional media. This study responded to criticism that GAD ignored the environment, was lodged squarely in Western economic development thought and Western feminist values, and lacked the voices of the women and men for whom development aims to benefit.

This study focused on the narratives of Quechua women and men who recollected their experiences and the study investigated the institutional arrangements leading to the project implementation. The study's aims were three-fold. First, the study aimed to learn about the project's successes and failures from the participants' perspectives. Secondly, the study provided a space where the women and men participants could engage in knowledge production about Gender and Development. Thirdly, the study aimed to animate a social change Participatory Action Research (PAR) process. The study used mixed research methods that included feminist approaches to Participatory Action Research; postcolonial, ethnographic-oriented methods to the Latin American genre of testimonio ; and systems thinking about spirituality, ecological and cultural sustainability.

The study found some changes from the original project persisted, some behaviors reverted back to previous cultural norms, and some ill-feelings from the project implementation lingered. The study discovered unpredicted results in the lives of an unintended target audience where young girls become the first generation to attain levels of education beyond the 3rd grade. This finding revealed a double-bind for the GAD approach: a GAD success can constitute a failure for the sustainability of the rural, indigenous community. The most viable approach to shifting gender relations with rural, indigenous populations may be the inclusion of children and youth, a Family and Development (FAD) approach. Lessons can be learned from one Baha'i community that resisted this development trend by following a spiritual vision of social and economic development.