The politics in popular urban women's organizing: empowerment and women's organizing in Rio's favelas

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Arruda, Nancy Ahne
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University of Guelph

This thesis is an investigation of popular women's organizations in the ' favelas' (shantytowns) of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Fieldwork was conducted in the winter of 2000 that asked the question: can the organizational activities of popular women be considered political? It is recognized that traditional definitions of politics contain inherent biases that serve to exclude the community work performed by women who live in poverty. Feminist scholarship has successfully broadened the scope of politics by challenging the public/private divide, but has also pursued a narrow agenda that discriminates between practical and strategic gender interests. The conclusion is drawn that by examining the activities of popular women's organization a deeper understanding of the "politics of the everyday" emerges; whereby the struggles faced in the process of empowerment reveal strategies of resistance to unequal power relations. Consequently, popular women's organizing presents new values that serve to broaden the concept of the political.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Favelas, Shantytowns, Women's organizations, Politics