2016-2017 Global Development Studies Senior Thesis Projects

Jessica Wiken '17

Project Title: Women’s Health and the Post-Conflict Reconstruction of Afghanistan: A Grassroots Community-Based Approach to Women’s Health

Summary: Global historical processes have structured contemporary women’s health issues of poor health infrastructure, access, and outcomes in Afghanistan. Women’s health is inextricable to social, economic, and political circumstances. Consequently, power shifts throughout Afghanistan’s history have continued to reproduce an oppressive and conflict-prone social, economic and political environment at odds with women’s health. Contemporary rights-based efforts targeting women’s health have surged in global interest with the rise of international feminist movements, international development campaigns, and humanitarianism. While using a rights-based approach establishes a useful universal standard for understanding freedom and injustice, the liberation approach that often accompanies this framework exceptionalizes a certain way of life at odds with Afghan women’s immediate political, economic, and social realities. Consequently, rights-approaches tend to presume the plight of Muslim women, leaving little room for understanding possibilities of difference in what liberation and life means in different societies. Taken together, distrust of Western interventionism and the limits of rights-based approaches preclude their impact in improving women’s health. The model this paper uses to address the issue of how to address poor women’s health outcomes in Afghanistan paper pulls from theorist Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approach to international development. This paper’s central question researches which political, economic, and social circumstances are most effective in developing women’s health programs in the post-conflict reconstruction of Afghanistan. This paper demonstrates how grassroots community-based reconstruction and governance models which allow for a spectrum of cultural values and informal political economies provide the most effective strategy in developing sustainable and impactful women’s health programs in Afghanistan.