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This article argues that the category of ‘family’ is not universal; in fact, there are, and have always been, ‘families’. No attempt can be made to analyse what the family means for gender issues in development without pointing to the variations in its forms, in the different responsibilities of its members, and the manner in which different social systems and ideologies of family life encode particular definitions of the rights, needs and responsibilities of individuals within families (Moore, 1994).

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