This article discusses the Muslim Women and Development Action Research Project (MWDAR), an attempt by the Dutch government to introduce new discourses on Islam and the empowerment of women into their development policy. Based on a discussion of the project in Yemen, an analysis of its evaluation reports, and follow-up research with project participants, we argue that the project did not meet expectations or project goals because it failed to go beyond an essentialist view of Muslim women. The article begins with a discussion of Dutch and Yemeni discourses on gender, Islam and development, and goes on to explore how these discourses ultimately influenced the project outcomes.
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