Those seeking gender equality must take care when challenging harmful cultural practices not to damage practices that are neutral or constructive for women. This article suggests ways to do this. Local cultural contexts must always be understood, and ways sought to empower women long term, particularly by changing patriarchal attitudes. Local women’s groups can achieve more – if supported – than unequal North-South partnerships. Development agencies need to recognise that in the South, culture serves communities and is shaped by political, social, and economic forces that also determine gender roles. Northern agencies must be objective to help women achieve equality with men.
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