"We can even feel that we are poor, but we have a strong and rich spirit": Learning from the lives and organization of the women of Tira Chapeu, Cape Verde
Abstract (Summary)This study explores, through participant observation and interviewing, the meaning of the experience of Cape Verdean women who participate in a base group of the national women's organization of Cape Verde, Organizacao das Mulheres de Cabo Verde (OMCV). The study addresses the significance of this type of organizational activity for Third World women, seeking to illuminate the perspective of women who participate in it. It also has three underlying purposes: (1) to fulfill a goal of feminist research to see the world from women's viewpoint; (2) to aid outside 'helpers' of such organizations to understand them more fully; (3) to contribute to theory-building about women organizing by examining multiple theoretical perspectives in light of a Cape Verdean group's reality. Based on 20 months of field research carried out during 1989-1991 with the OMCV base group in a low-income peri-urban neighborhood of the capital city, the study asks: What are the relationships between important themes in the women's lives and the activities and issues of their group? To answer this question, I studied the women's words about their lives and their group, revealed in individual interviews, group discussions, and informal conversation, and blended these with my participant observation experiences with the women, their group, and their community, situated within the national context. The study chronicles and reflects on this process of doing research across cultures using an interactive, interpretive approach within an openly feminist research program. From the study of the women's life stories, four major themes emerged: (1) the economic imperative and women's responsibility for survival, (2) the dynamics of help ties, (3) self-respect, pride, and status, and (4) issues of change and resistance. In the analysis of how these themes relate to women's organization activity, the help relationship symbolized by the madrinha, or godmother, appears key in defining group purposes, functioning, and relations. I suggest that the women's organization expresses tensions evident in Cape Verdean society at large involving gender, economics, and social relations and status, while it also serves as a subtle challenge to the status quo in the consciousnesses of women.
School Location:USA - Massachusetts
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:01/01/1992