Women (Under) Development: The Relevance of 'The Right to Development' to Poor Women of Color in the United States

34 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2008

See all articles by Hope Lewis

Hope Lewis

Northeastern University, School of Law (deceased)


This essay, written during a time of Clinton-era welfare reform, was an attempt to reimagine South-North roles. What if right to development analysis were applied to poor women of color living in the United States? Some see the right to development as an anachronism in the face of the apparent globalization of market-based economic development. However, development in the narrow form of a thriving industrial sector, reliable infrastructure, and steady economic growth, remains beyond the reach of many nations - particularly the poorest African nations. More important, the broader goals of human development - access to basic needs and an improved quality of life - are denied to millions of people within developed nations as well.

The symposium in which this essay appeared, Beyond Rhetoric: Implementing the Right to Development, explored whether this most theoretical of theoretical human rights could take on practical meaning in context. If the right to development is to extend beyond rhetoric, then poor and disadvantaged individuals must find it a useful tool.

Women of color who are poor in the United States struggle with the effects of underdevelopment while surrounded by the resources of the most economically developed nation on earth. These women experience violations of their social and economic human rights that are strikingly similar to those affecting poor women of color in the rest of the Global South. They face limited access to affordable health care; encounter discrimination in education, employment, and access to a living wage; lack access to credit; cannot obtain affordable housing; and do not receive equal protection from public and private violence. Development implies progress toward better living conditions; instead, the lives of poor women of color, and of those they care for most, grow steadily worse.

Suggested Citation

Lewis, Hope, Women (Under) Development: The Relevance of 'The Right to Development' to Poor Women of Color in the United States. Blackwell Publishing, Law and Policy, Vol. 18, No. 3&4, July/October 1996 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1081372

Hope Lewis (Contact Author)

Northeastern University, School of Law (deceased)

United States

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