Participation, empowerment and inclusion have become the new development buzzwords. As the development mainstream takes on some of the practices of participatory development, feminist concerns about representation, agency and voice become ever more pressing.
Amidst rhetoric about full participation and the involvement of the community or all stakeholders, evidence from some contexts suggests that the very projects and processes that appear so inclusive and transformative may turn out to be supportive of a status quo that is highly inequitable for women. A number of potent challenges arise once a closer look is taken at participatory development and questions are asked about who participates, in what and on what basis, who benefits and who loses out. This paper seeks to address some of these questions and challenges.