Tag Archives gender

COVID-19 | There’s no stopping feminist struggles in Latin America during the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 | There’s no stopping feminist struggles in Latin America during the COVID-19 pandemic

As the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign draws to a close today, Agustina Solera and Brenda Rodríguez Cortés reflect on the challenges women in Latin America have ...

Using youth-led peer research to break the silence on adolescent sexuality in Bulgaria by Rutger van Oudenhoven, Kristen Cheney, and Kristina Nenova

Using youth-led peer research to break the silence on adolescent sexuality in Bulgaria by Rutger van Oudenhoven, Kristen Cheney, and Kristina Nenova

In Bulgarian schools, the topic of sex education is contentious and often even avoided, leading to a lack of proper knowledge and understanding of sexuality among young people. An innovative ...

Moving beyond women as victims in post-conflict peacebuilding efforts in Liberia by Christo Gorpudolo

Liberia, a war-torn country for much of the 1990s, initiated several post-conflict peacebuilding programmes with the hope of building sustainable peace. But a study of the Palava Hut Program as a transitional justice mechanism showed that such efforts can be thwarted by the reduction of women to victims of war. The opportunity to rebuild gender relations damaged during wars can be missed in the process. Besides rethinking the link between women and victimhood, women’s inclusion in peacebuilding programmes based on lived experiences can help to equalize men and women in the peacebuilding process, argues Christo Gorpudolo.


Gender is one of the most damaged relationships during war. War and masculinity re-establishes gender hierarchies, and even after the end of wars such oppressive gender relationships persist. Several post-conflict peacebuilding efforts have been initiated in Liberia following two civil wars that occurred between 1989 and 2003. Most notable amongst these peacebuilding efforts have been the development of document called ‘A Strategic Roadmap for National Healing, Peacebuilding and Reconciliation and the National Palava Hut Program. These efforts are major achievements that have set the pace for peacebuilding in the country. Yet, as important as these peacebuilding efforts seem, how gender is viewed and incorporated within the country’s transitional peacebuilding programmes remains problematic for efforts to build sustainable peace.

Solhjell and Sayndee (2016) assert that Liberia has dominate-subservient gender power relations, which limits the participation of the female gender in public discourses and also affects their bodily integrity by limiting their movement from one social class to the other, especially in public decision-making processes (Solhjell and Sayndee 2016: 12). These general societal perspectives and/or biases of gender roles in Liberia have been key sources for policies informing the transitional justice process.

Gender can be viewed as a social institution that establishes patterns of expectations for individuals, orders the social processes of everyday life, and is built into the major social organizations of society such as the economy, ideology, the family and politics. It is an entity in and of itself (Lorber 1996). In the case of Liberia’s peacebuilding efforts, gender is constructed mostly in terms of women’s numerical inclusion in post-conflict peacebuilding activities. This is based on the generally accepted notion that women form a large portion of those victimized in the civil wars. Therefore, policy makers assume that they should be integrated into the Palava Hut talks numerically to share their stories of survival and receive apologies for the crimes committed against them. Although this assertion could be true, viewing women’s participation based on the lens of victimhood also poses a danger.

As part of my Master’s research at the ISS, in 2019 I conducted a case study of Liberia’s National Palava Hut Program as a transitional justice mechanism. Using Scriven’s argumentation analysis, I  examined national policies that included the Palava Hut Program documents, related program evaluations and implementation reports, and the Strategic Roadmap for National Healing, Peacebuilding and Reconciliation. I specifically looked at issues of gender, including women’s representation in such policies. I found that victims in the studied documents generally referred to women and children. Based on this perception of women and children as victims, the documents advised that women should form part of the Palava Hut Talks to protect their rights that had been violated during the civil war and to address the ‘dishonour’ brought against them by the civil wars.

As important as those statements might sound, this fails to recognize the key role women played in ending direct violence in Liberia. Thus, women should be incorporated into the Palava Hut Program as significant stakeholders in Liberia’s peacebuilding process, not as victims. Viewing women as victims and men as perpetrators within the peacebuilding process can prevent the full realization of sustainable peace through peacebuilding efforts and hinders the possibility for the transitional era to be used as an opportunity to redefine existing gender relations. According to scholars like Catherine O’Rourke (2013), the extreme social disruption caused by political violence that a transitional justice era seeks to address can within the transitional era allow for some loosening of gender norms and create space for women to take up atypical gender roles. This can help reshape gender relations.

A way of approaching peacebuilding in Liberia in order to achieve a gender-just peacebuilding process would be to incorporate both men and women in the peacebuilding process based on their lived experiences—as equals and not necessarily according to a victim-perpetrator dichotomy. Considering lived experiences may help shift the focus of the Palava Hut Program past victims and perpetrators, thereby creating a deeper understanding of the conflict. This would also provide an opportunity to change gender-damaged relationships that persist in post-conflict societies, particularly Liberia.


References:
Lorber, J. (1996) ‘Beyond the Binaries: Depolarizing the Categories of Sex, Sexuality, and Gender’, Socological Inquiry 66(2): 143-160.
O’Rourke, C. (2013) Gender Politics in Transitional Justice. Routledge.
Solhjell, R. and T.D. Sayndee (2016) ‘Gender-Based Violence and Access to Justice: Grand Bassa County, Liberia’

christo

About the authors:

Christo Z. Gorpudolo is a graduate of Development Studies, Social Justice Perspectives (SJP) from the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS).

 


Image Credit: ©Pray the Devil Back to Hell on Wikimedia Commons

EADI/ISS Series | Why gender matters to social movements by Stacey Scriver and G. Honor Fagan

EADI/ISS Series | Why gender matters to social movements by Stacey Scriver and G. Honor Fagan

There are right and left, radical and conservative social movements at work in today’s volatile and unequal world. Whether directed towards a transformative social justice agenda or not, social movements ...

Beyond the binary: negotiating cultural practices and women’s rights in South Africa by Cathi Albertyn

Beyond the binary: negotiating cultural practices and women’s rights in South Africa by Cathi Albertyn

In a recent lecture at the ISS, Professor Cathi Albertyn of the University of the Witwatersrand discussed how South African women navigate civil and customary laws to claim women’s rights ...

Exploring masculinities: being a man in the #MeToo era by ISS Counselling Team members

A recent workshop on masculinities hosted by the ISS Counselling Team focused on ‘being a man in the #MeToo era’, drawing participants from the ISS and beyond. The workshop provided a space for reflection on lived experiences regarding masculinity, for the exploration of the ways in which masculinities have been constructed and performed, and for the examination of some of the ideals of masculinity across different cultures. This article briefly details some of the workshop’s highlights.


The #MeToo movement and its impact in academia

Previous to the workshop, some students at ISS felt the need to figure out how to navigate their masculinities in light of the #MeToo movement. The #MeToo movement is a global movement against sexual harassment and sexual violence that was initiated in 2006 as part of a grassroots campaign led by the African-American civil rights activist Tarana Burke, with the initial purpose of helping young women of color that had previously experienced sexual abuse. In 2017, the hashtag gained widespread visibility and popularity when the Hollywood actress Alyssa Milano asked her followers on Twitter to use the hashtag #MeToo to share their own stories of sexual harassment and assault, amidst the scandal of sexual abuse allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein.

Academia, as any other space in society and like any other industry, is not exempt from sexism, misogyny and sexual misconduct. This is why there’s a need for the ISS community to engage in conversations around the issue of sexual harassment and its connection with hegemonic ideals of masculinity and manhood and prevent this from happening.

Masculinity studies

Within the field of Gender Studies, there has been a steady growth in research on men and masculinities since the early 1980s. The leading proponent in theorizing masculinities is Raewyn Connell (also R.W. Connell in some publications), Professor Emerita at the University of Sydney, who has asserted the existence of plural masculinities, the social hierarchy that exists between them, and the theoretical idea of ‘hegemonic masculinity’. For Connell, masculinities are necessarily plural given the different shapes masculinity takes depending on the different sociocultural contexts where they are constructed. Nevertheless, there is also a modern western idea of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ that prevails over women and other subordinated masculinities.

Recent critical reflections on masculinities have been brought even more into the fore since the advent of the #MeToo movement. The acknowledgement of concepts like ‘toxic masculinity’ have become popular to highlight the negative and harmful effects of certain norms of masculine behavior but also the unattainable expectations that men and boys face. It’s a term often associated with forms of masculinity that end up encouraging misogynistic, homophobic and violent behaviours, while at the same time pushing boys into intense emotional repression.

Coming into the workshop, participants had varying degrees of engagement with these concepts, some encountering the critical idea of “masculinitIES” (in plural) for the first time, while others preparing to dedicate their MA or PhD research around such issues. During the workshop, participants engaged in conversations on social expectations and stereotypes of men from around the world, and how attainable they really are in practice. Participants in the workshop also agreed that although men do benefit from unequal gender relations, these benefits are not without a cost. Similarly, there are unequal power relations amongst men given that masculinities are constructed in relation to existing social hierarchies such as class, race, age, disability, sexuality, nationality, among others. Finally, one of the conclusions of this workshop was that there are many ways to be a man and express one’s masculinity.

Way Forward… What’s Next?

As a follow up to the workshop we realize the need to bring these dialogues into our daily conversations and interactions. We must find ways to address everyday experiences of misogyny and violence from an intersectional perspective, both in and outside academia. Men require spaces to reflect on their privileges and the costs of unequal gender relations with its variations across class, race, sexuality, ability and other intersections of power. The struggle towards equality continues, and we believe that discussions around masculinity are also an important part of that struggle.


Also see: Hyper-masculinity: a threat to inclusive community development in fragile environments by Holly A Ritchie


Picture credit: Wolfmann


Brenda RodriguezAbout the authors: 

Brenda Rodríguez Cortés (left) is a PhD candidate at ISS working on gender and sexuality. Ana Fabregas, Angélica Arámbulo and Ahmad Faraz are MA students at ISS. They are all Peer Counsellors and part of the ISS Counselling Team.

The university of paleness by Willem Schinkel

The university of paleness by Willem Schinkel

In a recent attempt to address the underrepresentation of female professors in the Netherlands, the Dutch government made extra funds available to universities to appoint women. To the dismay of ...

Striking at the glass ceiling: a tale of seven judges (and a lawyer) by Ubongabasi Obot

Striking at the glass ceiling: a tale of seven judges (and a lawyer) by Ubongabasi Obot

Memories came racing back for Ubongabasi Obot during a recent book launch at the ISS. The book’s theme? Breaking through the glass ceiling as an African woman. Obot’s own journey ...

Women’s Week | Feminist political ecology in research and action by Wendy Harcourt

On 8 March 2018, Professor Wendy Harcourt will be inaugurated at the International Institute of Social Studies, becoming one of the few female professors at the Erasmus University. This blog is a reflection of her personal journey to professorship and on the ‘Well-being, Ecology, Gender and Community’ (WEGO-ITN) project that she heads, which will be launched on the same day at the ISS.


 

The road to a personal feminist political ecology research agenda

I was awarded my PhD in 1987 from the Australian National University but I had long decided that I was not going to be an academic. I wanted to be part of the real world of social movements and on the ground politics as a feminist and environmentalist. Most of my PhD days were spent juggling my time between the need to get on with the PhD and the many commitments to different political causes—ranging from making sure the campus was safe for women at night to protests to stop uranium mining and the logging of wild rivers. Once I had completed the PhD, instead of taking up a lectureship in Australia, I went to Rome, Italy (I confess for romantic reasons) and after a year of looking for jobs became a programme coordinator and editor at the international secretariat of the Society for International Development.

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Professor Wendy Harcourt walking through a forest in Nepal during a research trip in 2012.

In the 23 years I worked in Rome, I continued my juggling act as an advocate at the UN level and as a social movement activist. My passion for feminism and environmentalism remained. As well as my on the ground community work, I became part of transnational feminism establishing a wide network of people and most importantly writing—and editing a journal called Development. The networking, publications and advocacy all stood me in good stead when I decided that, after all, I was an academic at heart. And after a visiting fellowship at Clare Hall at Cambridge University where I wrote an academically recognised book Body Politics in DevelopmentI was lucky enough to get a position at the ISS.

A move towards feminist political ecology

At the ISS I have continued to focus on feminism and environment, joining forces with other feminist political ecologists, many of whom I had met as an advocate in my NGO days. Feminist political ecology is a subfield of political ecology (Harcourt and Nelson 2015). It is the study of the conflicts and convergences between development, conservation, cultural survival, body politics, gender equality, and political autonomy. At the core of feminist political ecology is learning about how people in different places are living in, and engaging with their natural and cultural environment (Rocheleau 2008).

By exploring what is happening in specific places where people are negotiating life and livelihoods in human damaged environments, feminist political ecology calls attention to emotions, feelings, the spiritual, non-scientific knowledges and interactions with non-humans, with technologies, life and death (Elmhirst 2011). The research is mostly based on case studies and is embedded in an understanding of broader political, economic and social issues (Nightingale 2011). It aims to explore the nexus of gender, diversity and the environment. Importantly, feminist political ecology invites us to step out of the bounds of modern science and economic thinking to look at political ecology as a relational and fluid social process.

So, to take an example, from a feminist political ecology perspective the Sustainable Development Goals can be studied on a variety of scales (Hawkins and Ojeda 2011, Resurrección 2017). Going beyond the obvious need to study agricultural practices, waste, water and forest management, we can examine forms of networked and rooted interactions in institutional development practices. We can record at the grounded level the lived experiences of the villagers who receive funds for a green road project. And at an embodied level we can register the emotions and concerns of women who are obliged to take contraception when they receive funds for a startup micro enterprise by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Harcourt et al. 2016).

The Well-being, Ecology, Gender and Community (WEGO-ITN) project

The EU Horizon 2020 Marie Curie Innovation Training Network Grant for the project ‘Well-being, Ecology, Gender and Community Innovative Training Network’ (WEGO-ITN) (www.iss.nl/wego-itn) will provide an important space for European-based feminist political ecology to come to the fore with well-positioned and engaging research that asks these sorts of questions.

WEGO-INT in a nutshell
  • Grant value: €4 million (€4.000.000)
  • 10 partner universities in 5 countries across Europe
    • Freie Universität Berlin (FUB);
    • Humboldt University Berlin (HUB);
    • Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Sussex University;
    • Pangea Foundation (PF);
    • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU);
    • International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam;
    • University of Brighton (UofB);
    • University of Passau (UPAS);
    • IHE Institute for Water Education, Delft (IHE); and
    • Wageningen University & Research (WUR)
  • 8 training laboratories at
    • University of Auckland (UoA);
    • University of Vermont (UVM);
    • University of Western Sydney (UWS);
    • Defensoria del Vecino de Montevideo (DVM);
    • Island Institute (II);
    • Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM);
    • Associazione Culturale ‘Punti di Vista’ (PDV); and
    • Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
  • Yielding 15 PhD positions
  • 3 interconnecting research themes
    • Climate change, economic development and extractivism;
    • Commoning, community economies and the politics of care; and
    • Nature/culture/embodiment and technologies

In its research, WEGO will build from local engagement and knowledge of peoples’ practices and visions of how to live on this planet under climatic conditions never before experienced. WEGO will co-produce knowledge with people in both the Global North and South on how hybrid and emergent ecologies are creating new forms of livelihoods or life-worlds, in response to growing lack of resilience of the economy and ecosystem.

With that knowledge WEGO will then engage in the debates now being opened up by the Sustainable Development Goals in order to bring the stories of peoples’ changing historical and current experiences of care for the environment into the policy arena. Such grounded and engaged research will not only be about collecting data and evidence, but also about understanding political processes including the contradictions, the emotions and embodied reactions of people to economic, social and environmental change.

As the first international feminist political ecology research network of its kind, WEGO aspires to tackle socio-ecological challenges linked to policy agendas. This innovative and path-breaking project I hope will help to build resilient, equitable and sustainable futures. Ultimately, WEGO aims to provide important guides to strategies of resilience and sustainability that are required for meeting the SDGs.

WEGO thematic diagram
The three interconnected research themes of the WEGO-ITN project. Source: https://www.iss.nl/en/research/research-projects/well-being-ecology-gender-and-community

My vision is that WEGO, by providing a gendered knowledge of every day experiences of environmental practices, will make a difference, not only to the academe but also to the lives of the people with whom we co-produce knowledge. At the political level, I hope that WEGO can open up questions around scientific truth and the mistaken story of systemic coherence of unsustainable economic growth.

I am confident that Feminist Political Ecology can help to guide us along new tracks as we engage in encounters of different life-worlds, form connections among communities, and link exciting academic research to effective policy crucial for today’s sustainable development agenda.

Introducing WEGO-INT through visual media
A group of ISS students were asked to create a video for the WEGO project. Victoria Simpson, an intern from Erasmus University who participated in the making of the video, explains that

 

the trick was to produce something that addressed activists, students and academics all at once. Since many written explanations seem to be designed for experts in the field of social sciences, we wanted to create audience-flexible knowledge through the help of animations, visuals and narrations. With this idea in mind, we shot a film that shows the relevance of the WEGO project in the face of the ecological and social crises we are dealing with today. Specifically, we wanted to show how difficult it is to solve these overwhelmingly large issues on a basis of a €4 million research grant. We had the idea to asked people of different groups how they would use this grant to make a positive impact. The notion behind this was to show that even when the problem of gaining financial resources is solved, it is challenging to come up with a way to use them effectively.

 

The video can be viewed at xxx

Main picture: Picture by Emma Claire Sardoni representing the life worlds of Lago Di Bolsena in Lazio, Italy.

References
Elmhirst, R. (2011) ‘Introducing new feminist political ecologies’, Geoforum 42: 129–132.
Hawkins, R. and D. Ojeda (2011) ‘Gender and Environment: Critical Tradition and New Challenges’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29(2): 237–253.
Harcourt, W. and I.L. Nelson (eds) (2015) Practicing Feminist Political Ecology: Beyond the Green Economy, London: Zed Books.
Harcourt, W., R. Icaza and V. Vargas (2016) ‘Exploring embodiment and intersectionality in transnational feminist activist research,’ in Biekart, K. , W. Harcourt and P. Knorringa (eds) Exploring Civic Innovation for Social and Economic Transformation, 148–167. London: Routledge.
Nightingale, A.J. (2011) ’Bounding difference: Intersectionality and the material production of gender, caste, class and environment in Nepal’, Geoforum 42: 153–162.
Resurrección, B. P. (2017) Gender and environment from women, environment and developmentto feminist political ecology,in MacGregor, S. (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Gender and Environment, 471–485. London: Routledge.
Rocheleau, D.E. (2008) ‘Political ecology in the key of policy: From chains of explanation to webs of relation’, Geoforum 39: 716–727.

Image result for wendy harcourt

 

Wendy Harcourt is Professor of Gender, Diversity and Sustainable Development at the ISS. She is currently Chair of the ISS Institute Council, member of the ISS Research Committee, CI Research Group Coordinator, and Coordinator of the Marie Curie ITN ‘WEGO’ project.

Women’s Week | Challenging humanitarianism beyond gender as women and women as victims by Dorothea Hilhorst, Holly Porter and Rachel Gordon

Women’s Week | Challenging humanitarianism beyond gender as women and women as victims by Dorothea Hilhorst, Holly Porter and Rachel Gordon

Problematic assumptions related to women's position and role in humanitarian crises are unpacked in a special issue of the journal Disasters on gender, sexuality and violence. The main lesson drawn ...