Environment, gender relations and transformation: clarifying concepts? - Caroline Moser (University of Manchester)

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Published on March 18, 2014

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Presentation on environment, gender relations and transformation by Caroline Moser (University of Manchester) for a workshop on Gender and Environmental Change held by IIED in London, UK on 17-18 March 2014. For more info: http://iied.org/gender

Caroline Moser Emeritus Professor University of Manchester Gender and Environment Change Workshop IIED March 17th -18th 2014 London Environment, gender relations and transformation: Clarifying concepts?

IIED paper: Repeated emphasis on the ‘transformation of gender relations’ What does this mean both conceptually and in practice? Example from recent work on assets: Transformative framework for nexus linking gender, assets and just cities Are there useful parallels /synergies – for understanding resilience to environmental change? Presentation: To contribute to workshop Also provide feedback for my work Issues for discussion

i. Assets: a technical or transformative concept? i. What is an asset? An asset is generally defined as: “stock of financial, human, natural or social resources that can be acquired, developed, improved and transferred across generations. It generates flows or consumptions as well as additional stock” (Ford Foundation 2004). ii. Is it an instrumental or transformative concept? Debate about the ‘technification’ of poverty provides a parallel debate with ‘depoliticisation’ of poverty reduces poverty to characteristics of individuals or households.  Harriss (2007) It fails to recognize poverty as ‘multi- dimensional’ deprivation that includes a lack of capabilities, assets, entitlements and rights.  Green (2009) ‘In reality, poverty is a social relation, not an absolute condition’.

ii. Is an asset an instrumental or transformative concept? Similar to poverty debate, Bebbington (1999) argues: ‘Assets give people the capability to be and to act’. Thus the acquisition of assets is not a passive act ‘but one that creates agency and is linked to the ‘empowerment of individuals and communities (Sen 1997). Assets exist within social processes, structures, and power relationships  All of which mediate access to them and the accumulation of their value

iii. Asset Accumulation  Influenced by:  Driving forces in the wider structural context:  urban economy, city planning processes, environmental factors; security (c.f WIEGO)  Intermediary factors relate to institutions and actors at city and local level  that can help or hinder asset accumulation.  Outcomes of asset accumulation strategies show that assets are not static  constant revalorization, transformation, and renegotiation process. Asset frameworks recognizes prioritization, sequencing, trade-offs, and negotiation

Just as relationship between assets, agency and empowerment is informed by differentiation between instrumental and intrinsic value The same applies to the complexity of relationship between asset accumulation and women’s empowerment: Whether such empowerment is transformative? Individual women may be empowered, but it is not necessarily transformative in terms of changing power relations. iv. The nexus linking gender, assets and just cities

1980s background: Gender planning as GAD empowerment framework Instrumental practical gender needs as the needs women identify in their socially accepted roles in society, Transformative potential of strategic gender needs women identify in their subordinate position to men (Moser 1993). In last 30 Years: gender debates advanced theoretically in challenging complexities of gender inequalities. The Nexus Linking Gender, Assets and Just Cities

v. Conditions when gendered asset accumulation empowers women Empowerment identified as the processes by which those who have been denied the ability to make choices acquire such ability Building on Kabeer’s gender empowerment framework, conditions depends on: Agency (either individual or collective), which represents the decision-making processes by which choices are made and put into effect Assets that give people the capability to be and act, are the medium, or means, through which agency is exercised Achievements are the concrete outcomes that may or may not empower women.

Conditions when gendered asset accumulation empowers women In summary, agency operationalizes the concept of choice in the accumulation of assets  with the subsequent achievements empowering women And with the potential to lead to transformation

Pathways to gender transformation While the strategic exercise of agency can erode inequalities it does not necessarily completely destabilize wider structural inequalities Importance of changes in individual consciousness and capacity But collective struggles for ‘representation, redistribution and recognition’ (Fraser, 2000) have proved more effective in challenging the structure of oppression than individual acts.

Just cities and assets: pathways to gendered empowerment and transformation  Cities represent transformative opportunities  but gendered asset accumulation constrained by persistent gender-based disparities, discrimination, and exclusions.  Therefore the extent to which gendered asset accumulation contributes to the goal of achieving just, equitable cities is dependent on  both empowerment and transformation.  Diagrammatic representation of pathways

Driving forces (constraints & opportunities) Economic globalization Urbanization and urban sprawl Climate change Violence & insecurity Cultural norms Institutions (City planning) Intermediary factors Accumulation of assets: Physical: Land, housing & infrastructure Social: Networking & collective action Financial: Wages & income Human: Education & Health Well being Empowerment Gendered transformations Just and equitable cities Equality Gendered outcomes

Gendered asset accumulation and just cities  In examining experiences of how women negotiate drivers and intermediate factors, and make choices as identify opportunities two questions are relevant:  Does their asset accumulation or adaptation increase wellbeing and reduce gendered poverty, or does it also lead to greater gender equality and women’s empowerment?  How far is this transformative in terms of changing power relations?

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