Perspectives Bhutan + 10 - 'Moving away from presenting women as victims'

Dr Devaki Jain, Founder of DAWN, India.
Complexities and Aspirations of Life 
By Pauline Kalunda
Tuesday 16 October 2012 was a very energizing day, which started with a 15min walk from my hotel to the conference venue meditating upon what the previous day had presented to me. I thought about the challenges that I go through as a conservation biologist and wondering why the gender specialist feel that I have an obligation to add gender issues as part of my concerns.  What motivated me to enter into day 2 though, was a statement made by Dr. Devaki Jain of DAWN ‘We need to change negotiation approach and move away from presenting women as victims but rather present them as people whose wealth of knowledge can be instrumental in shaping the development agenda’  I felt like she was beginning to negotiate with me.

With an open mind therefore I went into Day two and I was not disappointed.  The presentations gave me a sneak peek into some of the complexities of life in relation to how socially constructed differences shape the way men and women relate with natural resources.  For example, there was an argument that women’s relationship with the environment comes from their insubordinate position in society.  There were also presentations that indicated that issues such as socio-political dynamics will greatly influence who is consulted when drawing up adaptation strategies.  I kind of agree with most of this and I tried to bring it closer home by thinking that our values and ethics coupled with the political atmosphere in which we operate will greatly influence who we consult when drafting our programmes. What gave me further resolve to cooperate with the gender specialist was a presentation by Monica Ogra about linkages and leakages for gender considerations, in which an effort by gender specialists to understand the challenges of biodiversity conservationists was highlighted.

It finally dawned onto me that even though we do not put name to it, most of the successful projects we have implemented had strong gender considerations. Next time I am participating in project design therefore, I will surely conduct the gender analysis with more purpose that a mere fulfillment of donor/partner requirements.   I will make a conscious attempt at tapping into the wealth presented by the different sections of society.  Hoping that together we will help each other weave through the complexities of life as we pursue our aspirations.

Pauline Kalunda is the Executive Director of ECOTRUST. 

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Perspectives. This series of first-person accounts from project participants and other key stakeholders takes a candid look at rural development. The purpose of Perspectives isn't just to share information, but also to empower stakeholders to voice their opinions, share their perspectives and provide fresh new looks into the world of international development. 

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