Friday, March 6, 2009

Why men in Development?

IMG_0537 The question of men in development seems a little strange to ask. Aren’t they already there? As policymakers, development theorists and practitioners, haven’t they led the development discourse, policy and practice? Yes, they are there but what is perhaps more critical is to ask whether the development policymaking and practice have actually consciously analyzed participation of men as a gendered constituency in gender and development policy and practice (Chant and Gutmann, 2000, p 31)[i]. And even when their participation is articulated in practice, the contexts in which it is articulated needs to be analyzed. Cornwall while talking about development initiatives, which do not attempt to challenge the stereotypical gender role divisions even if they include men, says that there is a need to examine how involvement of men is cast, and how 'men' are represented in these initiatives (Cornwall, 1998)[ii].
Development policy and practice tends to take men’s current multifarious roles in the economy, the community and the family as ‘naturally given’. It does not see the gender role divisions as an evolving process. The development initiatives attempt to improve the lives of the people (read men and their families) without altering the status or identity of men. There is a tendency to overlook the fact that across most of the differences like caste, religion, generation, class, race and so on exist almost a uniform privilege that men as a group share, that is their gender privilege (Greig, Kimmel and Lang, 2000, p 6-7)[iii]. Despite the differences and regardless of their positioning in other hierarchical structures, men generally have a strategic common interest in defending and not challenging their gender privilege or the patriarchal dividend (Connell 1995: 82 in Greig, Kimmel and Lang, 2000, p 7 )[iv].
According to Greig, Kimmel and Lang, the initiatives which confer privileges on one group are often not visible to that group. Gender privilege is one of the patriarchal dividends that are conferred on men by the patriarchal gender order. Not having experienced gender discrimination, men tend not to consider themselves as gendered beings. This is one reason why policymakers and development practitioners often conflate ‘gender’ and women and see gender issues as only women's issue (Greig, Kimmel and Lang, 2000, p 7-16)[v].
There are several arguments for mainstreaming men as a gender in the development initiatives. These arguments include the medico-social perspectives which points out that the performance of masculinity by men not only causes gender related diseases, early deaths and a high rate of suicides but also that men do not develop their full human potential or the ability to relate to women in a sensitive way including mutuality and caring (Jalmert, 2003, p 2[vi] and Gokova, 1998[vii]).
Another argument suggests that by focusing on men and masculinity, development programmes can forge men’s relationship with the process to change gender inequalities (Sweetman, 2000)[viii]. This view is supported by some from equality and social justice point of view, that is, men as well as women may be disadvantaged by social and economic structures and that they both have the right to live free from poverty and repression. This view contends that empowerment processes should enable women and men to be liberated from stereotyped gender roles (Cleaver, 2000)[ix].
The social output perspective calculates the high costs of gender inequalities or lower economic output due to gendered division of labour and suggests changes in the gender role through development initiatives and process. This perspective uses the idea of efficient investment in women or men to optimize higher economic returns.
Yet another view exploring the hegemonic masculinity and its impact on work and family, suggests that the focus on women, in education, employment, policy, legislation and other development areas and processes has led ‘men in crisis’. The analysis suggests that the ‘men in crisis’ syndrome has been created because of the gradual erosion or undermining of the traditional bases of male power and identity in the families (Chant, 2000)[x]. Addressing the issues arising from the threat to the traditional masculine identities is essential especially for the prevention of violence and psychological abuse (Chant and Gutmann, 2000, p 28[xi] and Sweetman, 2001, p 1[xii]).
Development practitioners disagree about the need to work with men as well as on how to work with them. There are wide ranging differences of opinion over the sectors and contexts in which men should be involved as beneficiaries. Even when the need to work with men is recognized as an important means to achieve gender equality there is a dearth of clear and workable strategies (Smith, 2001, p 58)[xiii]. There is clearly a need for more research and exploration in order to develop ‘deliverable’ strategies. Also, participation of men in development as beneficiaries should not be at the cost of women’s rights agenda. Projects which mainstream men into development would continue to require special design features to facilitate and promote the inclusion of women. Participation of men has to be strategized in such as way that there is as little friction between gradual shift in men’s gendered roles and improvement in women’s access, equality, and benefits leading to long-term improvements in their social and economic status. The gender mainstreaming agenda, whether to include women or men, should not be treated like either or approach. The mainstreaming agenda should deploy combination of approaches including gender specific to gender relevant, or women/men specific projects to projects targeting both men and women.


[i] Chant and Mathew Gutmann (2000), p 31, Including men in Gender and development: Practice, Experience and Perspectives from Development Organization in Debates, Reflections and Experiences: Mainstreaming men into Gender and Development, Oxfam Working Papers, Oxford: Oxfam GB
[ii] Andrea Cornwall (1998), Paper titled ‘Missing Men? Reflections on Men, Masculinities and Gender in GAD’ presented at a Seminar – Identifying the Gaps, Setting the Agenda, 8th-9th September 1998, University of Bradford
[iii] Alan Greig, Michael Kimmel and James Lang (2000), p 6-7, Men, Masculinities & Development: Broadening Our Work Towards Gender Equality, Gender in Development, Monograph Series #10, UNDP
[iv] RW Connell 1995: 82 in Alan Greig, Michael Kimmel and James Lang (2000), p 7, Men, Masculinities & Development: Broadening Our Work Towards Gender Equality, Gender in Development, Monograph Series #10, UNDP
[v] Alan Greig, Michael Kimmel and James Lang (2000), p 7-16, Men, Masculinities & Development: Broadening Our Work Towards Gender Equality, Gender in Development, Monograph Series #10, UNDP
[vi] Lars Jalmert, 2003, The Role of Men and Boys in Achieving Gender Equality – Some Swedish and Scandinavian Experiences, EGM/Men-Boys-GE/2003/EP.13, United Nations
[vii] Jonah Gokova, 1998, Sexual Health Exchange, 1998 No. 2
[viii] Caroline Sweetman (2000), ed, Editorial in Men and Masculinities, Oxford: Oxfam GB
[ix] Frances Cleaver (2000), IDS Bulletin, 31.2, April 2000
[x] Sylvia Chant (2000), 'Men in Crisis? Reflections on masculinities, work and family in north-west Costa Rica', European Journal of Development Research, 12, 2, December 2000
[xi] Sylvia Chant and Mathew Gutmann (2000), p 28, Including Men in Gender and Development: Principles and Rationales, Debates, Reflections and Experiences: Mainstreaming men into Gender and Development, Oxfam Working Papers, Oxford: Oxfam GB
[xii]Caroline Sweetman (2001), p 1, Introduction in Men’s Involvement in beyond Rhetoric: Gender and Development Policy and Practice, Oxfam Working Papers, Oxford: Oxfam GB
[xiii] Sue Smith (2001), p 58, Tackling Male Exclusion in Post-Industrialized Setting: Lessons from UK, in Men’s Involvement in beyond Rhetoric: Gender and Development Policy and Practice, Oxfam Working Papers, Oxford: Oxfam GB

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Remembering Tsunami: Consequences of natural disaster for women

F1030001It has been four years since Tsunami struck 14 out of 28 districts Sri Lanka, and the southern and south-eastern coast of India. It destroyed a large number of areas, diverse forms of living beings, livelihoods and much more. In India, it has severely affected Andaman and Nicobar Islands; Nagapattinam, Cuddalore and Kanyakumari districts in Tamil Nadu; Nellore, Prakasham, Guntur and Krishna districts in Andhra Pradesh; Karaikal in Pondichery; and Kollam and Alappuzha districts in Kerala.

Tsumani has been unprecedented in many ways but natural disasters are frequent in Sri Lanka and India. Natural disasters, for a long time, were treated as a matter of material fix up job – it was considered sufficient to provide shelter and amenities and at the most, bring some work to the affected people. Over a period, it has been realized that natural disasters present gender specific challenges to women. Notwithstanding critics of the Tsunami response programmes, it is appreciable that the agencies involved recognized the emotional and psychological distress people affected by disasters suffer and took some measures to minimize dangers to girls and women’s safety. Trafficking in human beings, especially children and among them girls has been given special recognition.

So far, I have not come across any study from India which talks about violence against women (VAW) in Tsunami affected districts. But reports like UNDP’s sitrep 29 and Oxfam’s reports from Sri Lanka suggest that there has been a rise in VAW since the onset of Tsunami. It would not be surprising if VAW has increased in Tsunami affected Indian districts too. Gender relations between women and men in these districts have been such that despite being earning members of their families, women have been dependent on men. All forms of violence including VAW connected as it is to power equations, in frustrating and depressive times is more likely to be perpetrated against those who have the least power to protest or retaliate.

Reports from Nagapattinam district in Tamil Nadu, India as recorded in a study, Gender and Tsunami Relief and Rehabilitation, conducted in March 2005 by the Womankind Worldwide suggest that single women and women headed households have not been able to meet basic needs. Most of the families in the affected districts of Tamil Nadu, India are dependent on fishing. Men from these families catch fish, while women are engaged in diving to collect pearl, prawn farming and marketing of fish. Women are not recognized as fisherwomen. Any relief and reconstruction measure which identifies and supports affected people on the basis of occupations is bound to miss out people who are engaged in unrecognized occupations or those whose contributions to the concerned occupation is not recognized. The destruction of prawn farms, salt-making areas, fish markets, and equipments which women use in their occupations has affected their capacity to provide for their families very badly.

In both Sri Lanka and India, women are the primary carers in their families. Most natural disasters invariably mean evacuation and living in congested temporary shelters. Women experience an expansion of their household responsibilities and increased stress after a disaster. With the source of family income destroyed and the trying conditions of a temporary settlement, women face the challenge of providing food and water for their families.

Women in general in both countries are not only responsible for their own health but also for the health needs of the family members, especially children. Spread of diseases means a weakening of their own capacity to care for others but their responsibility to care for sick family members increases sharply. The increase in the intensity of this responsibility is made more difficult due to the destruction of the primary health care centres and other health facilities.

As mentioned earlier, women’s livelihoods in Tsunami affected areas have tended to be dependent on natural resources and on the produce brought home by men. Tsunami has destroyed natural resources and consequently women’s sources of income. Currently, some efforts are being made to give unconventional skills to women so that they could begin from a new base. But it is not clear yet, how much resources and efforts will be extended to build the infrastructure and the base which would help women gain and maximize benefits from their recently acquired skills. If this is not done and the traditional means of livelihoods are not revived with women in a good position to advance their interests, there would be fewer job opportunities for women in the future.

Tsunami, however, also presents the opportunity to re-conceive and reshape ownership of assets and property. But these opportunities have not been taken advantage of by the relief and reconstruction agencies. Most of them have tended to keep away from issues involving rearticulation of gender relations. Some NGOs, however, have tried to alter gender based occupational patterns and asset ownership practices.

Tsunami relief and reconstruction has also highlighted the need to give equal participation and decision-making opportunities to women. An observation paper, WatSan in Kargil Nagar Through a Gender Lense, on water and sanitation facilities in Kargil Nagar in Chennai, India highlights how siting and design of shelter and shelter facilities like toilet and washing facilities could become unusable in the absence of local and need based knowledge. It also shows that poor management planning and management of the water and sanitation facilities could become a threat to health of the people.

It would be a mistake to attribute shortfalls of disaster preparedness, mitigation and reconstruction programme only to the shortage of resources and urgency of the response. The human element is equally if not more important in the giving a shape and direction to a response programme. Gender sensitive attitude and knowledge of gender issues and gender relations, and the capacity to analyze the impact of a particular disaster on women in the immediate and long run among those who are responsible for disaster related programmes are prerequisites to an egalitarian programme. If the prerequisites are present, there would be a greater possibility of people making efforts to devote sufficient time, involve women in the programmes, and get adequate funding to meet and highlight women specific needs.

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