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Session Overview
8-HP118: Gender Movements and Social Justice
Thursday, 08/July/2021:
12:30pm - 1:45pm

Session Chair: Dr. Stacey Scriver, NUI Galway, Ireland
Session Chair: Prof. G. Honor Fagan, Maynooth University, Ireland

Session Abstract

While gender justice is a critical component of equitable development, peace and justice it is often overlooked or underplayed within movements focused on social justice in development contexts. In this panel we seek to deepen understanding of the role of gender movements, and gender in movements (including gender solidarity), working towards peaceful, equitable and just communities and societies. We welcome papers that engage with the issues of gender justice and social movements through a variety of perspectives and approaches. Contributions from early career researchers, established academics, and practitioners, including empirically and theoretically-based draft papers, are all welcomed.

EADI Working Group: Gender Justice

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Gender Backlash In Peru: An Opportunity For The Feminist Movement? The Contentious Politics Around The New Basic Education Curriculum

Susana Araujo

Institute of Development Studies, United Kingdom

Latin America is facing a common form of gender backlash. It represents the current expression of a historical conservative opposition against the advancement of women’s and LGTBQI rights. However, it takes now the form of a social movement that actively opposes policies around sexuality, education, and reproductive rights. Led by a wide range of actors from Evangelical and Catholic churches, these transnational movements are linked by the opposition to what they have called ‘gender ideology’, a concept developed by the Catholic Church and adopted by Evangelical and Pentecostal movements, to oppose social change promoted by feminist movements around the world.

In Peru, the advance in the formal recognition of women’s and LGTBQI’s rights meant a major threat to fundamentalist groups. The introduction of the gender equality approach in the new basic education curriculum in 2017 represented a milestone for opposition actors to become a large social movement. With a great capacity to mobilise resources, religious fundamentalist actors developed a triple strategy against gender equality: massive public demonstrations, a judicial process against the State, and an intense legislative advocacy in Congress with fujimoristas allies.

This organised backlash has had an impact on the Peruvian feminist movement, a fundamental actor to achieve positive policy changes for women’s rights, as Htun and Weldon (2010) demonstrate. This paper explores the challenges in resistance and response towards the gender backlash and promotion of gender equality, and guides the analysis with the following research question: How has gender backlash affected feminism as a social movement in Peru? I argue that, despite of the initial advancement of the fundamentalist agenda, the feminist movement has strengthened the social support for their goals, taking advantage of the political opportunity structure presented by the gender backlash. Feminist NGOs and platforms have mobilised around education, placing the gender equality meaning in media and within the discourse of the State. The feminist movement has also been able to build a large civil society platform willing to support gender equality, as well as a solid alliance with the government. However, feminism has not been able to innovate in its repertoires of contention, developing a ‘mirror strategy’ of the fundamentalist performances.

To best understand how the feminist movement in Peru faced this gender backlash, I use the contentious politics literature, as well as the concept of movement – countermovement dynamics. This requires analysing how activists performed during the episode of contention and how causal mechanisms interplayed and conformed processes (McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly, 2001). Newspaper records, press releases and public communications of political actors, among others, are used in this paper to elaborate a timeline of events and a compilation of what political actors said and did around them. The main goal is to explain which mechanisms are involved, in which sequence and with what outcomes for each of the contentious actors, including the State and third parties such as media. I rely on qualitative secondary data in a single case study that allows deep insight.

This research allows to analyse the strategies that Peruvian feminist movement has used to resist and respond to the backlash. The contentious politics around the inclusion of the gender equality approach in public policies is still alive. The Peruvian experience may act as an inspiration for feminist activism in the region and elsewhere. This represents a critical contribution in a context where religious fundamentalism features as a transnational movement affecting social justice.

Land, Labour and Activism: Revisiting Gender Questions amongst Adivasis (Indigenous population) in India

Anju Oseema Maria Toppo1, Richard Hemraj Toppo2

1University of Ranchi, India; 2International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague

That the indigenous women in India, with rare exceptions, find themselves situated within the intra-community patriarchal relations of power is largely acknowledged amongst scholars. Several have documented the prevailing gender inequality that persists in the indigenous heartland on issues of land inheritance and women’s exclusive domain of unpaid labour involving house-work or family-related work. Despite such sightings of explicit, and at times derogatory subordination and deprivation, indigenous-rights activists seem to evade the gender question, and rather project a homogenous imagery of the tribal community as an egalitarian society. Should it then be simply argued that indigenous activism through its projected homogeneity has further reproduced the gender inequalities in relation to land and labour within the indigenous communities.

However, working through this argument, a certain discomfort was palpable in authors' imaginings of indigenous struggles and activism and situating gender inequalities within the same. This was not to question or critique the validity of gender discrimination, which remains widely prevalent in indigenous communities – though to a lesser extent than non-indigenous communities, rather to re-examine the intersectional marginalization of indigenous women which otherwise would have posited indigenous-activist discourse against gender equality. Juxtaposing the two, despite one’s well intentions and academic rigor, has the potential to adversely influence indigenous struggles and perhaps play into the hands of people opposed to popular indigenous demands. J. Peter Brosius emphasises the role of ethnographers in the study of movements, critiquing their search for ‘truth’ as they disregard the implications of their research. In his words, ‘The threat to social movements is not simply that they may face repression but that their efforts may prove ineffective because of the effectiveness of the efforts to counter them, and our ethnographic presence may contribute to that.’ But then, as Michael Brown questions, does it mean to strategically uphold the indigenous rhetoric, while deliberately maintaining silence on the processes of marginalization within the community? Or as Alpa Shah points out, to be complicit, in our case knowingly, in a ‘class system that further marginalizes the poorest people. Brosius remarks that mere reflexivity might not be the way out of this conundrum, rather he argues for awareness of one’s ‘complicity in structures of domination and alert to the power of its visualizing practices.’ Nandini Sundar makes a similar argument in making a distinction between the essentialism of the oppressor and that of the oppressed. She argues that any critique to the essentialism of indigeneity should be considerate of the larger power structures that have resulted in prevailing inequalities and are dialectically related to the shaping of essentialist notions.

It is in this context that this paper re-examines the apparent linkages of activism in sustaining and re-producing gender inequalities, especially in relation to indigenous women’s land and labour rights, to note that such critical readings of activism can potentially be used by exploitative structures in further keeping the tribal population marginalised. In an effort to go beyond the either/or perspectives between indigenous-rights activism and indigenous women rights, this paper explores the ethical dilemmas as a researcher in critically engaging in questions of gender within the indigenous activist discourse. The paper argue against any conclusion on indigenous activism that centres on criticism only, rather, we explore ways in which the indigenous discourse can complementarily engage with the indigenous women in regard to labour and wage. To this end, the paper relies partly on the authors’ ethnographic fieldwork between 2017 and 2018 in the indigenous populated area of Aine village, Lohardaga district in Jharkhand, and partly in the urban areas of capital city of Jharkhand where many of the indigenous activists are based.

Engendering Local Governance: Exploring the Potential for Political Activism among Women’s Groups in North-East Congo

Niamh Gaynor

Dublin City University, Ireland

Much work has been done on mechanisms to increase the number of women in formal politics – at national and local levels. However, research shows that increased numbers of women in political office do not necessarily lead to greater gender equality and justice. This is because quota systems and other mechanisms designed to redress the gendered imbalance can be politicised and employed to strengthen ruling party powers through the strategic recruitment of women who are unwilling or unable to question and challenge authoritarian leadership (Goetz and Hassim, 2003). It is also because women may lack experience of public debate and office. Lacking the skills and capacity to recognise and articulate interests, build alliances, broker differences and learn modes of cooperation and consensus-building to advance common projects, they may prove ineffective legislators who can be easily manipulated (Cornwall and Goetz, 2005).

Drawing on research conducted with a number of local women’s groups in Ituri district in the North-East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), this paper explores the potential of these groups to function as ‘political laboratories’ (Mansbridge, 2000) where women can build solidarity alliances and can develop their political skills and capacity.

Narrative Of Single Mother Invisibility And Intra-Gender Inequality In Africa

Taiwo Olaiya

Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria

Despite decades of enormous scholarly contributions towards national policy advocacy and mainstreaming gender equality in the global economic debate, intra-gender inequality still substantially looms large in nearly all societies. This study investigated the gradient of economic and political marginalisation arising from the estrangement of single mothers from membership of indigenous women association in Africa. The ‘compound’ system of Yoruba communities in Nigeria and Benin Republic is an indigenous grouping with the substantial influence of men on the status of women within the defined enclave. The married women in each compound often associate as ‘wives’ association— a socio-cultural organisation for composite economic and political opportunities. How does being ‘unmarried’, or rather being a single mother, shape the gendered rights for membership of the associations? To what extent does the association represent intra-gender inequality for single mothers in today’s gender discourse? Emphasis centred on conceptualising intra-gender inequality and the experiences of single mothers following their alienations. What peculiar meaning do these concepts convey for gender movements across the globe and social justice? We utilised symbolic interactionism and recognition theory to provide a sociological explanation of the nexus between the invisibility of single mothers, the connected bias indicator and the ensuing intra-gender gap in Africa. What does being socially (in)visible mean for single motherhood? Empirical information was sourced qualitatively through participant-observers from Nigeria and Benin Republic. Results showed that single mothers, oft alienated from ‘wives’ associations, are significantly invisible with associated social inequality. The evidence of the marginalisation of single mothers suggests a preclusion of broad-based political and social participation of womenfolks in the African gender movements. Consequently, the study points attention to socio-cultural factors that present African gender movements and social justice as challenging and challenges to the prevailing global norm of intra-gender equality.

Gender (In)justice In Land Reform

Cynthia Embido Bejeno

ISS, Netherlands, The

In many experiences, the social movement and even the peasant movement fails to advance gender justice in land reform. In many instances, even with the women leadership or active roles in these movements. Like in the Philippines, in many instances, peasant women lead and take the frontline roles in advancing land reform by employing different strategies, including rightful resistance, to achieve immediate access to and control over the agrarian covered or redistributed land. However, the women’s strategic gender interests are often neglected and overshadowed by class-based concerns. The question then is, why does peasant women’s movement not always advance gender justice in land reform?

This paper will use various studies in land reform and peasant movement and women’s rights in land and my research interviews in the Philippines, particularly my interviews in the two agrarian communities in the provinces of Masbate and Iloilo, the Samahan ng mga Anak ng Magsasaka ng Famosa (People’s Organization of Farmers’ Children in Famosa)(SAMFAI) and Kaisahan sang Mangunguma sa Programa sa CARP (Unity of Farmers in CARP Program) KMPCI. The two cases demonstrate the peasant women’s key roles in bridging the gap in the country’s exploitative agrarian hierarchy but at the same time the silence on gender injustice.

This paper, therefore, problematizes how women-led land struggles advance or otherwise hamper or delay the attainment of integrated justice, especially within an agrarian structure that is often marred by violence triggered by landowners opposition to land reform and government’s lack of political will to enforce land redistribution, which is operating through an outdated set of gendered norms and values.

Gender Lessons’ Avoidance, Resistance and Solidarity in Nigerian Higher Education Classroom: Implications for Gender-transformative Pedagogy

Adaobiagu Nnemdi Obiagu

University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria

Despite the introduction of social justice contents (including contents targeted at promoting gender equality) into school subjects and programmes across countries following the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development initiative launched in 2004, schools are implicated as sites where gender inequality and violence are nurtured. Whereas existing educational literature has explored the extent to which gender contents are represented in curricula and teachers' engagement with gender issues, little knowledge exists on how higher education students, especially student-teachers, receive or react to gender education and the challenges faced by lecturers teaching gender topics in deeply patriarchal contexts such as Nigeria. Yet understanding how gender contents are received by prospective teachers is important for making gender education changes that will produce gender-oriented/responsive teachers who effectively implement introduced gender contents for gender equality/justice promotion. This paper covers this gap by drawing on the author's experience in teaching gender contents of a family course (from a neutral and problem-solving perspective) to undergraduate education students for two years in a Nigerian university. The paper, employing feminist and male-agency lenses, adopts a critically reflective approach to deconstruct student-teachers' classroom discussions and reactions to problem questions and gender study-materials. Among the findings of the study are: (a) gender contents are controversial topics in Nigeria and teaching gender contents in a higher education context of a deeply patriarchal society is difficult, (b) students' sociocultural experiences and (mis/pre)conceptions/perceptions of gender and feminists' ideas serve to inhibit their interest and readiness to critically engage with gender discussions, and (c) male students supported gender discourses framed around development and human rights but avoided, and sometimes resisted, some discourses on gender-relations and power dynamics, especially in the private realm. The implications of the findings for gender-transformative pedagogy –that will empower teachers for gender equality/justice solidarity, classroom practices and agency that would prevent/disrupt gender stereotypes, hegemonic masculinity, passive/objectified femininity, misogynistic and misandristic tendencies and promote gender justice practices among learners– are discussed.

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