Women’s ‘Right to Sustainable Development’

Integrating religion and a rights-based approach

Authored by: Yamini Narayanan

Routledge International Handbook of Sustainable Development

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415838429
eBook ISBN: 9780203785300
Adobe ISBN: 9781135040727


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The combined importance of the advances in three distinct discourses inform the way this chapter argues for a reconceptualization of women’s inclusion and role in sustainable development practice and policy-making. First, it specifically focuses on ‘women’ rather than ‘gender’ as a way of thinking about women’s roles, inclusion and participation in sustainable development. Critics of the GAD (gender and development) theory, particularly the post-development feminists, have argued for some time that the focus on ‘gender’ can obscure the specific inequities and inequalities that women continue to suffer, especially in developing nations. The emphasis on ‘gender’ in the sustainable development discourse can actually perpetuate the exclusion that women of the South continue to face. In ‘Dismantling the master’s house with the master’s tools’, Kathleen Staudt (2004: 61–62) notes:

In the hierarchy among English-speaking critics, most of them excluded from national and international institutions, gender discourse was privileged and pure; the word women was passé. Never mind that gender was obscure terminology from sociology and linguistics, disciplinary narrative and by definition elitist in activist terms. Never mind also that gender did not translate well into many languages … Not surprisingly, some of the most virulent bureaucracies, hostile to women and to budgetary redistribution more inclusive of women, adopted the gender terminology.

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