Wetenschap - 28 november 2002

Lecture Review: IWE-11304

Lecture Review: IWE-11304

Gender in land and water development

Teacher: Margreet Zwarteveen

Date: 26 November 2002

The number of male students is higher than you would expect in a classroom where a lecture on gender issues is about to start. Or could this be my prejudice? Anyway, the room is quite full and men are omnipresent. This may have something to do with the fact that the course is obligatory for some students.

Lecturer Zwarteveen is talking about participatory approaches in Natural Resource Management. At first she stays seated and the noise from students emptying their backpacks makes it hard to follow what she's saying. But as the noise fades and sheets appear on the overhead projector, the topic of the day becomes clear. Zwarteveen's enthusiasm is beginning to show. She explains the arguments in favour of participatory approaches. The story is not new to me, during other lectures I've heard the same things and also the same warning to retain a critical stance concerning the effectiveness of participation.

I start to wonder if I will get to hear anything new. And what about the 'gender' the course title refers to. When are we going to focus on the female voice in Natural Resource Management? Could 'gender' be some sort of fancy term for participation in land and water management that has slipped from my knowledge?

When Zwarteveen hands out an exercise it becomes clear what she was aiming at. The exercise is to illustrate the processes at local level that can undermine participation. Here the gender issue comes in. Zwarteveen explains that there are several prejudices about female resource users. Like the beliefs that men are the decision makers, that women are just helpers and that men and women want the same thing.

However, the exercise doesn't focus on gender only, but also on other hierarchical structures. The context is a farmers' meeting in Sri Lanka. We have to critically examine the situation and discuss the extent of accountability, transparency and democracy in the process. Both students and teacher are visibly enjoying the discussion. Zwarteveen sits down on the table and enthusiastically talks about her experiences with participatory approaches. More teachers should put a participatory approach into practice with their students. It's fun. | Are you following a good, bad or unusual lecture series? E-mail: leonie.mossink@cereales.nl

Leonie Mossink

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