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Gender and community forestry institutions: analyzing gender roles, relations and outcomes in local forest governance

Student Name: Ms Niharika Tyagi
Guide: Dr Smriti Das
Year of completion: 2021


Feminist discourse in natural resource management clearly establishes the critical role women play in managing resources and how they are most affected by the damages caused by resource degradation and privatization. Despite the existing narrative of women’s proximity to natural resources and emergence of women’s environmental movements across the globe, the policy attempts to mainstream gender have had limited scope. Problem lies in the way gender is conceptualised and analysed in environmental research and policy. The existing studies do not adequately emphasize the interconnections between changing gender roles and relations (gendered power relations) and performance of policies, institutions, and consequent resource conditions.

The central aim of this thesis is to provide an understanding of gendered resource politics by linking gender relations and gender roles to performance of community forestry institutions and forest outcomes using a comprehensive framework. Taking the case of one of the particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) in India- the Baigas, the thesis attempts to redefine ecological problems as an outcome of gender gaps in policies and institutions. It challenges the assumptions of egalitarian indigenous communities and examines the changing gender roles and relations and in the process how indigenous women exercise their agency for protecting the forest commons, which still forms a significant source of their livelihood.

Thesis makes significant contributions to the gender and environment debate. First, it explains elements of gender responsive policy and institutional design for democratic forest governance. Thesis introduces a ‘gender-responsive policy’ category in addition to the existing gender-blind, gender-aware, and gender-redistributive policy categories. Gender-responsive category refer to policies that not just challenge the existing gender hierarchies, but also provide space for local level negotiations to integrate gender needs as and when they emerge. Second, it provides methodological framework for analysis of gender relations and roles. It empirically examines the socio-cultural bases of gender roles and relations. Third, adapting Feminist Political Ecology, thesis captures the shifting nature of ‘gender’ and ‘gendered resource politics’ at the scale of household and community. The analysis delves into the process of women’s exclusion/ inclusion from institutions and examines if and how institutions have responded to gender needs. Fourth, it establishes how policies influence local resource politics. Fifth, it links women’s participation in forest governance to impact on resource outcomes, which is empirically examined thus also taking a methodologically interdisciplinary leap. This work helps in understanding conditions under which desirable and undesirable resource outcomes can arise. And finally, the thesis contributes to the existing body of work on gendered resource politics in Baiga tribe.

Key Words: gender and forestry, forest governance, gendered resource politics, gender responsiveness, Baigas.