Navigating gendered terrain: Gender inequality and environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs)

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Tiessen, Rebecca
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University of Guelph

This thesis is an investigation of gender inequality in the context of sustainable development. The research explored the nature and extent to which environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs) have been addressing issues of gender inequality at the organizational, programme, policy and project levels. Three questions guided the research for this thesis: Are ENGOs committed to addressing gender inequality? Do ENGO staff perceive gender and environment as separate and unrelated themes? Do ENGO staff have the knowledge and skills necessary to address gender issues in their projects? Gender inequality at the organizational level was investigated using three feminist frameworks of analysis that have emerged as prominent themes in feminist literature, including the public/private, subject/object and patriarchy frameworks of analysis. The research on ENGOs in Malawi exposed the dichotomous divisions that reinforce gender inequality at the organizational level and result in the creation of gendered terrain. However, the research also demonstrated how individuals and groups negotiate and navigate this gendered terrain in complex, diverse and multifaceted ways. This thesis contributed to a critique of the feminization of sustainable development and pointed to the need for multi-layered, multifaceted and a more nuanced approach to studying the structures and discourse of gender inequality. This investigation into the practice of gender and sustainable development in ENGOs provided important information about the constraints to and opportunities for addressing gender issues at the organizational level.

gender inequality, sustainable development, environmental non-government organizations, organizational, programme, policy, project