Engendering Exclusion in Senegal's Democratic Decentralization: Subordinating Women through Participatory Natural Resource Management

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"Men and women have different relationships with institutions - international organizations, central and local governments, and traditional authorities - and differential access to resources. In environmental project design and implementation, these differences and power relations are overlooked, however. While the strategies of intervening agencies ostensibly use community participation in natural resource management, such approaches are insufficient for ensuring gender equity. A host of other entrenched locality-specific practices shape gender distribution of voice and material benefits that participatory approaches alone fail to change. This paper demonstrates how the use of village committees to manage natural resources in the Malidino reserve was inconsistent with democratic decentralization principles and its emancipatory objectives. Ostensibly participatory projects that create village committees bestow discretionary power on traditional leaders who are not popularly accountable and have a poor track record of serving women's needs. This paper interrogates how participatory approaches used in the Malidino Reserve shaped the gender distribution of outcomes in decision processes, access to forest resources and land, incomes and economic activities, biodiversity conservation, and in rural community empowerment and social change. Committees constituted by appointment and co-optation of key decision makers are un-democratic. In them, Forest-Service selected leaders are endowed with discretionary power despite lacking popular accountability and having a poor record of serving women's needs. Further, the Forest Service and World Bank's participatory approaches, while formally not gender-neutral, fail in practice to advance gender equity and equality in activities related to the reserve."
democracy, decentralization, women, gender, natural resources, resource management