“Just Women” Is Not Enough: Towards a Gender-Relational Approach to Water and Peacebuilding

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This academic book chapter is relevant for humanitarian and development practitioners as it proposes a new “gender-relational approach” to water and peacebuilding initiatives. The gender-relational approach extends the analysis of gender beyond a binary analysis of the relations of power between men and women to include the experiences LGBTI people.

This academic book chapter proposes a new “gender-relational approach” to the research and implementation of water and peacebuilding initiatives. The article argues that within development and peacebuilding organisations the concept of gender has been considered in a narrow sense as solely the role and experiences of women. The author considers this approach as limiting the efficacy of development initiatives. The study of multiple dimensions of gender, including the experiences of men and LGBTI people along with additional intersecting factors such as race, class and poverty are considered necessary to understand complex development situations and produce effective peacebuilding and water sector programmes.

The chapter begins by providing definitions and explanations of the key terms of gender, masculinities, LGBTI, peacebuilding and the water sector. The chapter then analyses the interaction between gender and peacebuilding and gender and water separately. Each section includes a general overview, a critique and examination of the current gaps in understanding identified in the literature and examples from Nepal and Kenya of the limitations of considering gender in a narrow sense. The importance of engaging a “gender-relational approach” is then outlined. A case study example from Kenya is used to show how the “gender-relational approach” can be used to avoid project failure in water and peacebuilding initiatives.

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“A gender-relational approach places the relations and power dynamics between men, women and LGBTI at the centre of analysis, cognisant of intersectionality and without trying to make women or LGBTI superior to men or assuming homogeneity between the different actors.”

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This academic book chapter proposes a new “gender-relational approach” to the research and implementation of water and peacebuilding initiatives. The article argues that within development and peacebuilding organisations the concept of gender has been considered in a narrow sense as solely the role and experiences of women. The author considers this approach as limiting the efficacy of development initiatives. The study of multiple dimensions of gender, including the experiences of men and LGBTI people along with additional intersecting factors such as race, class and poverty are considered necessary to understand complex development situations and produce effective peacebuilding and water sector programmes.

The chapter begins by providing definitions and explanations of the key terms of gender, masculinities, LGBTI, peacebuilding and the water sector. The chapter then analyses the interaction between gender and peacebuilding and gender and water separately. Each section includes a general overview, a critique and examination of the current gaps in understanding identified in the literature and examples from Nepal and Kenya of the limitations of considering gender in a narrow sense. The importance of engaging a “gender-relational approach” is then outlined. A case study example from Kenya is used to show how the “gender-relational approach” can be used to avoid project failure in water and peacebuilding initiatives.