Top PPSC blog posts in 2013

28/12/2013

Susanne SchirmerSue_Schirmer200

As we’re approaching the end of 2013 I would like to use the opportunity to highlight the top ten posts of the Participation, Power and Social Change blog, as well as some other interesting posts, that you might have missed.

This year we had an interesting array of posts providing commentary on events around the world, such as political change in Egypt, riots in Brazil, tragedies and revolts in Bangladesh, as well as presentations of outputs from some of our main research programmes and initiatives. Bloggers included researchers from the IDS Participation, Power and Social Change team, some of our partners, working with us on a variety of projects and some students associated with the team through our MA course in Participation, Power and Social Change and through our PhD programme.

Welcome to all those that joined our follower-list in 2013. We now have over 450 people following our blog and compared to 2012, we have more than doubled our views, which is excellent news. We hope you have found our posts interesting and even enjoyable. Please feel free to invite others to join our follower-group and find out what we’re up to.

Top 10 blog posts:

1. Participation for Development: Why is this a good time to be alive? By Robert Chambers

2. Bangladesh: Rana Plaza is a parable of globalisation by Naomi Hossain

3. From making us cry to making us act: five ways of communicating ‘development’ in Europe by Maria Cascant

4. The Marriage Trap: the pleasures and perils of same-sex equality by Stephen Wood

5. Bangladesh is revolting, again by Naomi Hossain

6. Storytelling in Development Practice by Hamsini Ravi

7. Missing the pulse of Egypt’s citizens? by Mariz Tadros

8. I’m (still) hungry, mum: the return of Care by Naomi Hossain

9. The crisis of Brazilian democracy, as seen from Mozambique by Alex Shankland

10. Heteronormativity: why demystifying development’s unspoken assumptions benefits us all by Stephen Wood

Other interesting blogs that you might have missed:

To give a different nuance to our commentary and research, we’ve also introduced some visual blog posts this year, showing videos, photographs and cartoons. Have a look:

Finally, on behalf of the Power, Participation and Social Change Team at IDS, we wish all our readers happy holidays (if you’re celebrating) and a good start into 2014. We will be back with more blog posts in early January.

Sue Schirmer works as Communications Coordinator for the Participation, Power and Social Change (PPSC) team at IDS.


What next for young Zimbabweans?

19/12/2013

Marjoke OosteromMarjoke_Oosterom200

As the year comes to an end, international aid actors and civil society wonder what 2014 will bring for Zimbabwe. More so, what they need to do, or do differently. Based on on-going research carried out by IDS and the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) I would say: work with Zimbabwe’s youth.

Zimbabwe post elections
President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party won the elections with a landslide earlier this year. ZANU-PF became a ‘supermajority’, in the words of professor Masunungure; at a civil society learning event organised by Hivos in Harare. Donors and civil society had worked hard on the elections: civic education, voter registration, monitoring… And they also invested a great deal in awareness-raising about the new Constitution. All this to avoid the wide-spread political violence that occurred in the 2008 elections. This time round there was not much political violence, but there was some intimidation and signs of vote rigging, particularly with the voters’ role. Many had hoped for a victory by Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), some anticipated renewal of the fragile coalition, but few had expected such a majority for ZANU-PF. It holds a two-third majority in parliament for the first time in thirteen years.

Mugabe and ZANU-PF stand for a challenge, however. Inside ZANU-PF a power struggle is going on about the succession. The political leadership now has to act upon the promises it made to its followers. The weak economy and high unemployment rates are daunting.

Local dynamics
In this context, IDS together with the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) looks at how young men and young women see their country. In particular, how they develop and exercise agency in response to their political environment, and in response to political violence and harassment.

What struck me when had just started was the diversity among youth and how this varied by location. We work in six sites, in urban, peri-urban and rural areas. In each location the presence of strength of certain actors shape the dynamics around elections: MDC and ZANU politicians, police and party-affiliated ‘auxiliary police’, war veterans, party youth or trained youth militias. All are part of a polarised and politicised society. Even some of the churches have not escaped this polarisation. Some actively announce that voting for the opposition means disloyalty; a norm that is ‘unchristian’. After elections these actors continue to influence local politics.

I was amazed by how actors affiliated with the ruling party seemingly are able to identify and use people’s economic vulnerability in each location as a tactic to entrench their power. From what the youth told us, party politics interferes with the institutions that organise land ownership and access to food aid in rural areas, and access to market vending stalls and licenses in urban areas.

Growing up
What does it mean to grow up here? We found that particularly the age group 17 – 20, which just starts to develop political consciousness, struggles to find their way. For some youth, the situation tells them that for any livelihood opportunities or any community engagement one has to join the ruling party. Others try hard to stay out of politics altogether: they migrate temporarily during elections, stay in the house, or may be shielded by a parent. A small group may resist, though for this group resistance may mean joining MDC, not resisting the process of polarisation. For all youth, the family is a strong factor in how political consciousness and agency develops.

If becoming a citizen is ‘learnt’ through participation in day-to-day social activities, then it turns out there are few safe and non-politicised spaces where youth can develop democratic and active citizenship. Thinking about what next, can we think about where  these can be found?

This research is part of the Power, Violence, Citizenship and Agency (PVCA) project at IDS, the case study in Zimbabwe is funded by Hivos. More blog stories about youth in Zimbabwe will follow next year.

Marjoke Oosterom is a Post-doctoral researcher at the Participation, Power and Social Change team at IDS.

Read previous blogs by Marjoke Oosterom


What are the emerging funding challenges for international LGBTI activists and their donors?

17/12/2013

Stephen WoodStephen_Wood200

We are living through a difficult period in the funding and resourcing of LGBTI groups in the Global South. At a time when public appetite for action has arguably never been higher, budgets are increasingly under threat or actively being cut.  I recently returned from a meeting in Berlin organised by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, which sought to strategise around potential ways to square this circle.

The funding environment within international development is shifting fundamentally and may look very different in ten to fifteen years. Spanish aid funding is being cut drastically, with the impact already filtering through to many Latin American LGBT groups who depend upon it to resource their defence against mobilised evangelical political attack.  Donors are increasingly pulling out of South Africa as it is no longer perceived as a poor country, yet unlike some other thematic aid areas, disappearing LGBTIQ funding is not been replaced by local sources.  This is at a time when gender and sexual violence is at a record high in the country and LGBT protections within the Constitution are under sustained political attack.

What was really promising about Berlin was that there were a lot of the right people in the building: European and US Government officials, senior figures from donor and philanthropic organisations, European and North American LGBT campaign organisations and southern LGBTIQ activists who took the opportunity to make everybody grapple with some of the practical and political dilemmas they face when negotiating with the funding mechanisms available to them.

How funding mechanisms can be improved

Even with available funding, priorities need re-examination. The Global Gaze 2010 report from Funders For LGBTQ Issues shows that whilst there has been a modest increase in international funding for LGBTIQ groups, it isn’t reaching trans groups, who receive a paltry 4.6% of the available funds compared to nearly 84% for LGBTI programming, which (whilst not always) often still remains mainly gay male programming with lip-service inclusion of other groups.

The complexity of grant proposal systems are especially difficult to negotiate by the nascent trans movements that are still growing in maturity and there was a real push from trans activists in the meeting for low-threshold funding from donors, to take a calculated gamble to help seed young organisations. I was particularly struck to see that the vast majority of the miniscule trans support originated from North America, with a noticeable lack of commitment from European donors. I suspect some analysis of why this is the case would be fascinating.

Similarly, there was anecdotal evidence from some speakers that funding proposals submitted that focus exclusively on lesbian themes tend to not get funded, also underscored by the Global Gaze report, which reported a scant 2% of funding going to support lesbian programming. Yet when they packaged the same proposals as LGBT, they were more likely to be successful.

Similarly to HIV/AIDS programming, any funding for those groups conducting strategic litigation is generally de-coupled from any complimentary empowerment work that organisations seek to undertake to back up their campaigns. These same legal cases are expensive and take several years to see through, yet donor funding continues to be short-termist. Even when successful, groups find it a struggle to convince donors to continue funding beyond the headline ‘victory’ to monitor the realities of implementation attempts. Paradoxically, in many cases it is at this point that sustained funding is most necessary.

Fresh thinking and challenging orthodoxies

Throughout the meeting, I sensed a commitment from all sides to make the most of this space to tackle these sticking points and to step outside of orthodoxies in thinking.  From several, there was an appetite to invest real energy in nurturing new sources of global leadership from regions such as Latin America which could transform debates around equality with discriminatory states in ways that avoided accusations of renewed Western imperialism. It came across in debates about southern states being creative in the establishment of community-determined endowments for activism that could survive independently of aid support – adaptation instead of continued financial dependency.

Whilst less glamorous, the meeting also wrestled with the difficulties in measuring and mapping the amount of aid funding made available for LGBTIQ issues by Governments and donors and how this data might help multiple donors operating in the same country-context communicate more effectively, make more informed funding decisions and support partner LGBT organisations to develop their longer-term campaign strategies. It is a double-edged sword however, as whilst that transparency could mobilise the public in support of aid budgets under threat, the data would provide a very discernable target for opponents of equality to coalesce around.

Bringing research to the table

On behalf of IDS and our partner organisations, I presented some of the principal findings generated within the Sexuality theme of the Institute’s DFID-funded Accountable Grant, examining the disconnect between sexual minorities and poverty alleviation policies. The findings are outlined in case studies from India, the Philippines and South Africa. The ability of this project to allow organisations to identify a priority issue relevant to their contexts and use the research process and collaboration with IDS to help increase their own evidence base appeared to strike a chord with the audience. Many southern activists identified capacity-building in research methods as essential moving forward. There was support for developing a more robust research agenda for donors based on the needs of LGBTIQ stakeholder groups, as well as an appetite to explore the poverty angle further as a way of conducting different conversations and expanding entry points for interventions.

One example of this was using poverty alleviation as a method of conducting dialogue with faith-based NGOs. In fact, there have already been some interesting developments in this area, with the ARCUS Foundation reporting that their fascinating Global Religions programme has begun supporting pro-LGBT Christian and Muslim faith leaders in Africa and Middle East, amongst other regions. It is an area I’d be keen for the IDS Sexuality and Development Programme to explore further.

Whilst the meeting provided space for a diverse set of actors to step outside of their institutional roles and recognise their common aspirations for social justice for LGBTI communities, it also gave us space to highlight where our priorities differed. As one of the NGO participants summarised “We want to spend more. They want to spend better”.  Ensuring the practical outputs that resulting from this meeting address both of these essential drivers will be crucial to building credibility and good faith on both sides that delivers for LGBTIQ communities on what remains heavily-contested political terrain.

Stephen Wood is a Research Officer on the Sexuality and Development Programme within the Participation, Power and Social Change research team at IDS. He can be found on Twitter as: StephenWood_UK

Read other recent blogs by Stephen Wood:


Violence in the hungry season

12/12/2013

Naomi HossainNaomi Hossain

Tackling violence against women and girls is rightly riding high on the development agenda and so too is food insecurity. But it has only been in the last few days, travelling around Malawi at the start of a particularly hungry season, that the direct nature of the causal link between the two has crystallised for me. Tackling violence in poor families and communities must start with protecting people’s – all people’s – rights to food.

Malawi blog 1

A boy playing at the refugee camp near Lilongwe; parents prefer to keep girls this age at home, as young girls are said to be more vulnerable to abuse during the hungry season

How does food insecurity cause sexual- and gender-based violence? I can only tell you what we heard from staff in government and UN agency facilities, including a refugee camp near Lilongwe and from women we met there. The consistency and the clarity of the message were startling: cases of violence against women and girls tend to increase sharply with hunger, and they are currently seeing a rise. Simple as that. Other factors – cultural acceptance, patriarchal privilege, perpetrator impunity, women’s lack of economic power – all matter, but are ever-present background factors, not triggers for the current rise. And after a bad maize harvest, widely attributed to climate change, this looks sadly like being a bumper year for abuse.

It is not immediately obvious why food insecurity leads so directly to more violence, and of course it does not always do so. Nor is it just poor people in Malawi for whom this is true. But two things happen when a family or a community is threatened with (worse) hunger that breed conditions for aggression and abuse. First, facing constant pressure from their children’s suffering, women push their menfolk to do more to secure food. The strains this can put on relationships that are already fraught with the tensions of everyday poverty can be immense. As Alex Kelbert and I argue in a forthcoming paper in the IDS Bulletin on Undressing Patriarchy, food shocks force acknowledgement of men’s inability to provide for their families. Drawing on research from the Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility project, that paper notes that societies tend to share norms about the primary role of men as breadwinners and providers: the inability to perform what your family, community, government and you yourself think is your primary responsibility is a source of profound pain for many men. When the options for providing are so limited, as they are in Malawi as in so many places, the alternatives are to lash out at those nearest, to drown your sorrows, or to leave.

Malawi blog 2

Vegetable vending on the Blantyre road

The second thing that happens when people go hungry is the urgent hunt for alternatives, including using ‘assets’ they would prefer not to. In Nairobi, researchers in the Life in a Time project heard that when prices go up, young girls are told they ‘are sitting on a food source’ – i.e. they could sell sex if they want to eat. Both boys and girls are said to do so when prices are particularly high in that particular Kenyan community. In the refugee camp near Lilongwe we visited yesterday, people from DRC and Burundi told us they feared letting their 9 year old daughters out of their sight, because young girls were believed to accept sweets and food without understanding what they were giving in return. A camp official said child pregnancy rates had gone up with the worsening food situation there.

It seems pretty plain that if you want to tackle violence in poor families and communities, the starting point must be that people have secure rights to the most basic resources of life. Without that, all bets are off: no amount of awareness-raising and efforts to change men’s behaviour will do much when the very basis of life is threatened, when deeply-held cultural norms about what it means to be a man are dishonoured, and when parents face the constant clamour of hungry children. In such conditions, the miracle is that there is not more violence. This does not excuse violence, but recognises that structural conditions pattern the bad choices of individual men.

The real worry now is that the developed world increasingly treats gender inequality and violence as cultural problems of male behaviour, detached from the structural conditions of increasingly volatile food prices, unpredictable harvests and precarious livelihoods. There is increasing clamour for gender equality, but apparently less support for protecting rights to food, let alone other basic economic and social rights. These things must go together.

Many thanks to Leigh Hildyard for sharing her insights about gender and food security in Malawi.

Naomi Hossain is a Research Fellow in the Participation, Power and Social Change research team at IDS.

Read other recent blog posts by Naomi Hossain:


Pay-as-you-go activism

09/12/2013

Joanna Wheeler and Thea Shahrokh Joanna_Wheeler200

During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, here’s a question for all of us who believe that activism is part of the solution to gender-based violence in all its forms: can you buy activism?Thea Shakrokh

This question came up in response to a discussion with a leading feminist activist in India who was sharing her sense of accomplishment in what the women’s movement has been able to achieve in the last year since the horrifying events of 16th December and their aftermath. The women’s movement has been able to secure some major changes to legislation on rape and harassment in India through leveraging the political will that they have been able to catalyse in part through sustained activism. Yet she was also very clear that for her and her organisation, activism and the commitment of people within the organisation to activism had to be kept very separate from program funding from international donors. In her view, using donor money for activism would be the best way to kill it.

picture of entrance sign for Saartjie Baartman Centre

The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children in Cape Town is a one-stop centre for women and children who are survivors of abuse

This got us thinking about what creates sustained personal and political commitment in relation to gender-based violence. Last week, in Cape Town, as part of the work on the Accountable Grant policy theme on addressing and mitigating violence, we spent time working with the Western Cape Women’s Network on Violence Against Women in order to better understand how the possibility to act against gender-based violence has been developed through a programme called Prevention in Action. The central goal of Prevention in Action is to increase the number of women and men acting against gender based violence through a networked approach to social mobilisation. The programme involved identifying and training ‘community engagers’ and ‘community influencers’ and working with them to establish activist groups. These roles were funded through the programme, so the question became: where ‘action’ is the desired outcome of an initiative and you fund it directly, can it be anything more than pay-as-you-go?

Activists for hire?
Tensions in this example are linked to the role of external agencies in implementing social change initiatives and the extent to which action is being driven by monetary incentive, or the results framework of an NGO, and what this means for the sustainability of political action. One of the NGO partners in this process likened the situation on the ground to the game of a ‘living statue’: A person dressed and painted silver only moves when someone drops them a coin. She asked us whether financial incentives can build the strategies necessary to challenge the deeply harmful norms and actions that perpetuate gender-based violence. This question is made more difficult in a context of extreme poverty where people are negotiating how they will feed and house themselves and their families on a daily basis.

Talking to those involved on the ground tells another part of this story. For them, the consequences of gender-based violence are very real: ‘It is our children being raped and we are the ones that have to face this. Yes, the programme opened up the opportunity, but when the programme ends, we will still be here and we will still have to face this’. The experiences of the women we met show how the lives of activists extend beyond, around, and through any programme, and it is their own journeys as people that drive and enable action around gender based violence. A grounded understanding of the lives of the people involved is necessary to respond to the tensions of paying for activism. As Beth Mills discussed last week, this is also critical in responding to the paradox of a gendered, contextualised understanding of agency and empowerment and current development discourse and practice.

Valentina Pellizzer is a feminist activist in Bosnia and Herzgovinia, who we have been working with over the past few years on questions of democracy and citizenship for LGBTQI communities in the Balkans through the Participate initative and work on visualising democracy with SDC. Valentina made another interesting point about pay-as-you-go activism: if people with whom you are working and trying to mobilise see that you are getting paid for what you do, it undermines your legitimacy. In the context of the Balkans, this is interpreted as a mercenary strategy to get something out of the system rather than a real commitment to the issues and the goals. At the same time, she has many stories of ‘professional’ activists also acting as informants for the government or other external authorities. The latest scandal implicates a well-known activist as an informant for a global security firm, and shakes the trust towards civil society in a region where it desperately needs to be renewed and regained.

So where does that leave us?
The development industry is starting to recognise the importance of activism especially for issues like gender-based violence. At the organisational, or ‘professional’ level this means constantly making choices around resources, where are they allocated, and to what issues. Do you work ‘within the system’ to achieve change, or remain an outside critic—and what does this choice mean for how you get funding? For programmes such as Prevention in Action, the predictable result of donor-led activism is a pay-as-you-go approach where £5 pounds buys you one ‘act’ against gender-based violence. But how much can the politics we really need to address the deep roots of misogyny and violence really be done with donor funding? Can the commitment to particular causes for activists, which are based on personal identity and an intent to claim more democratic citizenship be incentivised? What really sustains this commitment and what undermines it? There are no simple answers to these questions, but if we want to really get to the bottom of how to use activism to challenge gender-based violence, we need to think very carefully about where and how money comes into the picture. When it comes to activism: can you buy it, and can it be sold?

Joanna Wheeler is a research fellow and Thea Shahrokh is a Research Officer. They are both members of the Participation, Power and Social Change team at IDS.

Read other blog posts relating to the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence


Why does the world ignore violence against Arab women in public spaces?

03/12/2013

Mariz TadrosMariz_Tadros200

In an article in the Guardian newspaper this week I argue that the current campaign 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence overlooks the lax security that leaves Arab women at risk from militias and police unable to protect them. The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘let’s challenge militarism and end violence against women’. Yet neither the theme nor narratives come close to recognising the way in which the absence of human security and rule of law is creating a perfect environment for the perpetuation of violence against women in Arab countries that have experienced tumultuous change.

Read the full article on the Guardian Poverty Matters blog and visit the Interactions website for more background, news and research on gender-based violence. You can read more about the disconnect between the current international discourse on gender based violence and women’s realities on the ground in ‘Arab transition’ countries in the two articles on the OpenDemocracy website: Women’s human security rights in the Arab world: on nobody’s agenda and The invisible men with arms.

Mariz Tadros is a Research Fellow in the Participation, Power and Social Change research team at IDS.

Read other recent blogs by Mariz Tadros:


“AIDS has a women’s face”, or does it? Beyond the Gender and HIV Dyad

02/12/2013

Elizabeth MillsElizabethM125

This post was  published on the IDS Knowledge, Technology and Society blog on 29th November. 

With World AIDS Day being celebrated on 1st December, and as we move into 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, I am prompted again, to reflect on some of the important links between gender-based violence and HIV, and also some of the problematic assumptions that perpetuate uncritical thinking on the gender-HIV dyad.

A Discomfort with Development Categories
Meet Zama, a 33-year old South African woman and an old friend of mine; she has been an AIDS activist and professional HIV treatment literacy practitioner in South Africa since the height of AIDS denial in the early 2000s.  Zama lives in Khayelitsha, which means ‘new home’ in isiXhosa. Its name is rather cynical, given that in this area homes are rarely ever permanently sunk into the earth. Space matters here when the only source of water is a leaky tap, whose muddy veins run down unlit side alleys where women risk rape when they leave their homes at night, or when all adults and children risk electrocution (from illegal wires that wind through the sand) when walking to the single toilet that also serves their 500 – 1000 closest neighbours. Khayelitsha is also the space where women have stood with men, in conjunction with the Treatment Action Campaign and Médecins Sans Frontières, to call on the state to provide essential AIDS medicines; it is the place where these medicines were first made available through the MSF trial in 2001.

Like almost 33% of Khayelitsha’s residents, Zama is also HIV-positive; and like almost two million South Africans, she is on ARVs. She explains,

‘It’s like when the skies fight, when the clouds are angry and dark. They crash into each other and lightning flies across the sky. You never know where the lightning is going to hit. That’s what it’s like with HIV.’ (Zama, 2011).

In this conversation, Zama told me how she had initially found it difficult to negotiate safe sex, or sex at all, when she was a young woman. Zama had been wary of narrating this ‘illness history’ because it colluded with the ‘development category’ of the poor, black HIV-positive woman who was unable to actively navigate her own life. In fact, she eschewed labels like ‘HIV-positive woman’ and considered herself to have substantial personal power to negotiate her current sexual, socio-economic and political relationships.

Looking beyond Victimhood: Between Agency and Structure
While the presence of gender inequality, and its brutal manifestation as sexual violence in girls’ and women’s lives, is a strong feature of my work, I – like Zama – have been confronted by the explanatory limitations of epidemiological assertions that stipulated a correlation between gender inequality and higher rates of HIV infection among women compared to men. I do not dispute this correlation; my research has been informed by the multiple and intersecting inequalities that seemed to drive HIV, in epidemiological terms, into women’s lives and bodies. This was most striking when, in 2008, young women in South Africa were almost four times as likely to be HIV-positive compared to young men of the same age (20 – 24) (Johnson et al., 2013, Dorrington et al., 2006).  Overall prevalence in this age group has subsequently declined, but the characteristics of prevalence according to sex remained the same: young women are still more likely to be HIV-positive than men (UNAIDS, 2012).

Studies link these statistics to sexual violence. Articles with titles like ‘AIDS has a woman’s face‘ or ‘Troubling the angels‘ proliferated in research that explored this correlation.  Other research suggested that sexual violence and its relationship to HIV occurs against an inflected backdrop of pervasive and entangled inequalities in South Africa, where gender, sexuality, race and class powerfully intersect to reinforce poor Black women’s vulnerability (Dworkin et al., 2012, Jewkes and Morrell, 2012).

Although these studies give texture to the correlation between gender inequality and high rates of HIV incidence among women compared to men, they may also (unwittingly) support a paradigm that has fuelled development interventions to ‘empower’ women by foregrounding women’s relative lack of power compared to men. Ascribing HIV transmission, in epidemiological terms, to entrenched gender inequality does not, in itself, engage with the complex pathways that women navigate between desire and risk in their sexual relationships, and in extremely difficult socio-economic contexts.  In this respect, my research shows that women are subtly, and sometimes with great difficulty, negotiating their intimate relationships with men by forming separate households and by working and establishing their financial independence. This was not a straightforward matter of asserting agency or submitting to intersecting structures of inequality.

The Biopolitics of Violence: Bringing a Global Network of Actors into View
In my research on gender and HIV, and now as I convene the Sexuality, Poverty and Law Programme at the Institute of Development Studies, I suggest that we – researchers, policy makers, activists – need to be careful about situating vulnerability in individual bodies and relationships. I propose that we nuance our analyses to look at how people’s bodies and lives are located in a far more complex network of actors. I suggest, then, that the gender-HIV dyad is problematic not only because it positions women as passive victims of men who are, conversely, held to be active perpetrators (or even more unhelpfully, ‘vectors of transmission’). More fundamentally, it is problematic because these discourses direct our attention towards individuals or ‘cultures of inequality’ and away from the biopolitics of violence in which national, regional and global actors are implicated.

While we certainly need to address the manifestation of inequality in people’s lives, the bolts of lightening, we also need to explore the context – the skies that fight – in which women’s lives are located. This includes a recognition: of the subtle ways that women hold agency, albeit fraught and contested; that men are a part of the solution in working towards equality; and that national, regional and global actors need to be held to account for the ways they intimately affect our lives, from a distance, at the most molecular level.

Elizabeth Mills is a Research Fellow in the IDS Knowledge, Technology and Science research team. She works on health, citizenship and HIV/AIDS. 

Read other blogs from Elizabeth Mills: