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WGD Discussion Series

Thursday, Sept. 12

At 12:30 p.m. (ET). Via Zoom.

Sidra Khalid

Who is more water insecure? Gender-disaggregated evidence from urban Pakistan

Sidra Khalid is a National Researcher studying gender and social inclusion at the International Water Management Institute.

Bio: Sidra is an experienced international development practitioner and researcher in gender and social inclusion. Throughout her career, Sidra has led projects across diverse sectors, including WASH, reproductive health, livelihoods, and women’s empowerment, championing gender equity and social inclusion. She has worked with renowned organizations like CARE and Save the Children, leading and contributing to gender-transformative programming, including authoring a gender equality curriculum for young adolescents in Kyrgyzstan. She holds a master's degree in Development Practice (MDP) from Emory University and a bachelor's degree in Sociology from UC Berkeley. Sidra is currently based in Pakistan working as a gender and social inclusion researcher with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). Her research focuses on gendered and social vulnerabilities in the water sector, covering topics such as climate change, water management, health, food security, disaster reduction, energy poverty, and socio-political norms shaping decision-making and access to and use of water resources. In recognition of her professional achievements, Sidra was recently honored with Emory University’s 40 Under Forty alumni leadership recognition award.

Abstract: Gender and social dimensions of access to and use of water resources are often overlooked in policy and programming despite their importance in shaping water security. I will present findings from a study that examines factors affecting water security in urban Pakistan through a gender lens. We surveyed 560 men and women in two towns in Islamabad and Rawalpindi facing water and sanitation challenges. We analyzed the relationship between water security and multiple variables, including gender, education, age, employment status, payment for water, urban wealth quintile, drinking water source, individual water concern level, water satisfaction, and water quality perception. This study marks the first application of the Individual Water Insecurity Experiences (IWISE) Scale used in Pakistan’s urban context, with recommendations for its broader implementation to improve decision-making that can lead to sustainable water solutions across diverse gender and social groups. We emphasize the importance of considering gender in water resource management and advocate for the broader implementation of gender-sensitive approaches. By highlighting the social, economic, and structural factors influencing water insecurity, our study provides valuable insights for policymakers, practitioners, and researchers working towards sustainable water solutions. We stress the need of disaggregated data collection and intersectional approaches in addressing water challenges and the need to view water security as a social justice issue rather than only a technical or development issue.

Thursday, Oct. 17

At 12:30 p.m. (ET). Via Zoom.

Brenda Boonabaana

The local meanings of empowerment and lessons for gender-inclusive agri-food systems’ programming in Uganda

Brenda Boonabaana is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and the Environment at the University of Texas at Austin.

Bio: Boonabaana holds a PhD from the University of Otago in New Zealand.  Brenda’s research focuses on sustainable development and gender, specifically in the areas of agriculture, tourism, and women empowerment in Africa. She is a feminist geography scholar who pays attention to the importance of intersectionality, participatory qualitative methods, and gender justice. Sustainable food systems and environmental justice are core to Brenda’s work. She has published widely on gender, women empowerment, and development in Africa, as well as providing expertise to national (Uganda) and international agencies such as the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and Cornell University.

Abstract: Several agricultural interventions that aim to empower women smallholder farmers in Africa are often top-down and disconnected from the local experiences and expectations of empowerment. This makes it difficult for well-intentioned programs to achieve the desired empowerment outcomes for women. Paying attention to the local understanding of empowerment provides utility for understanding the different local meanings but also the underlying social drivers attached to those meanings. It also creates opportunities for community co-creation of more locally acceptable and sustainable empowerment solutions. My presentation focuses on the meanings of empowerment for rural women and men farmers in Uganda, key areas of rural women’s disempowerment, and implications for their meaningful participation in, and benefits from, agricultural opportunities.

Thursday, Nov. 14

At 12:30 p.m. (ET).
Hybrid: Goodall (Multipurpose) Room
and via Zoom

Kalpana Giri

Beyond the critiques and ambitions of equity mainstreaming in restoration practice: Lessons from the Global Restoration Initiative

Kalpana Giri is a Senior Manager in the World Resources Institute.

Bio: Kalpana Giri works to expand WRI's ambitions on social equity by research and equity-integrated programming.

Kalpana is a trained forester and has demonstrated experience in mainstreaming gender and social equity considerations in technical sectors programming with a focus on forestry, clean energy, REDD+, climate adaptation, FLEGT, and restoration topics. Prior to joining WRI, she worked with RECOFTC where she managed the direction and portfolio of equity integration. She designed and implemented a regional WAVES leadership program in partnership with sectoral ministries, private sector, women, and indigenous groups to promote transformative solutions for the environment and people across forestry and climate change policies and plans. She is a thought leader on topics of gender and social equity in forestry and climate change sector, and advises several international organizations such as IUFRO to strengthen their gender strategies and portfolio.

Kalpana holds a PhD in Forest Science from University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria. Her direct experience of working with diverse stakeholders, including marginalized actors have made herself more aware of the acute need and usefulness of plural knowledge systems held by marginalized actors in addressing major environmental issues.

Abstract: While the knowledge and the tension of integrating human dimensions is not new in natural resource management, the context in which land and natural resources decisions are now taken has become more nuanced and layered within the current context of globalization, migration, demographics, poverty, and lifestyle choices. Climate change demands a renewed urgency, and restoration movement shows a promise to deliver solutions across levels and scale. Yet, where do gender & social equity fit within these layers of urgency and solutions of restoration movement & climate change solutions. On one hand, higher ambitions are pledged for equality, both in terms of finance, and just transitions. On the other hand, conventional, business-as-usual approaches to gender and social mainstreaming persist, despite long-standing criticism for their failure to engender just transitions. The question then becomes if it is possible to move beyond the cycle of ambition and critiques, and if so, how to operationalize that through restoration practice. Drawing on insights from the Global Restoration Initiative led by World Resources Institute, I will shed more light on ways in which gender and social equity approaches are implemented in restoration practice and discuss its implications for navigating the complex interplay of restoration, climate change, and social justice through development practice.

Spring 2024 Past Speakers

April: Rebecca Williams

Women’s empowerMENt: How do large-scale development agencies approach men and masculinities in gender-based project programming and women’s empowerment initiatives?

Due to the work of many critical and feminist scholars and development practitioners, gender assessments and strategies have been mainstreamed into the work of large-scale development agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Gender as a concept within the development paradigm has shifted over time from a focus on integration of women into development projects (women in development, WID), to the examination of gender as a social construct that includes specific roles, norms, and responsibilities assigned to men and women (gender and development, GAD), and ultimately to empowerment approaches that emphasize the need for transformational change of the social and institutional structures that subordinate women. Contemporary discourses and critiques within the field of gender and development bring to the fore the importance of understanding how intersectionality and masculinity operate within these greater systems and structures. In this research project, I use critical feminism and document analysis to examine USAID's gender strategies across 60 nations and regions and how they approach gender and development in terms of men’s unique needs, men’s role in women’s empowerment, and the role of masculinities in men’s performance of gender. Preliminary results show that USAID's gender focus is almost entirely on women's needs with very little work being conducted on masculinity, particularly in terms of the way men identify themselves as "men" or "masculine" and how this influences initiatives targeted to women.

Rebecca Williams earned her PhD in Interdisciplinary Ecology, concentrating in Tropical Conservation and Development from the University of Florida and a graduate certificate in Gender and Development. She also holds a MS in Instructional Systems Design from Florida State University and has worked as an Environmental Educator Extensionist with the Peace Corps in Honduras in addition to carrying out grant-supported work in a range of other international locations in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. She holds a BS in Music Education from Stetson University.

Rebecca Williams

February: Carla Macal

Healing Cartographies: Body Mapping by Guatemalan Women Survivors of Genocide 

 In this discussion, I examine the embodied transformative memory of GuateMaya feminist groups in Guatemala and in Los Angeles. Through a decolonial feminist perspective and feminist ethnographic approach, I built intimate relationships with the grassroots groups. This presentation will explore the multidimensional ways the groups create a transformative memory opposing Guatemala and U.S. states of what can be remembered and what can’t. The groups are committed to what I call cartographies of healing, weaving memory, movement, and embodied testimonios across settler-colonial borders. The groups honor loved ones' memory by installing public altars, photos, art, and poetry. The presentation will delve into the concept of cartographies of healing and the ethnographic work I employed from 2019 to 2023. A particular method I used was body mapping to examine the embodied transformative memory of the groups and women who seek justice. Body mapping has been used with HIV-positive patients and migrant children. Latin American feminist decolonial geographers (Cabnal 2010; Zaragocin 2020, GeoBrujas 2021) are using the method of body mapping as a decolonial, counter-cartographic perspective that highlights Indigenous peoples’ lived experiences. I use the method to explore the relationships between the body, memory, and healing from intergenerational trauma. Informed by decolonial feminists, I aim to center the testimonios of GuateMaya feminist groups and be guided by a body-mind-spirit perspective to amplify the concerns, visions, and futures of GuateMaya groups across the hemisphere.

Carla Macal is a first-generation scholar. She earned her Ph.D. in Geography from the Department of Geography at the University of Oregon. Her dissertation, Cuerpo-Territorio: Embodied Transformative Memory and Cartographies of Healing among GuateMaya Feminist Groups, is informed by decolonial Indigenous epistemologies of the global majority. Her research interests consist of intersections between state violence and intergenerational healing. Carla holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Southern California and a B.A. in Sociology from the University of California, Irvine. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Pomona College in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies teaching Theories of the Body and Care Praxis as Transformative Justice. She is an interdisciplinary community scholar engaged with on-the-ground research and social justice work. Carla is also the creator of Ixoq Arte, an herbalist project preserving ancestral Indigenous knowledge.  

Carla Macal

March: Neeti Aryal Khanal

Intersections of Vulnerabilities: Multiple Marginalized Experiences of Women and Girls with Disabilities in Nepal

Nepal, known as one of the 48 Least Developed Countries in the world, is now on its preparatory five-year plan (2021-2024) to graduate toward being a developing country.  This possible graduation however is happening without much visible improvement in status of one of the most marginalized groups in Nepal: women and girls with disabilities. In the presentation, Dr. Neeti will discuss how the experience of women and girls with disabilities is shaped by the complex intersection of ableism and patriarchy. These intersections are further heightened by four barriers: social, physical, communication and institutional, and policy.  Further, these experiences are shaped by other aspects of social identities of women and girls with disabilities: caste/ethnicity, class, education, social capital, and place of residence. Nepal has ratified a number of conventions and treaties including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. However, women and girls with disabilities, despite being one of the most marginalized and excluded groups in Nepal, continue to remain invisible in state legislation, policy, and programs.

This presentation is based on Neeti Aryal Khanal’s two-decade-long research-based activism on various aspects of women and girls with disabilities in Nepal: gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, experience of motherhood, and institutional and policy barriers.

Neeti Aryal Khanal, assistant professor of sociology at Tribhuvan University Nepal, is a passionate educator, feminist researcher-activist. She started her educator’s journey from 1996 as kindergarten teacher. Her two-decade-long experience in higher education comprises a unique blend of activism, research, teaching, supervision, and curriculum development informed by higher education pedagogy. Her diverse research experience connects to the common theme of social justice and encompasses areas of gender and disability, gender and armed conflict, motherhood experiences, violence against women, marginalization and reproductive health. Her research on gender-based violence and reproductive health of women with disabilities have helped to inform advocacy for policy interventions in Nepal. 

Neeti Aryal Khanal

About the series

The Women and Gender in International Development Discussion Series is organized by the Center for International Research, Education, and Development (CIRED) and is an InclusiveVT initiative of Outreach and International Affairs (OIA).  Students, faculty, staff and members of the community are encouraged to attend the discussions and bring their ideas and questions. 

The WGD program has sponsored a monthly discussion series for over a decade. Thanks to the support of OIA, the program is able to bring international speakers as well as others from across the United States. We have also received support from the Women and Minority Artists and Scholars Lecture Series, the Women in Leadership and Philanthropy Endowed Lecture Fund, Women’s and Gender Studies, Women's Center, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Global Programs, the Department of Geography, the Department of History, the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Africana Studies and other programs and departments at Virginia Tech.

The series offers an opportunity for scholars and development practitioners to share their research and knowledge surrounding gender and international development with the Virginia Tech community and beyond.

Contact us

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Past events

Please visit our Past Events Archive for information on the previous Discussion Series and speakers.