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Marginalization Focus of Conference on Urban Spaces and Gender

With the goal of exploring gender, marginalization and equity in urban spaces in the Asia-Pacific, an international conference on Urban Spaces and Gender was convened on November 1st, 2017.

The conference on urban spaces and gender includes the representation of more than 15 fields with the aim of building a body of knowledge on gender as impacted by urban processes. With an umbrella agenda of addressing the issues of marginalization and inequity in urban spaces, the focus areas would include inclusive cities, gender as influenced by marginalization, opportunities for skill building and capacitation in gendered formations, knowledge gaps in the gender discourse due to the ordering of urban spaces, and also advocacy and policy recommendations on issues arising from the discourse of gender in urban spaces.

The conference on urban spaces and gender was organized by Kumaon University, Nainital located in Uttarakhand, India and included the participation of academics and activists from across the international arena. The conference was scheduled for November 1st to 2nd, 2017 and was held at Jacaranda Hall in the India Habitat Centre in Lodi Road, New Delhi. The chief guest for the occasion was Professor V.K. Malhotra, currently the Member Secretary, Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), New Delhi and the erstwhile Head of the Department of Economics, CCS University, Meerut.

The opening session of the conference on urban spaces and gender was chaired by Professor D.K. Nauriyal – Vice Chancellor, Kumaon University, Nainital and the keynote speaker was Professor R.B. Singh – Vice President, International Geographical Union (IGU) and Professor of Geography, Delhi School of Economics (DSE), Delhi University. The keynote address by professor R.B. Singh engaged in an empirical examination of gender in urban spaces in the context of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Singh touched upon the issue of gender equality as Goal 5 among the United Nation’s (UN’s) Sustainable Development Goals. He also acknowledged that the subject of gender also includes social and cultural themes as based on sustainability measures by Human Development indicators such as literacy and mortality rates. A principal focus in this aspect for Singh was healthcare as a problem in the gender discourse, especially in the case of female ragpickers.

As a geographer, Singh also placed a focus on the spatial aspects of gender as defined by urban spaces, as based on various alignments of coherence such as sectoral coherence based on production processes, governance coherence, multilateral coherence, implementation coherence, etc. Singh commented upon how a huge transformation had been brought about to the traditional discourse in gender with urbanization and the corresponding processes of modernization. Also public space in the gender discourse also tends to interlope with private space, which can have detrimental effects on women’s welfare in urban areas such as streets, toilets, public transport, parks, markets and slums.

The chief guest Professor V.K. Malhotra touched upon India’s low rank in the international Gender Inequality Index (GII) prepared by the UN (131st rank in 2016). He also talked about the great amount of insecurity for women in India in urban spaces. He also commented upon how the commodification of women is another problem that can be encountered by women in urban spaces followed by general comments on the inequity faced by women in India. He is quoted as saying, “Empowerment is not about making women stronger. They already are. It is about changing perceptions of their strength”. The conference on urban spaces and gender was sponsored by ICSSR as among the funding bodies affiliated to Kumaon University’s programme.

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