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Climate Adaptation and Changing Gender Relations

Male Migrants and Women Farmers in Gorakhpur

Research on gender and climate change mostly focuses on the negative impacts on women and children, where men are portrayed as somewhat irresponsible, migrating to the cities and leaving behind helpless women to face multiple adversities. Based on data from the peri-urban Gorakhpur city in Uttar Pradesh, a nuanced approach is argued for instead, distinguishing between adaptation strategies of the landed and landless households, investigating the compulsions and decision-making processes behind male migration, and the coping strategies of the women left behind. Male migration, coupled with the women farming and dealing with markets directly, has changed gender relations in the region. New forms of patriarchy and resistance to the same are emerging even as men face crises of masculinity.

Contemporary research and policies on gender and climate change adopt a narrow conceptualisation of gender that views women as “victims” of ecological crises (MacGregor 2010) and developmental processes. Women tend to be portrayed as vulnerable, weak, poor, and socially isolated, who “stoically carry the burden of survival as subsistence food producers, bearers of water and fuelwood, and guardians of household food security” (Rao et al 2017). The impression is also that this situation is further exacerbated by absentee men. Thus, men are the villains, being lazy and irresponsible, leaving agriculture in the villages for a better life in the cities, and unconcerned about their families and communities.

This is in stark contrast with reality as will be discussed in this paper. Certainly, the vulnerability of some women in some contexts may increase when the men are away. However, men rarely migrate without discussions and deliberations in the household and community. Migrating for survival due to climate and livelihood shocks, they often end up in urban slums, working hard in poor living and working conditions, developing a range of health problems that may, in fact, enhance male morbidity and mortality in the medium term (Mitra and Singh 2011; Mitra et al 2015). This can further enhance the care burden on women (Rao et al 2017).

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Updated On : 27th Apr, 2018

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