Green Belt Movement of Kenya : a gender analysis
Master of Arts
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The Green Belt Movement of Kenya is an environmental conservation movement that began in 1977 as a project of women planting trees. It has since grown into a popular movement in Kenya expanding its goals of environmental rehabilitation to include broader socio-political issues in the Kenyan context. To date the GBM has been the subject of studies, which have analysed various phases of its development. However, these studies have paid limited attention to the gendered aspects of the movement, despite the GBMs central focus on the mobilization of women. It Is the gendered nature of the movement that this study has sought to explore in more depth. This is a qualitative case study, which relies on documentary analysis of primary and secondary sources of information on the GBM. Ecofeminist and WED perspectives drawn from feminist theorizing and research which show the links between gender and the environment are used to explore how gender issues have influenced the evolution of the GBM. In particular, the social constructionist insights on the relationship between women and the environment highlighted by these theories are used to emphasize the broader context that has shaped women's engagement in environmental issues. The themes explored include how gender roles and gendered social organizations have influenced the structure of the GBM, as well as rights to resource access and management and gender politics in a broader Kenyan context. The study concludes that women's involvement in the GBM is rooted in a complex ideological and material reality, which underlies existing social, economic and political structures in Kenya. I argue that women's initiatives within the GBM are related to both livelihood strategies, and to gender inequality and social justice issues in Kenya. Thus attention to gender is critical for any analysis of the GBM as a social, political and environmental movement.