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Conference on Women and Sustainable Development Draws Participants from Across the Globe

Ithaca, NEW YORK, April 30
On March 30, women activists and scholars from around the world converged on Myron Taylor Hall for "Women, Sustainable Development, and Food Security/Sovereignty," presented by the Dorothea S. Clarke Program in Feminist Jurisprudence. Hailing from Nepal, Bangladesh, the north and south Mediterranean, and Latin America, as well as from Native American peoples, indigenous tribes of the circumpolar regions, and the local food movement, participants shared observations from their involvement in a wide array of regional sustainability projects.


 

The conference began on a note of self-examination, with speaker Shelley Feldman, Professor of Development Sociology and Director of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Cornell, probing the assumptions that undergird such terms as “development” and “sustainability.”

The day’s first panel then plunged into the field, more specifically into fields, where women work 18 hours a day to feed their families. Manohara Khadka of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Kathmandu discussed the engagement of women in soil management programs amidst the remote and fragile mountain landscapes of Nepal. Karim-Aly Kassam, Professor of Environmental and Indigenous Studies and Associate Professor of Natural Resources and the American Indian Program at Cornell, examined the interchange of gender inequality and chronic socio-cultural and ecological stress among the Dené women of Alberta, Canada, and the Pamiri women of Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

The weekend’s diverse presentations and conversations addressed efforts both urban and rural, and approaches both legal and cultural — from an initiative to involve women in food production among pastoralists in Kenya, to a project in India that helps poor rural women produce and market recycled paper products, to a program to teach Greek children traditional songs about the preciousness of water.

“Over the course of four days, participants also formed personal ties,” says conference organizer Cynthia Grant Bowman, Dorothea S. Clarke Professor of Law. “At a farewell breakfast, we discussed ways in which interactions might continue — for example, via a listserv; development of a website; distribution of information about innovative programs, research, and sources of support; establishment of a think tank; and the possibility of meeting again in a few years.”

--Owen Lubozynski