Women and Property in Urban India
Half the world's population now lives in cities. Although sheltering the urban poor is a priority for governments, NGOs, and international development agencies, few studies or initiatives focus on women's needs.
In Women and Property in Urban India, Bipasha Baruah draws on research conducted in Ahmedabad in collaboration with the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) to map the constraints and opportunities that low-income women throughout the Global South face in securing property, which remains overwhelmingly in male hands. These women's experiences and vulnerabilities open a window to assess not only the patriarchal underpinnings of land tenure and property laws but also theoretical approaches to gender and development. Although the development community holds out microcredit financing as a potential solution to address gender inequalities as well as the housing needs of low-income families, Baruah cautions that it has glaring limitations when applied to women.
Whereas most books on gender and development focus on issues such as barriers to women's equal access to wages, education, and political participation, this book highlights the importance of property as a material and symbolic asset in women's empowerment.
The Millennium Development Goals, a global social contract of sorts, have drawn attention to the stark reality of urban poverty across the world. While policy makers tackle issues of poverty, lack of services and infrastructure, violence, and marginality, almost none broach the issue of women’s experiences in the city. Baruah’s important book addresses this gap by providing a tangible outline of women’s struggles to gain access to urban property, build assets, and thus to negotiate empowerment.
Women and Property in Urban India addresses some topics of critical contemporary importance, such as: How are innovative solutions by feminist NGOs rendered difficult in practice? What are the constraints and possibilities of NGO governance? Baruah’s work offers provocative and complicated insights into these areas and helps delineate the ways in which we think about feminist coalition, North-South relations, modes of activism.
1 Minding the Gap: Gender and Property Ownership
2 Locating Gender and Property in Development Discourse
3 Place Matters: Orientation to Research Location and Context
4 Complicated Lives: Urban Women and Multiple Vulnerabilities
5 Gendered Realities: Property Ownership and Tenancy Relationships
6 Women and Housing Microfinance
7 Partnership Projects for Urban Basic Services
8 Conclusions: Seeing the Forest and the Trees
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