Environment & Diversity Blog

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Diversity and Inclusion

The story goes a couple of years back, while I was doing my dissertation on “Formulating interlinkages between population, water resources and quality of life of women in the villages of India”. As a part of the project I had an opportunity to talk to the local people (women in particular), with the goal of understanding how far a policy intervention involves/or does not involve their participation and how it affects their quality of life.

During the study, interestingly I experienced first hand the politics of resources and environment, how certain aspects of planning happened and how it ought to happen. How the presence of a set of players overshadows the presence of the other essential part, discounting the very concept of inclusion and diversity. This discounting was apparent with the role of women being overlooked in the decision making of water resource management. Inspite of women being the managers of water from its procurement to storage and allocation, the policy planning went behind trying to make water more “efficient” to manage, discounting the inclusion of these stakeholders in the decision-making. There was a significant relationship between the nature of intervention and the impact it had on the quality of life of women; such as getting the source of the water closer to home did not necessarily solve the problem of drudgery of walking to the source but rather increased the drudgery of carrying more water home and the amount of time they ended up waiting in queue to fill their pitchers. This is just one such example of policy intervention, which overlooked the need for women to be the part of the process of decision-making, as against negating their passive presence for fetching, delivering and allocating water.

This experience intrigued me to question the aspects of policy intervention that may neglect to include the diverse stakeholders (such as women) into planning leading such interventions to become fundamentally flawed. The significance of diversity and inclusion lies in engaging the often-underrepresented effected communities, and their specific issues, which might go unnoticed in the umbrella view of the mega projects. In this sense environmental concerns become a part of larger social and political challenges that call for a need to think, collaborate and integrate diversity within the larger context of planning, to sensitize one to environmental challenges, and at the same time extend the vision of policies to include marginalized groups.

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