Tinker, tailor or transform: gender equality amidst social-ecological change

Lawless, Sarah, Cohen, Philippa J., McDougall, Cynthia, Mangubhai, Sangeeta, Song, Andrew M., and Morrison, Tiffany H. (2022) Tinker, tailor or transform: gender equality amidst social-ecological change. Global Environmental Change, 72. 102434.

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Global visions of environmental change consider gender equality to be a foundation of sustainable social-ecological systems. Similarly, social-ecological systems frameworks position gender equality as both a precursor to, and a product of, system sustainability. Yet, the degree to which gender equality is being advanced through social-ecological systems change is uncertain. We use the case of small-scale fisheries in the Pacific Islands region to explore the proposition that different social-ecological narratives: (1) ecological, (2) social-ecological, and (3) social, shape the gender equality priorities, intentions and impacts of implementing organizations. We conducted interviews with regional and national fisheries experts (n = 71) and analyzed gender commitments made within policies (n = 29) that influence small-scale fisheries. To explore these data, we developed a 'Tinker-Tailor-Transform' gender assessment typology. We find that implementing organizations aligned with the social-ecological and social narratives considered social (i.e., human-centric) goals to be equally or more important than ecological (i.e., eco-centric) goals. Yet in action, gender equality was pursued instrumentally to achieve ecological goals and/or shallow project performance targets. These results highlight that although commitments to gender equality were common, when operationalized commitments become diluted and reoriented. Across all three narratives, organizations mostly 'Tinkered' with gender equality in impact, for example, including more women in spaces that otherwise tended to be dominated by men. Impacts predominately focused on the individual (i.e., changing women) rather than driving communal-to-societal level change. We discuss three interrelated opportunities for organizations in applying the 'Tinker-Tailor-Transform' assessment typology, including its utility to assist organizations to orient toward intrinsic goals; challenge or reconfigure system attributes that perpetuate gender inequalities; and consciously interrogate discursive positions and beliefs to unsettle habituated policies, initiatives and theories of change.

Item ID: 72263
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1872-9495
Keywords: Equity, Environmental governance, Pacific Islands, Small-scale fisheries, Sustainability
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Copyright Information: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Additional Information:

A version of this publication was included as Chapter 5 of the following PhD thesis: Lawless, Sarah M. (2021) Gender equality in Pacific small-scale fisheries governance: current progress and future prospects. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)
Projects and Grants: ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DE200100712), ACIAR FIS/2016/300
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2022 12:16
FoR Codes: 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4407 Policy and administration > 440704 Environment policy @ 50%
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4408 Political science > 440806 Gender and politics @ 50%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1899 Other environmental management > 189999 Other environmental management not elsewhere classified @ 50%
19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1902 Environmental policy, legislation and standards > 190299 Environmental policy, legislation and standards not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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