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Women as Natural Environmental Carers: Earth Mother Myths and Other Ecofeminist Fables or How a Strategic Notion Rose and Fell

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M. Leach
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The notion that women are closer to nature, naturally caring for land, water, forests and other aspects of the environment, has held powerful sway in certain development circles since the 1980s. This has led to problematic programmes which gave women responsibility to protect the environment without resources or power to do so. Since the 1990s such ?ecofeminist? fables and their effects have been thoroughly critiqued by feminist scholars and activists. A review of current donor, NGO and other policy documents shows that these myths are far less prominent than a decade ago. This is not because they were successfully critiqued, but rather because the flawed arguments served a time bound purpose which diminished as broader environment and development concerns have altered. Older concerns with women and environment have now been recast in terms of property rights, resource access and control. While welcome in some respects, there is a danger that the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater. Gender-blind environment and development work seems on the rise, and a more politicised gender relations perspective on the environment remains rare in policy in practice.

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