Gender, Power and Women’s Participation in Community Environmental Education
The gendered experiences of women in community environment education (CEE) are often relegated to the margins of environmental Education research discourse. This study disrupts the linearity of the relationship between women’s physical presence in work settings and their participation in these spaces. Specifically, this work addresses the question: What constrains women’s participation in the activities of one Zimbabwean community environmental education organisation (CEEO)? This qualitative study was underpinned by a critical philosophical paradigm with ecofeminism as the overarching theoretical framework. Data were generated using document analysis of teaching materials, individual interviews, focus group discussions and participant observation. Twenty-six women aged between 38 and 62 years, who frequently attended the CEE programme, were recruited through purposive and snowball sampling techniques, to participate in this study. Findings suggest that there is widespread devaluing of women’s contributions during meetings of the CEEO by other stakeholders and, ultimately, by women themselves. This results in the silencing of women and endorses their positioning as passive agents. Gendered teaching materials ameliorate women’s mutism and their confinement to tasks which do not require technical expertise. The findings of this research have implications for enabling CEEOs to reflect deeply on their organisational structures, methods and materials, in order to address women’s constraints in CEE activities. This could recast women as active agents in CEEOs.
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