Cover of Bina Agarwal: Gender Challenges

Bina Agarwal Gender Challenges

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An internationally acclaimed economist, Bina Agarwal is known for her path-breaking writings on agriculture, property rights, and the environment. Her three-volume compendium brings together a selection of her essays, written over three decades. Combining diverse disciplines, methodologies, and cross-country comparisons, the essays challenge standard economic analyses and assumptions from a gender perspective. They provide original insights on a wide range of theoretical, empirical, and policy issues of continuing importance in contemporary debates. The first volume spans varied dimensions of the author's writings on agrarian change, from 1981 to the present. It identifies gender inequalities in the impact of agricultural modernisation and technical change across Asia and Africa; the links between women, poverty, and economic growth processes; and data biases in measuring women's work. It traces the gendered costs of droughts and famine, and challenges top-down methods of innovation diffusion. Focusing on the key role of women farmers in food security, it also offers innovative solutions, including public land banks and group farming. The second volume focuses on the author's paradigm-shifting work on women's property status in South Asia. Challenging conventional approaches to women's empowerment, it demonstrates how promoting access to property, especially land, is key to enhancing women's economic and social well-being and deterring domestic violence. It details gender inequalities in inheritance laws, public policies, and land struggles, and presents the bargaining framework for understanding and finding ways of overcoming these inequalities, both within families and in markets, communities, and vis-vis the state. This third volume traces the relationship between gender and environmental change. Critiquing ecofeminist assumptions, it presents an alternative theoretical framework. It also examines the causes of women's absence as well as the impact of their presence in environmental collective action. Based on innovative fieldwork on community institutions for forest governance, the author demonstrates how a critical mass of women can significantly improve conservation outcomes. In conclusion, she reflects on which features of feminist scholarship make for an effective challenge to mainstream economics.

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