Accepted Paper:

Women and the Urban Sanitation challenge: A technofeminist approach towards urban infrastructure planning in cities of East Africa  

Author:

Anshika Suri (Technical University of Darmstadt)

Paper short abstract:

Sanitation infrastructure is often determined by engineering, environmental and public health concerns that are often far removed from women’s needs. Hence a technofeminist perspective within urban infrastructure planning can be used to understand technologies as immersed in systems of power.

Paper long abstract:

Sanitation infrastructure is often determined by engineering, environmental and public health concerns that are often far removed from women's needs, their socio-cultural practices and existing gender constructs. In addition, the failure to involve women in the design of infrastructure facilities results in inappropriate standards and technological artefacts.

While extensive research exists on gender and sanitation focused on hygiene and health, it fails to capture the magnitude and scope of gender-based disparities, how women's human rights fit into different development strategies and an inherent lack of gender equality in accessibility of sanitary infrastructure. Previous feminist scholarship in science and technology studies has theorized the relationship between gender and technology as mutually shaping technological innovations through the social circumstances within which it takes place. Hence, a technofeminist perspective within urban infrastructure planning can strengthen investigation into access to sanitation provision as not just a technological problem but as technologies immersed in systems of power.

In this paper, I aim to investigate the inclusion of public infrastructure under the taxonomy of systems of oppression of women through the perspective of urban and infrastructural development issues in the Global South. By using data collected through qualitative semi-structured interviews conducted in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi with female residents of informal settlements, city planners and governmental actors, I highlight how urban and infrastructural planning processes lack the inclusion of a technofeminist perspective. Preliminary conclusions reveal that inadequate access to sanitation infrastructure may be propelling fear of violence which is further accentuated through the planner/user divide.

Panel T051
Feminist Postcolonial STS