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Sustainable development and women's leadership: A participatory exploration of capabilities in Colombian Caribbean fisher communities

Barrios, Lina M and Prowse, Alicia and Vargas, Valeria Ruiz (2020) Sustainable development and women's leadership: A participatory exploration of capabilities in Colombian Caribbean fisher communities. Journal of Cleaner Production. p. 121277. ISSN 0959-6526

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Abstract

In coastal regions that traditionally depend on ecosystem services, sustainable development is of paramount importance. Within Colombia, a strong national policy focus on using natural resources and on UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has driven development, moving the country from the bottom to the top of the Official Development Assistance (ODA) list. However, problems with gender inequality, marginalisation and other social aspects exist here, as in similar countries with good economic indicators. Using participatory research methods, and a six-day long residency (24 women leaders in Dique Channel, Colombia) we analysed elements of women’s leadership, selected by local female community leaders, which could facilitate pathways to sustainable livelihoods in marginalised Colombian Caribbean fishing communities. Women leaders explored what sustainable development and leadership meant to them, linking these two concepts explicitly to their feelings of empowerment. They felt empowered by their capabilities around education, leadership, service, value and action and disempowered by gender inequality, level of access to education and difficult family situations. Reciprocal positive feedback loops existed between women’s perceived leadership capabilities, and education or development of networks. However, despite the empowerment derived from natural resources, their leadership for sustainable development and service-orientation, women leaders struggled to identify tangible benefits for their community. Therefore, enabling women leaders to foresee possible solutions beyond the short term is an important point for development. In addition, male leaders recognised the potential of women leaders. Enlisting their support is essential for development of women leaders as a group. These elements will need to be further explored with the community, to identify pathways for future community wellbeing.

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