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Exploring gendered (in)securities of environmentally displaced migrants: a case study from Dhaka, Bangladesh
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 16:22 authored by Sufia Khanom
This thesis provides an understanding of the everyday, gendered experiences of human security from the perspective of environmentally-displaced migrants. This community perspective contrasts with much of the research on security and environment-related migration, which tends to focus on geopolitical and national security considerations and the drivers of migration rather than the experience of migrants themselves as they negotiate opportunities to secure a livelihood, home and community in their new destination. The study provides a critical, qualitative and in-depth exploration of the gendered nature of insecurity from the diverse perspectives of migrants themselves who are living in one of Dhaka's informal settlements, known as Bhola. The name of the settlement comes from Bhola Island, where many people have emigrated following repeated exposure to disasters and shocks, beginning with a severe famine in 1971. The study identifies three key factors influencing people’s experience of (in)security: the extent to which they experience freedom from exclusion, freedom from fear and freedom from indignity. The research findings show that established migrants, those who have lived in Bhola settlement for more than five years, tend to have more freedom to negotiate their inclusion in socio-political relations than recent migrants. Strong and inclusive social networks generate more livelihood options and resources to support their freedom. Yet, established migrants reported a greater level of fear concerning the threats of eviction, discrimination and police harassment than people who recently settled in Bhola. The study also reveals the highly gendered nature of (in)security, identifying the particular ways women feel more insecure than men, concluding that specific social practices, economic processes and power relations associated with both formal and informal institutions directly contribute to the uneven nature of (in)security. Gender roles and responsibilities were, however, found to be more flexible among recent migrants than established migrants, allowing women to attain greater freedom of movement, financial autonomy, decision-making authority and dignity. The thesis argues that to realise improved security for people who have been displaced by environmental (and other) factors, policy makers should not only focus on the material conditions of deprivation that shape their experience of (in)security but also consider non-material aspects such as inclusion, safety and dignity. As well as building people’s adaptive capacity, policy makers and other actors should also support people’s freedom as a pathway for development. It is only through realising and expanding people’s freedom from exclusion, fear and indignity that justice can be ensured for environmentally-displaced migrants.