Calibrating urban liveability in the Global South: gendered perspectives on climate, health, governance and policy

Dr Surabhi Mehrotra, Dr Divya Subramanian, and Dr Sneha Krishnan

Funding period: 1 October 2023 – 1 August 2024
Type of funding: Seminar Series

Host institutions: Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology (MANIT), Bhopal, India.
Dates: November 2023 (webinar and virtual workshop), March 2024 (symposium and learning lab at MANIT Bhopal, India), and June 2024 (plenary virtual seminar and workshop).
Lead organisers: Dr Surabhi Mehrotra (Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology), Dr Divya Subramanian, and Dr Sneha Krishnan (OP Jindal Global University).
Contact: Dr Surabhi Mehrotra

Abstract: Urban liveability as an ensemble concept evaluates multiple facets that make up city life and improve the overall quality of life. The present living conditions, accessibility to essential amenities, scope of opportunity, physical and social well-being, environmental justice, sense of safety, etc. constitute urban liveability as experienced. The urban studies discourse has largely responded to the concept of ‘urban liveability’ through indexing systems considering generic parameters for the general population. They seldom factor in the inherent prejudice faced by the minority groups impacting their experienced liveability. Complex urban ecosystems in emerging nations host demographic heterogeneity and multiplicity. Several cohorts seldom find representation and consideration in the decision-making process in urban planning, policy, and governance. Gender disparity stemming from deep-rooted implicit biases, cultural stereotypes, and sexist social norms has marginalized women in the urban space, where they experience a disparate quality of life. Urban systems in the global south largely focus on top-down siloed approaches, greatly influenced by western precedents, with limited opportunities for shared learning and knowledge generation from the local context, populace, and complexities.

The disproportionate burden of such lopsided urban systems is largely felt by the marginalized, including women. Women are more vulnerable to the detrimental effects of climate change, natural hazards, environmental pollution, rapid urbanization, political apathy, resource inaccessibility, and food insecurity, among others. However, they rarely find representation in the policy formulations and decision-making processes. In India, women increasingly face discrimination in employment, safety and public space, health provision, access to education, transport, etc. and rank lowly on major parameters of gender centric liveability indices. A gendered lens is proposed to assess urban liveability by addressing policy, public health, climate resilience, governance and environmental aspects. The overarching goal of this project is to provide an interdisciplinary research platform for planners, academics, practitioners, key stakeholders, and activists to contribute valuable narratives, research, case studies, and artworks, among other formats. This series attempts to provide a representation of gender-centric discourse informed by the on-the-ground experiences of women, along with domain experts and researchers. We propose a three-part seminar series entailing two virtual events and an in-person symposium. Every event would have a workshop component.