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Building better communities : gender roles, resources and gendered processes of urban regeneration in Cayo Hueso, Havana, Cuba Fernandez, Ariadna Dawn

Abstract

It has long been recognized that in many Latin American countries women and men play varied and different roles in urban-based community work. However, mainstream literature on urban regeneration initiatives rarely incorporate such gender analysis. The case of Cayo Hueso and its local planning body the Taller de Transformation is illustrative of the ways in which women (and men) mobilize resources and fellow residents to address the serious resource scarcities. The objectives of my research were to review the structure and operations of the Taller de Transformation and to study the role of women in the community and within the Taller. I sought to examine the local and national conditions that influence past and current urban development and regeneration initiatives in Cuba in general and in Cayo Hueso in particular. I also examined the key planning tools, processes and outcomes of urban regeneration initiatives used by the Taller in Cayo Hueso. I analyzed the gender dimension of urban regeneration initiatives, particularly how gender roles, identities and social networks have shaped the processes and outcomes of urban regeneration in fast changing communities like Cayo Hueso To conduct this investigation I used a combination of secondary and primary data gathering methods, including a review of the literature on urban regeneration and on women's mobilization. I reviewed secondary documents on urban and participatory policies and processes in Cuban history in general and Cayo Hueso in particular. A quantitative analysis of a survey conducted in Cayo Hueso in 1999 was also utilized. Primary qualitative information was also gathered through semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions. This case study supports the assertion that women play a crucial role in social reproduction and change. I found that gender roles, identities and social networks of women do shape the principles, mechanisms, strategies and processes of urban regeneration. The fact that women identified themselves as the "mothers" of the community means that the strategies and mechanisms adopted by them in regeneration initiatives reflect this role. These traditional roles and identities do not impair the regeneration process; they actually help to bring about desired and beneficial outcomes for the local community. Therefore, a serious consideration of gender roles, gendered use of resources and social networks make it possible to improve the design and implementation of sustainable plans and models for regeneration.

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