Genders and generations in urban shantytown development

Genders and generations in urban shantytown development

Two genders, two generations and three processes in an urban shantytown development, in Peru

This study deals with two genders, two generations, and three processes over time. It is set in urban Peru, on the outskirts of the capital Lima, and one of the processes concerns the settlement and consolidation of a shanty community. The second process concerns household life cycles, described from the very different points of view of husbands and wives and their adolescent children. On a third level are the macro processes that affected the community from 1970 to the present, particularly the severe economic crisis of the 80's.

The information on the households was collected through personal interviews and family round-tables in 1978 and 1992, and information on the community, its organizations, social networks, services, and interventions through several small-scale development projects was collected through observations, participation, and interviews with key actors.

The research traces what turned out to be, in most though not all the households, a gradual process of displacement of dominant male household heads by wives who grew stronger and more competent over the years and whose ability to adapt to stressful circumstances proved extraordinary.

Most, as young women, were migrants from the Andes, poorly educated, who began raising families under conditions that rarely permitted work away from home. The crisis of the 80's, the men's loss of formal sector jobs, and their disengagement with community service were the principal forces causing radical changes in gender roles and self-perceptions.

Women consolidated their position as heads of domestic domains containing several children and female relatives, and they became central to community development initiatives. The families, however, have not provided equal opportunities to their daughters and sons, thus leaving in doubt the transference of capacities and empowered identities from mothers to daughters.

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