Women’s Access to Public Space for their Livelihoods: India, Thailand and the Philippines in Comparative Perspective

This presentation will undertake a high-level comparative analysis of the cultural and legal issues surrounding women’s access to urban public space in South versus Southeast Asia. Specifically, reference will be made to the cases of India, Thailand, and the Philippines, which bring diverse legal traditions and cultural issues to the fore. India has a federal legal framework with a modified Westminster tradition. The Philippines absorbs American, Spanish and local influences and Thailand combines civil law with a tradition of authoritarian rule in the context of ostensibly being a constitutional democracy. The patterns with respect to women’s access to public space for various purposes – specifically as street vendors – are interesting to compare in all three countries. Whereas Southeast Asian women, particularly in Thailand and the Philippines have “culturally sanctioned” access to public space as both micro entrepreneurs and consumers, Indian women, especially in the north compared to the south, traditionally do not which has led to a different path toward access to public space for their livelihoods.

Dr. Gisèle Yasmeen is the incoming Director of Social Protection for WIEGO and a Senior Fellow at UBC’s Institute of Asia Research. She has served as Vice-President of Partnerships and Research of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) from 2007-14 and consulted for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, among others. She has also been a member of an International Scientific Advisory Board for the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, sat on the Board of the Foundation for International Training and is currently on the Board of the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective. Gisèle did her PhD at the University of British Columbia on street food vendors in Bangkok and subsequent, comparative, post-doctoral work on India and the Philippines. She also has an MA from McGill University and a BA Honours from the University of Ottawa.