June 2017 – Workshop “Securing Housing and the Governing of Uncertainty” Centre for Urban Studies, University of Amsterdam

Early this year I was invited by Dr. Frank Müller to co-organize and participate in a workshop on security and housing in June at the Center for Urban Studies at the University of Amsterdam.

The workshop set out to explore how uncertainty affects security practices in urban populations in Latin America and Europe in a comparative perspective. A central issue of the workshop was how uncertainty influenced the livelihood, particularly the house or home as a place where residents protect and want to establish as a safe place.

Frank Müller (University of Amsterdam or UvA), Austin Zeiderman (LSE), Christien Klaufus (CEDLA/UvA), Ana Ivasiuc (Justus-Liebig-University at Giessen) and me working on this topic in different cities in Latin America, Europe, as well as Lior Volinz (UvA) whose research focused on Israel.

Here is a summary of the workshop on June 29, 2017 and the participants.

I had arrived at the Center for Urban Studies at UvAmsterdam as a visiting scholar two weeks before to work on the organization of the workshop with Frank and prepare my own presentation based partly on my research of women and the city in Medellín. I was given office space at the Center of Urban Studies, UvA where I met an amazing group of scholars -Rivke Jaffe, Fenne Pinkster, Erella Grassiani, Francesca Pilo’, Patrick Weir.


In this shared office, I worked on my presentation “Right to a Safe City: Urban Planning and Gender in Medellín, Colombia”. For the presentation, I used the data I had collected in April and May, which was mostly documents on gender and urban planning in Medellin and interviews with women’s organizations and the Secretary for Women. My presentation focused on how the women’s organizations and movements in Medellin have tried to influence urban planning spatial polices -known as Plan de Ordenamiento Territorial– in order to make a safer city for women. Their claim is that women and men experience security differently in the city. Women tend to be exposed to violence and insecurity in the city. Women’s movements and grassroots organizations, which are organized under LA MESA DE TRABAJO DE MUJER DE MEDELLIN, did their own studies demonstrating to Medellin’s Planning Department that certain urban spatial planning policies and practices increased insecurity and even violence for women.

So happy to have co-organized and participated in this workshop which brought many great scholars together to exchange ideas. The plan now is to publish a Special Issue soon. Will keep you posted on that.  🙂



Fieldwork ->Doors are opening

It’s been a little over a week since my last blog (and first) entry. I mentioned my frustration at the housing institution, feeling a bit lost there, and having to write a letter so I can meet someone at the housing institution. I’m still waiting for an answer…but I haven’t stopped fieldwork.

The past week I went to the Secretary for Women and was able to speak to someone there who opened the doors. I found out about the history of the Secretary for Women which is fascinating -it is product of women’s movements from Medellin. I also learned about the different programs that aim to improve women’s rights and protection in the city.

I also went to women’s organizations in the city. There are many women organizations and movements in Medellín, but the three I went to this week were part of the women’s movements in the late 1990s which led to the emergence of the Secretary for Women at the turn of the 21st century.

The week hasn’t finished and I’m still exploring field, visiting different women’s organizations, finding out about women’s movements in the city, and speaking to civil servants involved in programs aimed at improving women’s life in Medellín.



Starting fieldwork

After months of bureaucracy, signing documents here and there, I can say that I have officially started my research project on Gender and the City. The name of this research is “Towards an inclusive city: the gender perspective in territorial ordering in Medellin, Colombia” and like all research I have some questions.

Gender has been making headlines here in Medellín. Various women organizations made claims that territorial ordering policies -known as Ordenamiento Territorial, which is one of the main instruments of urban planning in Colombia, was gender blind.  The absence of gender in urban planning polices is one of the main reasons why women have little access to urban infrastructure and why they live mainly in inequality. The local government claimed it was not gender blind, that it has been incorporating it in its urban planning policies for some years now.

Well, I want to check this out. What the local government in Medellin understands as gender in urban planning and if it has an impact. I also want to check what the women organizations are doing? How do they promoting gender in urban planning?

I know these questions cover a lot of areas of urban planning. Central to various women’s organizations claims is the issue of insecurity and violence (in public and private sphere). So I got my list of state institutions and women organizations I want to visit to start fieldwork.

I decided to start with the housing institution. I confess I felt a bit lost. I’m not from Medellin (or Colombia for that matter). I know what I want, but who do I speak to for the information I need? I went, inquired and was asked to write a letter. I’ll get a reply in 15 days telling me about the information I need. I left thinking, ‘There must be another way to get access, to meet someone’. And that’s where I’m at right now…thinking, ‘how do I enter the field?’. I’ve been in similar situations before…I’m sure there is another way in and well it’s just the first day of fieldwork.