The everyday lives of women in informal settlements in Ethiopia and Mozambique are the focus of the research project "Strengthening Research and Educational Competences of HEIs for Gender sensitive Urban (InfoRmal Settlement) Transformation" (GIRT). Using transdisciplinary methods, a participatory process is to be developed with local stakeholders in four selected cities to improve the living conditions of women. At the same time, the project will address how transformative, knowledge-led cooperation between societies and science is possible in the context of the Global South.

Life in informal settlements is characterized by cramped living conditions, a lack of infrastructure such as basic sanitation with drinking water, toilets and washrooms, as well as unsecured tenancy or tenure. Nevertheless, a considerable number of people in the lower income brackets have to live in these settlements, which is particularly challenging for women and children. Women are primarily responsible for domestic and family work and often lack unhindered access to employment opportunities. Women's scope for action is often limited at a family, societal and political level.

The GIRT project builds on knowledge about informal settlements that the project members have gained in previous joint research projects. Together, the aim is to identify areas and approaches that can lead to an improvement in the living conditions of women in the informal settlements studied.

Transdisciplinarity in the global South

In the course of the project, it became clear that transdisciplinary research has so far mainly been tested in the context of societal challenges in Western industrialized nations. For this reason, GIRT must first work out how transdisciplinarity can function under the completely different framework conditions that exist in many countries of the Global South. "There are no patent solutions. We have to design transdisciplinary research for the respective African reality," emphasizes project leader Tania Berger.

The team leaders of the four partner universities from Ethiopia and Mozambique met in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in March 2024 at the halfway point of the GIRT project. Coordinated by the University of Krems, they developed strategies to initiate transdisciplinary processes with local actors in selected informal settlements in the four project regions of Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar and Mekelle, Ethiopia, and Nampula, Mozambique. The framework conditions in the participating partner regions are also very different, especially as some of them were or are still in the grip of civil war.

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