Is Gender a blind spot for Social Capital?

Today is International Women’s Day #IWD2019. All around the world celebrations and protests are going hand in hand to acknowledge both how far the women of the world have pushed us, and also as a reminder of the work that must still be done.

One area that still needs work is in how we understand and use social capital. Social capital is typically described as the networks and connections through which we get things done in society. In its simplest form, it is a measure of how much power and influence you have depending on who you know, and who trusts you. In my opinion, a lack of an explicit gender analysis of social capital flattens the landscape and hides the likelihood that gender inequality impacts how much social capital women have, and how much leverage they can generate using their social capital.

My opinion above is one of the reasons I am really excited about the work of The Hoyo Collective. The collective is a group of 16 Somali mothers and grandmothers who’ve been meeting every Saturday for the last year to train with police, lawyers and others in criminal legal defence, local policing culture, restorative justice programs, health care and the school system. Their mission is focused on health, community, education, and strengthening the social supports and resources for Somali women and children. They are doing this by providing support, feedback, and solution-based recommendations to organizations and governmental bodies with effective strategy and culturally sensitive methodologies.

Amina Hussein, left, and Maryan Barrow in an interview at a coffee shop in Edmonton, on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. The two mothers are part of a now year-old coalition of Somali mothers. [Source IAN KUCERAK / POSTMEDIA ]

Hoyo means mother in Somali. For the Hoyo Collective, it is also an acronym that stands for Helping Our Youth Organize. This international Women’s Day, I am suggesting that as we dig into what we have learned through our work understanding social capital in communities, that we ask the following questions:

1. How gendered are your social networks?

2. What examples can you share of women building and using their social networks and social capital to shape your community?

Take a look at this report from one of our recent multi-sector partnerships exploring social capital in the city of Toronto and let us know what you think. Happy International Women’s Day!

1 Like