In the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake that struck Pakistan-administered Kashmir an unprecedented number of development actors arrived in the region.
Their impact influenced men’s perceptions of change in the gendered division of labour, as they claimed this arrival had increased women’s access to work in public spaces. Across urban and rural bazaars, a wide spectrum of male voices used this perceived increase to either try to further enhance women’s access or to curtail it. The struggle for women’s access to work in public spaces was visible in the stories these men told publicly.
Although it pre-dated the earthquake, its aftermath made it more visible. Men’s narratives around women’s access to work post-earthquake also reflects a crisis of masculinity. The earthquake’s aftermath gave an opportunity for some men to reinforce the region’s classical patriarchy and others to challenge it; while doing so, men were also staking a claim at redefining what it meant to be a man.