Gender meets Environment

The 2017 Global Environment Facility (GEF) Policy on Gender Equality states that “men and women use natural resources differently and, as a result, they are affected differently by changes to these resources. Each gender interacts with the environment differently and because of that, the impact the environment has on them is different. Gender inequality and social exclusion increase the negative effects of environmental degradation on women and girls. The problem of climate change can be dealt with efficiently if we focus on “Resolving Gender Gaps.”

The policy emphasized the use of a Gender Responsive approach instead of a Gender Neutral approach. A gender-responsive approach means that we identify the strengths and limitations of the different genders and observe their interaction with the environment. Policy Changes should be implemented in such a way that they address the needs of both the genders separately. It is essential to understand this distinction as this influences the environment in unexpected ways.

Different genders utilize the resources differently which in turn are influenced by the social, cultural, and economic norms of their surroundings. As a result, access to the available resources change. For example, in India, land in the villages is mainly owned by men whereas women take care of the households. Because of this, women use natural resources to make food for their families and meet domestic needs whereas men exploit the resources commercially. It is because of the lack of ownership opportunities for women that we mistake to address only men when it comes to environment conservation.

Another example can be traced down to the management of water resources. Women walk miles barefoot every day to find a source of water that they collect in their matkas and manage the water resources to meet the household needs. They optimally utilize the resource to ensure minimum spending. On the other hand, men waste a lot of water by engaging in wrong irrigation practices. It is crucial to understand how that one lady uses one Matka of water for the entire house and ensures drinking, cleaning, and cooking activities. If you want to know more, watch the documentary, “Waterman of India”, on youtube where he also talks about Gender and water resource management.

It is crucial to understand the women are equal in this. It has been observed that, as compared to men, women have more knowledge of the local resources which makes them equal stakeholders in the process of environmental conservation and sustainable development. A recent study in Amazonia has shown how women can identify and use a broader range of plant species than men. Such knowledge can be particularly important in times of stress caused by natural disasters or food shortages. Women’s equitable participation and their representation in environmental decisionmaking both uphold international commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment and leads to better environmental outcomes.

Sustainable development goals laid by The United Nations recognize gender equality as the prime need that can help drive out climate change globally. It is essential to train women and increase their participation within communities to help save the environment. Gender equality is a human right. 

However, Gender mainstreaming cannot be achieved with one universal solution instead it has to be approached differently at local, national, and international levels. This includes Gender-responsive stakeholder consultations, Gender Analysis, Gender-responsive actions, and its monitoring and evaluations. By increasing women’s participation in Policy-making, it is necessary to set indicators that help measure the results. 

Numerous women associations have showcased their capabilities in environment conservation. Women’s empowerment does not occur in a vacuum, and incorporating men is important in the process of this change. It is the need that we recognize the role of women and increase their participation at the local level to bring changes in the community and inculcate a gender-responsive approach.

In the words of Tian Wei, “Any society that fails to harness the energy and creativity of its women, is at a great disadvantage in the modern world” .

Sources: UN course: Gender and Environment

—By Samantha Narula, Anchor, Sauhard

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