Fauna & Flora International: Tackling gender inequality

GLOBAL ALLIANCE

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This International Women’s Day, our Global Alliance Partner, Fauna & Flora International, talk about gender inequality in tackling Climate Change and the role of women in saving our planet.

 

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world”. A green recovery from Covid-19 is a unique opportunity to reverse the loss of nature and disruption of the climate system as well as enhancing the resilience of communities to future environmental and economic shocks.

The year 2020 was expected to see a new level of ambitions and commitments on restoring our climate and nature, but Covid-19 turned the whole world upside down. Attention shifted from the urgency of tackling the climate and biodiversity crisis to address the health and economic crisis.

Even though the unprecedented global lockdown delayed crucial action, it also reminded us that our unsustainable way of living and ever-increasing disruption of natural systems have boundlessly severe consequences.

Just as new studies show that women are more likely to bear the burden of the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, there is mounting evidence that climate change is not gender neutral either. Women around the world are disproportionately affected  due to various social, cultural and economic factors. Characteristics such as levels of poverty, age, ethnicity and marginalisation in combination with gender lead to higher vulnerability for women.

Despite their vulnerability, women are not merely helpless victims, but are very much on the front line in the fight. Women and young girls lead climate and environmental movements, protect and restore nature, drive the transition to clean energy sources, and push their communities to embrace sustainability and climate-smart solutions.

Due to their household responsibilities women have historically developed knowledge and skills related to water harvesting and storage, useful plant species, food preservation and rationing, natural resources management, and even dealing with disasters. This traditional knowledge, biocultural wisdom and experience plays a crucial role in promoting biodiversity conservation and developing climate-resilient livelihoods.

Studies demonstrate that enhanced participation of women in decision-making processes is essential in addressing the adverse impacts of climate change and building adaptive capacity (defined as the ability of the individual or community to adjust, modify or change its characteristics or actions to moderate potential damage, take advantage of opportunities or cope with the consequences of shock or stress). In fact, gender equality and the empowerment of women are fundamental to development, environmental sustainability and achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is supporting projects across the globe in which positive climate impact and gender considerations are key elements:

Improving livelihoods through female empowerment in Tajikistan

The nature reserves around Dashtijum and Childukhtaron villages in southern Tajikistan are home to two of the country’s three most valuable fruit-and-nut forests, including critically endangered endemic species. However, climate change and unsustainable management practices pose great threats to these rich ecosystems and to the livelihoods that they support.

FFI and local partner Zam Zam are working to enhance forest biodiversity and community resilience in the face of the changing climate. As women have low socio-economic power in these communities, activities were designed to promote gender equality, considering different roles, responsibilities, needs and aspirations. Gratifyingly, the vast majority of members of the saving schemes and producer groups established to improve productivity are now women (83% and 90% respectively). Collectively, these members have been empowered to enhance product quality and achieve a higher market price. This augurs well for the communities’ ability to cope with the impact of climate change on their vital forest resources.

Building climate resilience on the shoulders of volcanoes in Nicaragua

Formed by two volcanoes in Lake Nicaragua, Ometepe Island is globally important for its diverse forest habitats, wetlands and its resident and migratory birds. In partnership with Fundación Entre Volcanes (FEV), FFI has been working for years with local farmers to strengthen farming practices, reduce deforestation and diversify agriculture-based livelihoods, and help them begin to adapt to a changing climate.

FFI’s climate change vulnerability analysis highlighted a significant gender bias, with reproductive and care roles still the primary responsibility of women, while decisions related to production, as well as income generation and use, are mostly in the hands of men. The study also explored the reliance of women and their families on natural resources for their subsistence and how these have been affected by climate change.

FFI and FEV are now working together to develop recommendations on how to diversify women’s economic activities, enhance their access to financial resources and ensure gender-responsive adaptation measures. To build resilience, women are already practising agroecological production, soil conservation, zero burning in cultivated areas, water harvesting, the use of organic fertiliser prepared from food waste, reforestation, and ensuring natural regeneration of forests.

Mainstreaming gender in climate policies and actions in Indonesia

Aceh’s precious seascapes and landscapes are seriously threatened by rising atmospheric and water temperatures, sea-level rise and changing rainfall patterns, along with overexploitation of natural resources and clearance of forests and peatlands for oil palm and other plantations.

To mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and help economic development in the province, the government of Aceh is working with FFI and other partners to establish a low-emissions development strategy. Gender mainstreaming – considering the implications of policies, programmes and actions for both women and men – is a key element of this work as described in this article.

If we ignore the climate and nature crisis that we are exacerbating day by day, climate change and biodiversity collapse may deliver even greater global shocks. The above examples of gender-responsive climate action show that we – women and men together – are capable of the necessary transformations.

Royal Foundation