Presentation on Gender and the Environment

EkoRural’s work in the Central Highlands of Ecuador is mostly with women farmers. This past Women’s Day on March 8th, one of EkoRural’s interns, Ginette Walls, gave a presentation on Gender and the Environment. She discussed feminist theory, the difference between gender and sex, and between masculinity and femininity. Ginette presented a timeline of the theories and movements around gender and the environment. Prominent individuals and movements mentioned included Rachel Carson, Vandana Shiva, Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement, and the Chipko movement. Also discussed was the treatment of gender within international environmental treaties and efforts such as the UNFCCC, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Ginette presented three topics demonstrating the intersection of gender and environment, and the importance of doing gender analyses when looking at environmental and energy issues. One example was the gender and national disasters (which are being exacerbated by climate change) and the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. Some villages saw fatality rates of 69 – 80% for women. Many of the reasons for this high, gendered death toll is that many of the women were at home, many caring for children or elderly. Men, who were not at home and were not responsible for others during the time the tsunami hit, did not have such high death rates. Another example discussed was the 2016 earthquake in Ecuador, and the different needs based on gender post-disaster. Pregnant women were at risk of Zika, national disasters also increase rates of sexual and gender-based violence, and gender roles were challenged during rebuilding and reconstruction. An additional topic was land tenure; in 59% of countries, there are laws that guarantee women the same rights as men to own, use, and control the land, but they are not implemented. Traditional practices, customs, or religion determine this, and these discriminate against women from having these rights to land.

Regarding the status of the field today, Ginette mentioned UNEP’s focus on three priorities regarding gender: 1. Right to land, natural resources, and biodiversity, 2. Access to food, energy, water, and sanitation, and 3. Welfare: climate change, sustainable consumption and production, and health. She also noted how gender-disaggregated data (GDD) has become a priority, which is crucial. Without GDD, environmental analyzes remain inadequate and biased, while setting baselines, monitoring progress and evaluating results are almost impossible. There has been an increase in the use of intersectional gender analysis in the development world, and with environmental assessments. However, the representation of women in global formal policies, programs, and projects on gender and environment is slow and uneven. Within policymaking and development, there is still more focus on women – gender as synonymous for women, rather than an examination of the masculine / feminine and how the intersectionality of identities influence decisions and shape opportunities in life and relationships with the environment.

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