Women, Conservation, and Access to Natural Resources.
6 marzo, 2020
By Arianna Campos
At the beginning of 2020, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, in partnership with USAID, published the study “Gender-Based Violence and its Links with the Environment: The Violence of Inequity.” The results of this project are compelling: environmental degradation is directly related to the increasing violence suffered by women and girls around the world.
One of the most visible indicators is the unequal access to natural resources. Gender inequality originates from national laws, customs, social norms, and gender roles, as these dictate who can access education services, have decision-making power, or achieve economic independence. These differentiated roles and disparities in access to opportunities determine how and whether men or women can reach and control their lands and resources related to forests, agriculture, water, and fishing. This imbalance in the distribution of natural resources marginalizes women.
In addition to exacerbating gender inequality, control over land and its resources can become sources of sexual exploitation, as seen in cases around the world where authorities, landowners, or supervisors of agricultural companies demand sexual favors in exchange for rights over resources and land.
If we look at the case of Mexico, specifically in the forestry sector, inequality remains alarming and evident. According to the Mexican Civil Council for Sustainable Forestry, approximately 70% of Mexico’s forests are ejido property, but only 26% of ejidatarios (land rights holders) are women. If we analyze female access to decision-making platforms, the percentage is even lower, as only 8% of the positions from president to ejidal commissioner are occupied by women. If we contrast these data with the population density in these areas, the information is even more striking. In 2018, out of the 27.5 million Mexicans living in rural communities, 50.4% were women, meaning half of the population did not have equal representation.
However, despite restricted female participation and inadequate compensation for their work, women play a crucial role in forest conservation. According to the FAO, women are agents of change in mitigating and adapting to climate change, as they possess a wealth of knowledge and skills that can be used in disaster reduction, adaptation strategies, and environmental conservation plans if capacity development systems are implemented and their access to decision-making platforms in sustainable forest management is facilitated.
It is common for women to possess highly specialized knowledge of trees and forests regarding species diversity and conservation practices. This knowledge has a crucial sustainability characteristic, as it tends to be more linked to household food and health consumption than to mass production, which is especially important during food crises.
Within the challenging context that our country currently faces regarding gender issues and the worsening climate crisis, it is imperative that conservation and restoration programs and policies at all levels, especially in the forestry sector, have gender inclusion indicators and consider the resources, needs, access, and cultural context of women to combat climate change inclusively.
Castañeda Carney et. al. (2020) Gender-based violence and environment linkages: the violence of inequality. IUCN Global Programme on Governance and Rights (GPGR). USAID. Suiza. https://portals.iucn.org/library/node/48969
EFE (2018) Mujeres en México sufren desigualdad en el manejo de los recursos forestales. EFE Edición América. España. https://www.efe.com/efe/america/mexico/mujeres-en- mexico-sufren-desigualdad-el-manejo-de-los-recursos-forestales/50000545-3546170 Suárez, G. (2017) Las mujeres rurales y los bosques. Consejo Civil Mexicano para la Silvicultura Sostenible. México. https://www.ccmss.org.mx/las-mujeres-rurales-los- bosques/
Guarascio, F. (2013) Los bosques, la seguridad alimentaria y el género: vínculos, disparidades y prioridades para la acción. FAO. Documento de antecedentes para la Conferencia Internacional sobre Los Bosques para la Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutricional. Italia. http://www.fao.org/3/mg488s/mg488s.pdf