Gender equality

Definition

Gender equality is achieved when men and women enjoy equal rights and responsibilities, and when they are given or have access to equal opportunities, regardless of their sex. Efforts to ensure gender equality can apply to men, as well as women. However, given historical discrimination against women, giving specific attention to women is often required to address gender gaps or unequal laws and policies (Aguilar, 2013). Gender equality implies that the interests, needs and priorities of both men and women are considered and protected in a country’s policies, laws and regulations.

Gender is a distinguishing factor in determining human relationships with the environment. Women and men have different responsibilities, knowledge, and needs in relation to access to and control over natural resources.

REDD+ relevance

The conservation and the loss of forests have different impacts on women and men, as they rely upon, have access to, use, and control forests and forest products differently. For example, many women around the world are involved in local forest management and are responsible for collecting forest products such as fuel wood, food, or raw materials to produce medicines. The loss of forests and depletion of forest resources increases the burden on them in, for example, increasing the time required to find fuel wood, food, or other non-timber forest products. Men and women also have differing job opportunities, access to resources, and access to health services (amongst other things) which could make adapting to the loss of forests/livelihoods more or less difficult. For example, women often depend more on common resources given their lack of property rights or income-generating opportunities. Women and men also often have distinct knowledge of and expertise related to their forests, demanding that both be engaged for effective governance and management. This is important to take into account when designing REDD+ policies and to understand that women and men are equally important REDD+ stakeholders, but that they have distinct needs and knowledge. Pursuing gender equality can also lead to the creation of social, environmental and economic benefits, which are important for the long-term success of REDD+.

Including gender considerations in climate change and forestry policies can contribute to ensuring that REDD+ frameworks are in line with international law and human rights standards which promote gender equality or women’s rights (for example, preambular paragraph 5, and articles 2, 16 and 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948). Ignoring such considerations may exacerbate existing inequalities and discrimination.

Failing to address gender considerations could contribute to the marginalisation of women as REDD+ stakeholders and to their exclusion from the receipt of potential benefits from REDD+ activities. The lack of recognition of the rights of all stakeholders could threaten the sustainability of a REDD+ project and create an insecure environment for investors. 

Policy relevance

Gender equality is a human right that is included in a range of international agreements. These international agreements include for example the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, American Convention on Human Rights, CBD, CEDAW, the 2 international covenants, ILO C169, UNDRIP, Universal Declaration on Human Rights (CIEL, ForestDefender). 

It is also a key component to achieving climate change goals, meeting sustainable development commitments, and overcoming other related development challenges, such as poverty eradication (Pearl-Martinez, 2013). For several decades, and especially reinforced in recent years, the economic, environmental and social benefits of gender equality have been increasingly recognised. Countless studies underline the links between the protection of the environment and advancing gender equality (Pearl-Martinez, 2013 and Mwangi, 2014) and as of December 2014, Parties have agreed nearly 70 specific references to women and gender equality issues. 

For example the UNFCCC's seventh Conference of the Parties (COP-7) in Marrakesh in 2001 adopted Decision 36/CP.7 to enhance participation of women at all levels of decision making related to climate change. Further to this, the Cancun agreement (COP-16) called for engagement with a broad range of stakeholders including women (7/CP.16), for adaptation to follow a country-driven, gender-sensitive approach (12/CP.16) and for gender considerations to be taken into account when implementing national strategies (1/CP.16). Decision 23/CP.18 passed in Doha in 2012 during COP-18 was adopted to promote gender balance and improve participation of women in UNFCCC decision-making.

To respond to these global mandates, countries now need to ensure that their climate change policies, such as the ones relating to REDD+, integrate gender considerations, including provisions and safeguards for gender equality (Pearl-Martinez, 2013).

Key discussion points

Challenges linked to achieving gender equality relate to:

Participation:

  • Lack of self-confidence amongst (potential) women participants and hesitation to engage
  • Lack of respect for women’s representation (or right to be represented) in REDD+ bodies/processes

Social/Local/Livelihoods Issues:

  • Working with and representing diverse groups of women and diverse multi-cultural contexts
  • Promoting or guaranteeing livelihoods improvement with REDD+ programs
  • Not adding further work burden to women when engaging in REDD+
  • Difficulty in addressing cultural barriers such as child marriage, religious extremism, etc.
  • Land and forest tenure barriers
  • Lack of tools to integrate/evaluate/quantify women’s labour value 

Law/Policy:

  • Conflicting statutory and customary laws on tenure which may not enable the recognition of the rights of local communities (women and men) over their traditional lands
  • Lack of national champions institutionalising the gender agenda (e.g. in government)
  • Lack of (or conflicting) political will to address the issue of gender inequality
  • Need for raising gender awareness at different levels (including with high-level decision makers)
  • Inadequate/lack of policies and legislation in support of gender mainstreaming
  • In the case of adequate policies and legislation, there is often insufficient law enforcement and implementation
  • Lack of process and/or legal knowledge among women’s groups
  • Political instability (and change-over, e.g., with elections)

Technical/Capacity:

  • Long-term and systematic capacity building needs at various levels

Monitoring & Evaluation/Impact:

  • Lack of evidence or baselines to link improved REDD+ approaches to gender considerations
  • Difficulty in monitoring desired outcomes/results with/through numerous and disparate indicators
  • Lack of tool/know-how on how to measure success/impact
  • Measuring impact of gender-approach for reducing deforestation/increasing carbon capture

Funding:

  • Lack of funding (including for the implementation of roadmap or pilot projects with already-documented results)
  • Gender strategies successfully designed and endorsed but lack of funds for piloting and scaling up within national REDD+ programs
  • Mainstreaming the added value of gender into international REDD+ financing mechanisms
  • Ensuring sustainability of gender-related REDD+ (e.g. financial mechanisms outside of REDD+)
  • Ensuring donor accountability to gender mandates.

 

References

Aguilar, L., Sasvari, A., Gender equality within the REDD and REDD-plus framework, Fact Sheet of the International Union for Conservation of Nature

Bhawana Upadhyay, Ratchada Arpornsilp and Somying Soontornwong, Gender and Community Forests in a Changing Landscape: Lessons from Ban Thung Yao, Thailand, RECOFTC, 2013, Bangkok, Thailand

Crawford, C., Forest Management & Gender, WWF-UK Briefing Note, 2012. See http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/women_conservation_forests_2012.pdf. Accessed in August 2014

Mwangi, E., R. Meinzen-Dick, and Y. Sun. 2011. Gender and sustainable forest management in East Africa and Latin America. Ecology and Society 16(1): 17. See http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol16/iss1/art17. Accessed in August 2014

Pearl-Martinez, R., Aguilar, L., Rogers, F., Siles, J., The Art of Implementation – Gender Strategies Transforming National and Regional Climate Change Decision-Making, IUCN Global Gender Office, Global Gender and Climate Alliance.