Biological diversity, or biodiversity, refers to the total number of species and ecosystems in a region. As human beings, our ability to live on this planet– to breath air, consume food and water, and cure disease– is intricately linked to biodiversity.
At present, the planet is facing an escalating loss of species across our natural environment, roughly 1,000 times the natural rate, due to increased pollution, disease, land-use, and the impacts of climate change. Although a large percentage of this environmental degradation is fueled by over-consumption and development in industrialized nations, the affects are felt hardest by communities in the developing world whose livelihoods are linked to natural resources. These resources are vital both for consumption and income through forestry, fishing, agriculture, etc.
Gender and Biodiversity
Women and men undertake different roles in the use and management of natural resources to combat biodiversity loss and ensure equitable access to these resources, especially in developing countries. Although gender differentiated responsibilities vary region to region, in most communities in the developing world, women act as primary caretakers and natural resource managers. For example:
• Women often take the leading role in household /community management by controlling consumption patterns, collecting firewood for fuel and cooking, managing household waste, and providing healthcare through traditional medicines.
• Females in developing countries on average carry 20 litres of water per day over 6 km.
• Women control as much as 60-80% of the world’s food production and play a huge role in both water management and forestry. However, in some countries, women have few legal rights to land and globally women own less than 2% of the world’s titled land.
The gendered nature of resource management coupled with an unequal access to rights in certain countries leaves many women particularly vulnerable to the affects of biodiversity loss. As forests are depleted and fresh water supply exhausted, it is women and young girls who travel farther each day to collect firewood and water for their communities. Having to devote more time to water collection and travelling longer distances, means that girls may be unable to attend school and often puts women at greater risk for sexual harassment.
Significantly though, these gendered roles have provided women with vital technical and traditional knowledge on managing natural resources, particularly in terms of preservation and innovation. For example, women’s work in agriculture lends them a vast understanding of crop and seed varietals and in turn how to adapt their food production to changes in weather patterns and food supply. Without women’s full participation in decision making we cannot hope to develop the solutions and innovations necessary to combat biodiversity loss.
Further information on this can be found in WEDO’s Factsheet on Gender and Biodiversity.
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[ October 8, 2012 to October 19, 2012. ]
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With support from the CBD Secretariat, thirteen women experts in biodiversity, conservation and gender equality from 10 countries – India, Nepal, Nigeria, Kenya, Colombia, Costa Rica, Suriname, the Philippines, and the U.S. – …