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Experts' Log in
Topic: Protecting and empowering women through natural resource management in conflict-affected countries
Silja Halle is a Programme Officer with UNEP's Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch (PCDMB)....
Number of questions: 
Posted on 03/12/2016 18:43:43
I'm really interesting in the intersection of gender issues and environmental issues as it deals with international development as well. I was wondering if you could expand more on the what type of gender responsive strategies are available in addressing these issues? More specifically, why are creating environmental and development strategies aimed at women more effective than if the strategies were gender neutral?
(from United States of America)
Thank you for your question.
Gender responsive strategies for addressing environmental issues in developing country settings are typically more effective because they take into account the fact that men and women most often have different environmental roles, and that they are affected by environmental problems (pollution, climate change, resource scarcity etc) in different ways. Gender responsive programming is therefore better adapted to the context and more targeted, which generally yields better and longer-lasting results.
As the primary providers of water, food and energy at the household and community levels, women in rural settings, for example, are often highly dependent on environmental resources for their livelihoods, and are therefore particularly affected by changes in the availability and quality of these resources. This is all the more evident in conflict-affected contexts, where up to 40% of households are headed by women. If women's specific needs, roles and capacities are not taken into account at the outset, environmental interventions risk being at best inefficient, and at worst detrimental not only to women, but to their children, families and the communities they support.
To give an example, UN Environment has been supporting communities to sustainably manage land and water resources in an area where women comprise 65% of the population. The project, which has targeted 81,000 residents from farming, pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities, aims to support economic and livelihood recovery and thus reduce inter-communal tensions.
A comprehensive analysis was undertaken to help understand the local gender dynamics and confirm or refute some of the anecdotal information on gender in Darfur. This included focus group discussions with men and women and an assessment of the level of women’s involvement in various institutions. The gender analysis yielded some surprising results that challenged the our understanding of gender norms in the area and helped the team tweak project activities to ensure they benefitted target groups equally, were adapted to the men and women's actual roles and workloads, and took into account different obstacles to participation.
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