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Data inadequacies

Environmental assessment rarely takes gender issues into full consideration. One reason for this may be inadequacies in the data: there have been few systematic attempts to collect gender-related data for the environmental impacts of people on resources, or of environmental impacts on people, except for a limited number of variables.

Gender mainstreaming is also essential but is not occurring on the scale needed (UNDP 2003a). One reason for this could be that sector experts fail to see the importance of women's empowerment for project success. For example, it has been difficult to convince project planners that gender (for energy projects) and energy (for gender/social development projects) are key variables in project success (Cecelski 2004) (Box 3).

Box 3: Women as participants in programme design and execution

For many years, studies on environmental management portrayed women from poor communities as victims of environmental degradation, particularly water and fuel scarcity. Their role as managers or problem-solvers was overlooked, and policy solutions considered them as passive beneficiaries. Often women were not involved in the analysis of the problem, nor in its solution.

For example, when concerns were raised in the 1970s and 80s about the shortage of biomass fuel for domestic energy in developing countries, and the impact of fuelwood gathering on forests and woodlands, two solutions were proposed: tree planting, and efficient stoves to conserve biomass energy.

The forestry sector largely failed to involve women in afforestation, and many improved stoves were designed in laboratories with little input from the women who would use them. As a result, many early stoves programmes failed to achieve their targets for dissemination and use. Women often rejected them because they were barely more efficient, and did not provide some of the subsidiary benefits of traditional stoves, such as space heating and ability to accommodate different sizes of pots. These failures drew attention to the need for women's participation and consultation, and brought the realization that women could contribute to project success. The emphasis has now shifted to women's participation in planning, design and decision making. However, even women's participation does not always guarantee success, partly because of lack of attention to other gender aspects, such as social relations, women's status in the household or access to income.

Source: Cecelski 2004

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