On August 8th, DGR Asia-Pacific conducted a discussion on Women’s Role in Environment Conservation. Women activists and organizers from Nepal and the Philippines participated in the discussion.
It is a well-documented fact that members of marginalized groups bear the brunt of ecological crisis. Under patriarchy, women disproportionately face the consequences. At the same time, women also have less power to affect any major decisions related to conservation. Nevertheless, women can play a significant role in environmental conservation.
Conservation efforts led by women
Participation of women in conservation efforts has been substantial, especially in grassroots movements. Conservation efforts led by women (like community forests in Nepal and the Chipko movement in India) have been effective: deteriorated landscapes have regenerated.
Women are socialized into an interdependent worldview, instead of an independent worldview. They relate to nature in a similar manner: viewing their existence in relation to the existence and health of their environment. This relational view predisposes them to nature conservation. As one speaker commented, the participation of women in activities related to conservation is greater than that of men.
On top of that, women act as more of a guardian of nature. A primary motivator for women to involve in conservation efforts is a concern for their children. This concern naturally leads to greater sustainability.
Despite greater participation in grassroots level, women are underrepresented in leadership level. In industrial societies, women have historically had limited access to education or decision making positions. As a result, their voices are not been heard in policies regarding environment conservation.
Women can play a crucial role in transferring knowledge from one generation to the other. In most societies (including industrial), women are more responsible for childcare and for social practices. As a result, they play an important role in informal knowledge sharing, both within their family as well as their communities. One of the speakers shared the story of a community where women taught their children practices like composting.
Empowering women should go hand-in-hand with any environmental movement. Women have, time and again, demonstrated how they could contribute to the environment conservation. Conservation efforts should recognize this role and encourage women’s participation in all levels. For this, it is also necessary for women to be able to overcome the oppression that they face due to patriarchy.