Women and wetlands: closing the gender gap
Women play a central role in the use, conservation and management of wetlands. For centuries, women have developed symbiotic relationships with wetlands, using them to provide water, food, medicine and income for their families, yet at the same time managing them in a wise and sustainable way so that they can benefit future generations.
However, we are not fully benefiting from this knowledge. Women have much to contribute as stewards, managers and decision-makers to the numerous initiatives globally and nationally that are underway to address the drivers of wetland loss and reverse the negative trends.
64% of the world’s wetlands have been lost since the 1900’s and degradation continues at alarming rates world-wide, putting at risk the livelihoods of women and men who depend on wetlands as well as local and national economies.
Women and girls are responsible for water collection in 80% of households without direct access to water. In the agriculture sector of most developing countries, women make up 43% of the labour force and in some countries this rises to 70%.
Today on 8 March, International Women’s Day, we are reminded that whilst there has been some progress to achieve gender equality, notably through a specific Sustainable Development Goal focused on the empowerment of women and girls, gender inequality still persists worldwide and this makes women vulnerable. Women are 14 times more likely to die from climate change related disasters such as drought or flooding.
Therefore, we need to press for progress within all the sustainable development goals and accelerate actions to recognize the role of women and wetlands. To close this gender gap, it is important to actively empower and facilitate the full participation of women in matters of wetland governance, remove barriers that deny them equitable access, as well as gather data on the impact of policies and decisions specifically on women.
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, to which 170 countries are parties, provides a global legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of all wetlands. The Parties already recognize the importance of considering gender and social issues when managing wetlands. The Convention is therefore a fundamental platform from which to augment action from local to global levels to empower women and achieve gender equality.
A gender approach to wetland conservation is essential to reverse the worrying trends of wetland degradation and indispensable to achieve sustainable and equitable development for all.
Photo Credits: Justin Kernoghan