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New Report: How to Involve Women in Climate Change Mitigation

My daughter is 25 and works on forest issues in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Last year, she was evacuated from her home for 6 weeks during the Dixie fire in California, and she knows that this year will be another destructive, terrifying year for the forest and the communities that live in them. 

She is already feeling hopeless about the pace with which change happens in the real world and what that means when we’re talking about climate change and its affects. It’s difficult to see how we fix things.

One thing that surely would help would be to involve both women and men in the process of figuring things out — each with their own knowledge, ability to work, and desire to make lasting changes in their world and in The World. 

Women’s full participation around the world is critical to biodiversity conservation and achieving sustainable forest management.

Resource Equity took on an assignment from the World Bank to better understand the legal and policy constraints and opportunities in each of seventeen Forest Carbon Partnership Fund countries affecting women’s land and forest tenure, including women’s ability to exercise land and forest rights in statutory and customary systems, and how these rights could be affected by the Carbon Fund Programs.

This study tries to answer questions about why women are less involved in governing how resources are used, why their tenure security is at greater risk than men’s tenure security, and what concrete steps can be taken to change the way we fund and support climate work to be more gender intentional. 

In the end, we found that the issues center around laws, regulations, rules, and social norms and how they overlap — sometimes working against each other — to create barriers to women’s secure rights to land and resources and barriers to women’s full participation in caring for land and forests.

For example, even where all laws and regulations support women’s equal rights to land and resources, gender norms (related to the division of labor between men and women where men are responsible for community facing tasks and women are responsible for the home and children) mean that women may feel they lack information and experience to participate in decision-making and leadership. 

Norms related to how resources are passed from generation to generation and to where a newly married couple live can conflict with laws that presume a western model of nuclear families and social safety nets.

Women will only be full and equal partners in resolving climate change when we understand what the social norms and laws are in the specific communities where we are engaged and then work with women (and men) to overcome barriers and conflicts that may be a result of overlapping and contradictory rights. 

The full report contains much more nuance and detail, of course, but here is a summary of our recommendations for what we can DO:

  • Address women’s needs for directed information, training, and support, including separate forums for women at a time and place that is accessible and takes into account women’s level of education, mobility, and household roles.
  • Establish women-only or women-prevalent community forest user groups to collect information from women and feed that information up to the governance committee.
  • Amend laws and regulations related to who can participate in collective land governance and/or who can receive REDD+ benefits if they disadvantage women according to their marital status.
  • Advocate for community by-laws that allow for common resource users (married in women or migrating families) to participate in resource governance, even if they are not considered community members under customary law. De-link ancestral identity from resource governance.
  • Protect widows’ rights by establishing legal rules that require permission from both spouses for sale of homestead land and provide some of the value of the land to the spouse, who is not the owner, if that spouse adds value to the land.
  • Determine whether indigenous communities are matrilineal and matrilocal, or bi-lineal, which can have a significant positive impact on women in those communities and use that structure to support gender inclusion.
  • Strengthen local women’s organizations’ ability to provide livelihood options.
  • Form inclusive women’s groups where none exist and ensure disadvantaged women can participate.
  • Provide sustained support for alternative livelihoods over the long term.
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