What Is The Role Of Gender In Integrated Conservation And Development
A look at recently published literature including Fiona
Flintan's, "'Engendering' Eden Volume I: Women, Gender and ICDPs: Lessons
Learnt and Ways Forward".
By Janice Duddy
Fiona Flintan in her recently published document entitled, "'Engendering'
Eden Volume I: Women, Gender and ICDPs: Lessons Learnt and Ways Forward"
introduces an important idea. This idea is that in order for sustainability
of long-term conservation to take place within and around protected areas
there needs to be linkages between conservation and development. It is
essential that this process is one that considers all people involved, both
women and men, and the power relations between parties.
The conservation movement was a movement initiated and controlled by men,
European men living in the colonies, the vast majority who were hunters
trying to protect hunting resources. Women, both colonized and colonial,
played little role in the conservation process instead they were marginalized
and dominated. This role, or lack of thereof, of women in conservation is
still the most familiar to this very day, for many reasons that Flintan
introduces in her publication.
She explains, "Today, as conservation moves increasingly to more community-
based initiatives and those 'integrated' with the development of local
communities, there is also a focus on the achievement of more equitable -
particularly gender equitable - conservation. However there is inexperience
and a lack of knowledge how to accomplish this. The 'Engendering' Eden
programme attempted to fill some of these existing gaps, achieve a better
understanding of the linkages between gender equity and conservation and
development, and to indicate ways forward" (vi).
This document is the end result of two years of research, which includes case
study work on ICDPs (integrated conservation and development projects) in
Africa and Asia and is accompanied by two additional volumes that detail the
case studies and other examples collected.
There are many societal, cultural, and programmatic conditions that have lead
to the situation where women are not as involved in conservation as men. One
issue is that women's share of decision-making at both the micro and macro
levels remains low. This coupled with traditions, both culturally and
legally, that see that women have access to fewer resources and restricted
access to land title contributes to women not having a voice in decisions
around conservation and resource use.
Also, except for a few rare exceptions, more women are illiterate than
men. "This can compromise their ability to make the most of the opportunities
that development and conservation processes offer. In addition through women
may have a good knowledge concerning the resources that they use, they tend
to have a poorer understanding of environmental processes and the long-term
impact of unsustainable use" (vi). In addition, poverty and pressure to
fulfill daily activities restrict the amount of time and resources that women
can invest in conservation processes. "Women are often forced to prioritise
on a short-term basis. This tends to conflict directly with conservation and
environmental objectives that are more long-term in nature" (vi).
A recently released pamphlet written by The World Conservation Union (IUCN)
introduces the importance of ICPD - the type of conservation that takes place
in and around protected areas - in protected areas and how using a gender-
equitable perspective can be advantageous to conservation:
"Protected areas (PA) are specific and unique natural habitats, where human
encroachment is restricted in order to preserve biodiversity for present and
future generations. In many protected areas around the world, however, people
with legitimate or historical land ownership live within the established
boundaries. Women's and men's relationships with the environment in the
protected areas and their buffer zones, in the context of their respective
gender roles, are crucial for the very survival of these natural habitats.
While most conservation initiatives have focused on technical aspects of
biodiversity, the adoption of a gender-equitable approach to conservation has
also proven to be effective. This brief provides information on how a gender-
equitable perspective benefits conservation initiatives in protected areas.
…In the protected areas, women undertake such activities as gathering
wildlife for food and fodder, maintaining home gardens, fishing the
estuaries, and walking long distances to fetch water, while men's activities
tend to include such things as hunting in the forests and fishing off shore.
Conservationists may see all of these activities as direct threats to
conservation. Yet, to be successful, program planners must acknowledge that
protected areas also have a human face, which is affected by, among other
things, gender roles. Women and men have very different approaches to
managing the environment; addressing these concrete differences will make
people's relationship with the environment more sustainable. Gender equity
should be viewed as a cornerstone to achieving sustainable development"
While there has been rhetoric about the importance of a gender-aware approach
to ICPD Flintan argues that in reality few ICDPs in Africa and Asia have
active addressed this issue. When there has been steps taken to involve women
in the process it has not been adequate; "there has been a reliance on
addressing problems in a haphazard and uniformed way as they arise, or on
enthusiasm and concerns of individuals. Interventions in the past have mainly
focused on 'women's projects' which have been seen as the means of overcoming
the inequities that exist" (vi).
Flintan states that these types of programs usually remain secondary top the
ICDPs main activities, with a lack of investment. The targeting of women
without understanding 'gender' and the power dynamics that work between
people has had a number of adverse impacts. These include;
o Misunderstanding and mistrust between conservation authorities,
development organizations and communities, particularly women.
o Conflicting needs and priorities and a lack of participation,
particularly of women.
o Misunderstanding and overlooking of women's roles, rights and
o Increased gender inequalities (Flintan).
It is argued that it is essential that a link between conservation and
development be established for long-term sustainability of ICDPs and their
objectives. Flintan argues that it is by ensuring that people's development
needs are being met that they will then see the importance of investing time
and resources to conservation. She states that there are several key elements
that need to be addressed in order to ensure that women's contribution to
development and ICDPs are met. These include:
o A long time-frame - in order to establish the linkages between
conservation and development and to show communities that investment in
conservation practices and processes will pay off in the long term.
o The securing of women's access to resources and decision-making
processes - will provide a better environment for encouraging involvement and
investment in conservation.
o A holistic, integrated, strategic, participatory and well thought-out
approach - it has been shown that the most successful components of ICDPs,
for both women and conservation, are those that achieve a number of benefits
o A focus on the use of all resource, not just wildlife - this will
include areas where women are more traditionally involved, i.e. with plants
and smaller wildlife.
o The de-mystifying, de-threatening and mainstreaming of 'gender' -
should stress that women and men have many commonalities and that the
difference should not be viewed as a cause of separation and men's and
o The establishment of partnerships and collaborations - with local
organizations (including NGOs, government organizations, research institutes,
development agencies, and community based organization) can have a positive
facilitating role in addressing gender issues and ensuring sustainability of
In conclusion: "If ICDPs are to be truly community-based then the gender
inequities inherent in communities and institutions must be understood,
recognised and addressed. Though this may involve tackling sensitive issues
such as 'power relations', it may be the only way forward to move beyond the
lip-service paid to addressing women's needs, rights and responsibilities
that has been seen so far" (31).
Flintan, Fiona. "'Engendering' Eden Volume I: Women, Gender and ICDPs:
Lessons Learnt and Ways Forward". The International Institute for Environment
and Development: London. June 2003.
IUCN. "Maximizing Conservation in Protected Areas: Guidelines for Gender