How To Incorporate Gender into Conservation

We've talked about why gender should be considered in natural resource management and nature conservation. Now we learn how.

Conservation International offers some guidance how to incorporate. women's perspective into conservation planning. Here a women shares her view in a workshop in East Timor.

Gender matters. That’s the theme of this case study series, and many others like it, that seek to inject a gendered perspective into discussions about nature, natural resource use, and conservation. In our restoration program at the IUCN we are currently considering how, where, and why gender can and should be taken into account when planning or managing landscape restoration activities.

The first two pieces in our series discussed why gender consideration should be incorporated into restoration projects and plans, moving from a macro-theoretical level to real cases of how gender sculpts landscapes in Burkina Faso.

The following piece, from Brittany Ajroud of Conservation International (CI), discusses the how, drawing from CI’s long experience in “integrating human dimensions into conservation practice and ecosystem management” and their recent experience in creating Guidelines for Integrating Gender into Conservation. This piece first appeared on the terrific blog of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative and has been graciously lent to us for re-posting. Enjoy.  

- Aaron Reuben, IUCN


Demonstrating How to Integrate Gender into Conservation

- By Brittany Ajroud, Conservation International 

In East Timor’s Nino Konis Santana National Park, men work as fishermen while women prepare the catch for sale—removing the fish from fishing gear, sorting, processing and packaging it for market. In Madagascar’s Fandriana Vondrozo forest, women who engage in small industries like basketry often rely on men for raw materials, like fibers, wood or honey, as men are the holders of the permits required for collecting such forest goods. In communities along the lower Caquetá and Apaporis Rivers of Colombia, women now gather coca leaves and weave palm leaves for thatching, two activities that were once the sole responsibility of men.

These examples, drawn from a series of gender integration pilot projects implemented by Conservation International (CI) earlier this year, illustrate the different rights, roles and responsibilities of men and women who wish to access, use, manage or conserve natural resources.

As an organization that works closely with communities, CI has considerable experience integrating human dimensions into conservation practice and ecosystem management. Yet, when it comes to incorporating gender dynamics into a conservation project or program, conservation project managers face many challenges. Among them are a lack of technical knowledge and available funds for gender integration, limited staff-time and socio-cultural resistance.

In 2012, CI adopted a Gender Policy under its Rights-Based Approach to conservation, committing to “actively work to incorporate gender issues and anticipate gender-related outcomes in our design and implementation phases.” In response to this directive, and recognizing that conservation project managers need a simple resource that can easily be adapted to specific contexts, CI developed its Guidelines for Integrating Gender into Conservation. These guidelines outline a pragmatic four-step approach for conservation project managers to better understand and integrate gender dimensions into their conservation projects.

Step 1: Understand and Examine Gender-Based Dimensions of the Project.

The essential first step to integrating gender dimensions into conservation projects entails finding and collecting information on differences in gender roles, activities, constraints and opportunities for people potentially involved or effected by the project.

In Timor-Leste, this step involved holding focus groups and key informant interviews to identify the existence of barriers for women to participate in conservation and livelihood activities. These obstacles ranged from a language barrier, which made it difficult for women to contribute to community forums, to the unequal division of labor in household and child-rearing duties, which limits women’s ability to participate in other activities. A similar analysis conducted among fishing communities in Ecuador’s Galera San Francisco Marine Reserve uncovered the invisible role of women in fishing and related conservation activities, despite opportunities for them to engage at various points of the value chain.

Step 2: Adapt and Develop Project Elements and Activities.

Information gathered through a gender analysis can help inform projects and programs so that they may produce better outcomes for both men and women equally. The second step entails working with the community to brainstorm specific adjustments or additions to a project plan, building on the gender-based opportunities and constraints for involvement identified in Step 1.

In Colombia, CI is working to incorporate men’s and women’s voices into conservation decision-making in five local communities and to strengthen women’s participation in conservation activities. In the latter realm efforts include creating training spaces exclusively for women on different aspects of the program and developing capacity-building workshops for activities like biological monitoring. In the Alto Mayo Basin of Peru, where it is common practice to refer to a group of people using only masculine vocabulary, CI is designing a protocol to incorporate inclusive language and thereby make women visible in written and oral communication.

Step 3: Adapt and Develop Project Indicators for Monitoring Gender Integration.

To ensure that the gender-integration strategies developed in Step 2 are working, the third step to integration involves making monitoring and evaluation (M&E) processes more gender-sensitive to help capture a more detailed, gendered story of the project. This could mean designing, for example, a monitoring plan comprised of gender-based results, gender-sensitive indicators and sex-disaggregated qualitative and quantitative data.

In the striking landscapes of Guyana’s Rupununi region, CI is working with community-based enterprises to create environmentally-sustainable business models focused on nature-based tourism and organic and climate-smart agriculture. Based on the findings of a gender analysis (step 1) conducted there, the project team has proposed a set of gender-sensitive indicators to measure: the income gap between men and women, differential control over resources, freedom of movement and risk of violence, voice and influence in decision-making, involvement in entrepreneurial projects and endorsement of gender considerations by various stakeholders engaged throughout the project.

Step 4: Move Beyond Project Adaptation—Broader Institutional Steps Towards Gender Integration.

While applying these gender integration techniques in projects and programs is important for building capacity, helping staff feel comfortable with the concepts of gender and improving methods of stakeholder engagement, true programmatic integration is needed for long-term sustainability. With this in mind, CI is continuing to work with many of these pilot sites over the next year to do just that. Taking lessons learned from these case studies, CI country offices will develop strategies for ensuring that gender considerations become part and parcel of how conservation projects are developed and implemented.

For more information about how CI is working to incorporate gender dimensions into projects and programs, please contact CI’s Gender and Conservation Advisor, Kame Westerman at [email protected].


Work area: 
Global Policy
Protected Areas
Social Policy
Forest Landscape Restoration
South America
East and Southern Africa
West Asia
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