Press release | 11 Apr, 2023

IUCN supports five new projects to address gender-based violence related to climate change and environmental degradation

Washington DC, 18 April 2023 - With support from the Resilient, Inclusive and Sustainable Environments (RISE) grants challenge, five projects across Central America, Eastern and Southern Africa and Southeast Asia are addressing gender-based violence in the context of environmental conservation, resource use in climate-vulnerable settings and the protection of Indigenous women environmental human rights defenders.

Around the world, women and girls play key roles in nature conservation and climate action. Yet, gender-based violence (GBV) is too often used to reinforce existing gender inequality and control over who can access, benefit from, and participate in the management of critical natural resources, like land and water; particularly in contexts of environmental degradation and climate change. 

The Resilient, Inclusive and Sustainable Environments (RISE) grants challenge is a first-of-its-kind fund available to organisations working to address gender-based violence in environmental programming and climate-vulnerable contexts. It is a direct response to key research findings by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) on gender-based violence and environment linkages and is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The RISE grants challenge invests in partnerships between environmental, gender equality, and community-based organisations and leaders working to address gender-based violence in developing countries around the world. 

“Our IUCN research shows that violence is systematically used as a means to control who can and can’t engage in environmental activities – for far too long, the environment sector has ignored this foundational barrier to a rights-based approach that champions and values the crucial contributions and rights of women and girls,” said Stewart Maginnis, IUCN’s Deputy Director General for Programmes. “The new RISE grants challenge winners, who span the globe, are essential towards lighting the path from research to action on-the-ground. The stories of survivors and the grief of our conservation colleagues who have observed these challenges without support will no longer be silenced. Together we build a new foundation of learning that prioritises trauma-informed and survivor-centred approaches.”

Jamille Bigio, USAID’s Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, emphasised the importance of this partnership. “RISE is the first, and to-date, the only grants challenge of its kind that provides direct funding to local organisations preventing and responding to gender-based violence-related to climate change and environmental degradation. It builds evidence of effective approaches to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in environmental sectors, which is urgently needed. We encourage other partners to join us. Women and girls are our climate future, but their leadership is undermined when they face targeted threats to their safety.” 

In celebration of International Mother Earth Day 2023, IUCN and USAID announced the five winners of the 2022 RISE grants challenge on 18 April 2023 at a ceremony in Washington DC, USA.

Meet the winners

In Zambia’s Western Province, women are often forced to trade their bodies for fish from the local fishermen, a form of exploitation known as ‘sex-for-fish’. Under the RISE grants challenge, ActionAid Zambia and their implementing partner Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) will work to prevent and respond to sex-for-fish exploitation to promote improved equality and safety for women to engage in the sustainable management of fisheries resources in the rural districts of Nalolo, Sesheke and Mongus.

“By conducting research and facilitating learning and training, ActionAid Zambia will sensitise communities to increase awareness and protection against gender-based violence – improving the sustainable management of fisheries,” said Samantha Munang’Andu, ActionAid Zambia's RISE Project Coordinator. “Women watch committees will be trained to be able to report gender-based violence cases to relevant authorities like the police and women-support groups.”

AAZPhoto: ActionAid Zambia

In Kenya, the threat of gender-based violence prevents full and effective participation of women in managing protected and conserved areas in many communities. Women rangers experience intimate partner violence while others face physical and psychological gender-based violence when they engage in economic activities in wildlife conservancies. Men who encourage women’s participation in these spaces are also confronted with verbal abuse.

With a second round of RISE grants challenge support, the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA) and the Taita Taveta Wildlife Conservancies Association (TTWCA) are joining forces to empower women to meaningfully and safely participate in conservancy governance and management in the Kasigau conservancy in the Taita Taveta landscape and in the Kitirua conservancy based in the Amboseli landscape. Project interventions will focus on gender-based violence prevention and mitigation by challenging harmful social norms and by improving partners’ institutional capacity to address gender-based violence within their programmes and operations. 


In Cambodia, the Regional Community Forestry Training Center (RECOFTC) is partnering with Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC) to address the harmful power dynamics and violence that prevent women’s full, effective and safe participation in community protected areas and forest management. Among its interventions, the project will engage men and boys to change attitudes, social norms and behaviour from husbands and men leaders in order to create an enabling environment for women to be accepted as effective community protected areas and natural resource managers. 


Meanwhile in Mexico, though many depend on ecotourism in coastal communities, women are not only facing sexual harassment by tourism service providers, but are also suffering from smear campaigns to discourage their participation.

With the RISE grants challenge support, Espacio de Encuentro de las Culturas Originarias, A.C. (EECO) is partnering with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Mexico to address the prevalence of gender-based violence in coastal ecotourism in three protected areas across two tourism landscapes in the states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo and Oaxaca. Strategies include awareness raising on the linkages between gender-based violence, environmental degradation and climate change and building the capacities of public officers. 


Globally, Indigenous women environmental human rights defenders are exposed to gender-based violence to silence their activism and exclude them from environmental policymaking spaces. Indigenous women have faced violent attacks for protecting their lands and environmental rights on which their survival and livelihoods depend – resulting  in a loss of traditional knowledge, exclusion from decision-making and loss of roles and occupations.

Under the RISE grants challenge, the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) is partnering with the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), the Association of Indigenous Women of the Archipelago (PEREMPUAN AMAN) and the BAI Indigenous Women's Network to empower Indigenous women environmental human rights defenders in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines to self-determine their priorities, elevate their voices and support strategies to end gender-based violence as a barrier to their work. As Dr Elizabeth Imti, AIPP RISE Project Manager, says, “it is a movement by Indigenous women, for Indigenous women.”


The knowledge, contributions and full participation of women in conservation are essential to the well-being of our planet, but to be able to fulfil this critical role we need to ensure their safety and agency are protected. Investment is urgently needed to implement solutions that address these serious risks, fill critical knowledge, facilitate cooperation and catalyse further investment in this nexus.

IUCN manages the RISE grants challenge programme under the Gender-Based Violence and Environment Linkages Center (GBV-ENV Center), a part of a partnership with USAID on Advancing Gender in the Environment (AGENT). The RISE grants challenge is also part of a joint commitment by IUCN and USAID under the Generation Equality Forum. Convened by UN Women, Generation Equality is the world’s leading initiative to accelerate investment and implementation on gender equality. It brings together organisations from every part of society to catalyse progress, advocate for change and take bold actions together. To learn more about the RISE grant challenge winners and how you can support them, or to apply to the 2023 call for proposals, visit: