Story | 03 Mar, 2023

An analysis of Sustainable Development Goal 5

Ritu Dhingra, Regional Vice Chair, East and Southern Asia IUCN CEESP

The role of women in the social, economic, and environmental concerns of a country must be recognised, and active participation of women in decision making should be made necessary. More green jobs should be created for women, and a gender policy be drafted for implementation of this scheme.

Empowering all girls and women and achieving gender equality is crucial in the present scenario. Women are pioneers in environmental conservation but elementary education is not imparted to them in remote areas in most of the parts of the world. So, women can be empowered by doing various eco-friendly works like tree plantations, nurturing crops, agroforestry, and then revenue earned can be used for improving their lifestyles. Gender equality can be achieved if women are engaged in environmental conservation jobs as they nurture nature by nature. Certain self-help groups have been formed in the state of Tamil Nadu, India where women are being empowered by various tasks like agriculture, tree growing and many other such projects, and they have become financially independent.1

Traditionally, women have been the forerunners in environmental conservation. Ecofeminism is a known phenomenon in the present day’s world. It is quite possible that if women and girls are empowered and given adequate knowledge about green jobs, they can do wonders. From the sowing of the seed to the growing and rearing of the plants and the harvesting, women play a very important role in agriculture. From Rachel Carson and Medha Patekar, to Vandana Shiva and the unforgettable Nobel prize winner, Wangari Mathaii, women have played a mammoth role in global environmental conservation in recent decades. One example is the Chipko andolan in India, where women took a lead in protecting the forests from logging. In the 18th century, in the state of Rajasthan, this movement was commenced by one Amrita Devi Bishnoi who, with 363 other villagers, sacrificed her life to guard the Khejri trees of the local forest from being cut down, as ordered by their King. This phenomenon was again observed in India in the year 1973 by Gaura Devi in Uttarakhand for the protection of trees.2

A gender policy has to be introduced at both the global and domestic levels, and the gender dimension has to be incorporated into agricultural and other green jobs. Information related to technological tools and innovations related to nature conservation must be provided to women.3 In all, there is a major scope for involving women in eco-friendly jobs in the agroforestry- and agriculture-based businesses.

Throughout many cultures, women have historically held the role of the primary food, fuel, and water gatherer for their families and communities. Because of this, they have also had a major interest in trying to prevent or undo the effects of deforestation, desertification and water pollution. FAO studies confirm that women constitute the backbone of the small farming sector. They produce 60 to 80 percent of the food in developing countries (and 50 percent worldwide) and do much of the work on the farm to provide for their families. However, they have less access than men to the information and farm support services that were established to boost productivity. Micro-economic studies in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa have shown that women also play a decisive role in specific cash crop operations. In many countries, they are responsible for coastal and inland fisheries in rivers and lagoons, the production of secondary crops, gathering forest products, processing and conserving food, and fetching the family's water supply. Women are extremely knowledgeable about the value and use of wild and domestic varieties, and this has major implications for food, health, income and the conservation of plant genetic resources. If women are overlooked as food producers and resource managers, modern technology will lose the benefit of traditional practices. New approaches being introduced will bring women into agricultural research, harnessing their special skills in production and biodiversity for their own benefit as well as that of society.

Despite women’s invaluable contributions to environmental conservation and other fields, progress towards gender equality is looking bleak. A new global analysis of progress on gender equality and women’s rights shows women and girls remain disproportionately affected by the socioeconomic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, struggling with disproportionately high job and livelihood losses, education disruptions, and increased burdens of unpaid care work. Women’s health services, poorly funded even before the pandemic, faced major disruptions, undermining women’s sexual and reproductive health. And despite women’s central role in responding to COVID-19, including as front-line health workers, they are still largely bypassed for leadership positions they deserve. To conclude, all women must be guaranteed decent work by removing legal barriers for women with different statuses, like being married, having children, or being pregnant. Policies must be drawn to support women for their contribution towards economic, social and environmental conservation growth. 

1M. Deivam, “Self Help Groups in Tamil Nadu: An Identity for Women Empowerment” 69(1) The Indian Journal of Political Science 157-62 (2008).

2Aneel Salman and Nuzhat Iqbal, “Ecofeminist Movements—from the North to the South [with Comments” 46(2) The Pakistan Development Review 853-62 (2007).

3Anne Guillaume-Gentil, “Gender: Empowering Women” 173 Spore16 (2014).