- As we bid farewell to 2018 and welcome 2019, we are bringing to you some of our stories that touched upon important themes in the past year and will continue to reflect in our reporting in the new year.
- One such important theme is the linkages between the environment and women.
- In India, the disciplines of biodiversity and gender often overlap. Here are some of our stories from 2018 that brought to the fore this linkage and the need to factor it in while making policies.
Threats to ecosystems and biodiversity through habitat degradation and biodiversity loss affect men and women differently. Women play a critical role in managing natural resources on family and community levels and are most affected by environmental degradation, so to plan for the best sustainable solutions, a gender perspective is required.
According to the United Nations, among men and women in the Asia-Pacific region, biodiversity is closely connected to development, access to resources, income-generating activities, food and essential household products. From this perspective, the disciplines of biodiversity and gender overlap, and indeed are intrinsically linked.
With increased environmental instability, women will face particular challenges given their primary care-giving roles in times of disaster and environmental stress. Despite these challenges, many women have developed adaptive strategies to protect the sustainability of their environments and livelihoods.
Mongabay-India’s stories that focus on the linkages between the environment and women bring such adaptations to light in the context of these documented threats to biodiversity and changes in their surroundings. We also shine the light on how women come in the line of fire to protect natural resources.
A women-run dairy co-operative society in West Bengal banks on organic farming and turning to traditional agricultural practices, for climate resilience.
Women don a very different mantle in Achankamar Tiger Reserve in Chhattisgarh. Working as forest guides, seven women have opened up the jungle and its wonders to several tourists and in turn have gained self confidence and financial standing.
Tales of co-existence where encounters with the greater one-horned rhino is but a walk in the park for these women. In Assam’s Manas and Orang national parks, where authorities allow local women access to the parks’ buffer zones, women come close to these hefty beasts. But in Kaziranga National Park, a conservation success story, they are shut out.
In the Indian Sundarbans, the lair of the royal Bengal Tiger, this co-existence has a dark side. With tales of the tiger and guardian deity amalgamated with their culture, widows of tiger attack victims, reel under mental trauma.
A similar fate awaits women who have lost their spouses to silicosis. This lung disease has turned several hamlets into “widow villages”.
Even in areas without rhinos and tigers to keep them company as they perform their daily chores, women who walk miles to collect water in the absence of household water supply, experience adverse birth outcomes.
Given how intrinsic women are to the social fabric of society, it is indeed distressing that they are neglected in biodiversity governance, despite international conventions and national legislations acknowledging the role of women in conserving biodiversity.
Not all women are taking the neglect lightly. Five years after Uttarakhand floods: Sushila Devi is actively fighting for the rights of her village near Banswara, against the under construction hydroelectric project. She’s also one of the petitioners in the case against muck dumping in NGT.
But these confrontations can be deadly. In Meghalaya, an activist was brutally attacked in the state’s coal belt, in her attempt to document illegal rat-hole mines.
Banner image: Women working in their rice paddy fields in Odisha, India. Photo by India 3 Gender 3/Wikimedia Commons.