By Henrylito D. Tacio
“Women’s access to control of natural resources, land ownership and property management is a developing issue and is the subject of continuous debate in both the environmental realm and women’s rights movement.”
What do Jane Goodall, Rachel Carson and Lorem Legarda have one thing in common?
Tey are some of the world’s most environmentalist women, that’s what.
Goodall is known for her years of living among chimpanzees in Tanzania to create one of the most trailblazing studies of primates in modern times. “She immersed herself in their lives, bypassing more rigid procedures to make discoveries about primate behavior that have continued to shape scientific discourse,” biography.com states.
Carson, on the other hand, is described as “a born ecologist before science was defined, and a writer who found that the natural world gave her something to write about.” She started her career as a marine biologist and was the author behind The Sea Around Us.
But it was for her book, Silent Spring, that she became famous. The website, rachelcarson.com, said that she more remembered today as the woman who challenged the notion that humans could obtain mastery over nature by chemicals, bombs and space travel.
Her 1962 sensation book “warned of the dangers to all-natural systems from the misuse of chemical pesticides… and questioned the scope and direction of modern science, initiated the contemporary environmental movement.”
Legarda, meanwhile, is a woman development leader from the Philippines. As a senator, she advocates for quality human living harmonious with nature by seeking the path for green growth and sustainable development for nations, and challenging world leaders to save the planet earth and preserve humankind.
A laureate of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), she worked hard for the enactment of laws on environmental governance like the Clean Air Act, the Solid Waste Management Act, the Climate Change Act, and the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act.
These three are examples of what women can do in terms of environmental protection and conservation. Their contributions have been recognized by various award-giving bodies around the globe.
Women, the UNEP points out, “stand in the front line in terms of poverty… (and) provide invaluable contributions to sustaining communities around the world and managing earth’s biodiversity and natural resources.”
Unfortunately, their contributions in the past were regularly undervalued and ignored. Thus, UNEP launched a program that focuses on gender “primarily by promoting women’s participation in all environmental protection and sustainable development activities.”
The activities, under the program, encompass the fields of agriculture, climate change, energy, poverty, and water management.
“Gender equality and women’s rights are fundamental to global progress on peace and security, human rights and sustainable development,” said the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres during the recent International Women’s Day.
“In recent years, we have seen remarkable progress on women’s rights and leadership in some areas,” Guterres said. “But these gains are far from complete or consistent – and they have already sparked a troubling backlash from an entrenched patriarchy.”
According to Guterres, gender equality is fundamentally a question of power. “We live in a male-dominated world with a maledominated culture,” he said. “Only when we see women’s rights as our common objective, a route to change that benefits everyone, will we begin to shift the balance.”
Let’s take a closer look at Asia and the Pacific Region, where 58 percent of women involved in the economy are found in the agriculture sector. A recent study showed that out of all the women working in this sector, only 10-20 percent have tenure to the land they work. There are several reasons for this situation. In terms of loans, for instance, women get fewer and less loans to acquire land than men.
“Though important natural resources users and managers, producers of food and other products, and indeed major contributors to the family well-being, women have been normally ‘invisible’ to development policymakers, program planners and researchers,” the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) points out.
“Consequently, women tend to remain without adequate social and institutional support from the family and local community level, to that of the state,” the UN food agency added.
Guterres laments with this deplorable scenario. “Women still face major obstacles in accessing and exercising power,” he said. “As the World Bank found, just six economies give women and men equal legal rights in areas that affect their work. And if current trends continue, it will take 170 years to close the economic gender gap.”
To think, women can do more. “Understanding the links between gender inequality and environmental degradation, and taking responsive actions, can accelerate positive dynamics and promote sustainable development outcomes,” the UNEP reminds.