Only by recognising the worth that each individual brings to the table can true equality be achieved, and it is a theme that runs through any effective approach to gender in conservation. We cannot just have a look at women: we must consider gender holistically, and involving men is important to this process.
Failing to deal with gender appropriately – or ignoring its importance entirely – has been a long-standing issue in conservation. So, how will we seek improvement going forward?
Like biodiversity loss, gender is a highly nuanced issue and finding effective solutions requires heavy investment – each of money and time.
In what’s seen as a positive turn for gender equality in conservation, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, agreed at COP15 in December 2022, not only included references to gender throughout the 23 motion targets to be achieved by 2030, but, for the primary time, included a standalone goal on gender in conservation.
Goal 23 tasks parties with ensuring “gender equality within the implementation of the framework through a gender-responsive approach where all women and girls have equal opportunity and capability to contribute to the three objectives of the Convention…”.
Importantly, it champions “full, equitable, meaningful and informed participation and leadership in any respect levels of motion, engagement, policy and decision-making related to biodiversity.”
This goal is a very important step forward, not least since it sets the muse for countries all over the world to lift gender higher on the agenda, whether that be through policy commitments, financing, or real-life impact on the bottom.
The gender-responsive approaches described within the goal transcend the straightforward identification of gender issues to actively promoting equitable participation and distribution of advantages.
In the long run, my hope is that we are able to go one step further, and that these gender-responsive approaches become gender-transformative actions – promoting the systemic change that’s imperative if we’re to actually achieve gender equality.
Days like International Women’s Day give us a very important opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come and consider what the ‘ideal’ future will seem like. Hopefully, within the not-too-distant future, gender equality in conservation – and the structural change needed to attain it – will gain even greater weight on the worldwide agenda.
For now, one thing is evident: conservation projects that don’t take gender into consideration – and don’t give women an actual, lively role in decision-making and implementation – risk increasing inequality.
And in addition they risk being under-informed and subsequently less effective, undermining our efforts to tackle biodiversity loss. It is a fight we simply cannot afford to lose.
Helen Anthem is the senior technical specialist for gender at Fauna & Flora, a global wildlife conservation charity that works with partners worldwide to guard nature.