Even though the past decades have seen huge changes in many communities for women, in terms of employment, there are still many women who simply cannot have a job away from their villages because of their duties at home.
This is why home or village-based income-generating opportunities are so important.
This income-generating activity also helps women better understand the value of wetlands - and the fundamentally important services they provide, such as the supply of reed for their weaving.
Coupled with the fact that they are instrumental in running the household, they also hold the key to positively influencing and shaping their husbands’ and children’s views about the importance of safeguarding nature.
Empowered with more knowledge on the sustainable use of natural resources, these women can become strong advocates for nature-based approaches to sustainable development.
Numerous studies have indicated that women also play a crucial part in building resilience: from ensuring that fragile ecosystems are protected, to helping their families become more resilient in the face of natural disasters.
Unfortunately, in many nations, gender-based discrimination and inequality are still deeply woven into the social fabric.
And despite the fact that women play such a critical role in the conservation of ecosystems, their contributions are often overlooked, undervalued, and sadly, undermined.
Though Asia’s unprecedented economic growth has brought many benefits to its communities through higher incomes and a better quality of life, it has also exacerbated threats to the region’s ecosystems through natural habitat degradation and biodiversity loss, due to commercial, agricultural and industrial activity.
Rates of mangrove, wetland and forest loss in Asia are among the highest in the world, 95 percent of Southeast Asian coral reefs are at risk, and almost 1,400 plants and animals in the region are listed as Critically Endangered and Endangered.
All is not lost, though. Thankfully, this is the 21st century, and the vital role of gender equality, equity and inclusion in conservation and environmental protection has been receiving increasing attention from both the scientific and political community.
A large number of international organisations have been relentlessly advocating for the empowerment of women, and for them to take real ownership of the ecosystems upon which they rely. This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Be bold for change’.
As increasing numbers of women are empowered through conservation projects that systemically mainstream gender equality into programmatic outcomes, collective efforts in sustainable development become more impactful, and can indeed secure a better future for all.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Gender equality: A game changer for nature.’