Frequently Asked Questions
Gender Based-Violence and Environment Linkages – Key Issues and Strategies for Change
Frequently asked questions.
On 04 June, 2020, IUCN, USAID, and other partners presented key findings on gender-based violence and environment linkages (see the webinar recording and related materials here). Over 600 people registered for the webinar, answering and asking questions about the nexus, while over 300 participants from major environmental organizations, environmental policy spheres, academia, media, and other sustainable development partners (from humanitarian to gender-based violence programming organizations) attended and also asked diverse questions. This Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document is designed to respond to the majority of questions asked. These questions and responses are organized under five major themes that were identified by participants:
- Knowledge on GBV and environment linkages;
- Technical support;
- Cross-sector collaboration;
- Inclusivity; and
- International and National Policy.
Explore questions and answers.
How does gender-based violence impact the environment?
Gender-based violence is used as a means of control to maintain the status quo of unequal and gendered power dynamics in many contexts, including as related to accessing, using, deriving benefits from and controlling land and natural resources. Gender-based violence has widespread impacts, including often preventing or discouraging women from engaging in decision-making, economic and educational opportunities and exercising their rights – which creates lost opportunities for the environment sector. Ultimately, gender inequalities and gender-based violence hinder conservation results, as women’s participation in conservation and the unique traditional knowledge and roles they can bring to the table are not considered as part of any solution, reducing the opportunity for effective conservation and sustainable development. For example, in Zimbabwe, an all-female anti-poaching unit, called Akashinga, created by the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), has proven to be a more effective environmental approach to conservation than the militarised paradigm of ‘fortress conservation’, as women focus on conflict resolution and relationship building instead of using guns. The women selected to be part of this unit had been survivors of sexual and abuse, sex workers or belonged to other marginalised groups. Their participation in this unit not only provided an economic opportunity for survivors, but they also gave more back to their communities and helped changing social norms, becoming inspirational figures for girls and boys alike.
Are there any distinctions in the links observed between gender-based violence and access/control of terrestrial resources, as opposed to between gender-based violence and access/control of water/fisheries resources?
Gender-based violence includes various, sometimes overlapping, forms of violence that are used to exert/control and benefit from unequal power dynamics. Evidence shows that some forms of violence are more prominent in specific contexts, for example: the use of domestic violence to enable disinheritance and property grabbing; sexual abuse and rape risks while women collect water or forest products; or sexual exploitation around fishing ports. However, many other expressions are present across sectors, such as pressure to engage in sexual transactions in exchange for fish or in the resolution of land disputes, or increased intimate partner violence associated to tensions caused by increasingly scarce natural resources and, in some instances, to maintain control over women’s benefits from natural resources, such as from payment for ecosystem services, land rights or agriculture and fishing profits.
Are there situations where women do not know what gender-based violence is or are not aware that they have been experiencing violence due to their gender?
Gender-based violence is rooted in long-standing, deeply entrenched discriminatory norms of patriarchal systems and is used to maintain these unequal gendered norms that, in turn, perpetuate it. The lack of or limited recognition of gender-based violence in national legal systems in many countries and the insufficient provision of resources to prevent and respond to it, coupled with societal stigma and cultural taboos that surround gender-based violence, contribute to under-reporting and impunity – which sends a message to society that gender-based violence is acceptable and inevitable. Thus, many women and men are not aware that the violence perpetrated or suffered is based on unequal gender norms, especially when it refers to more subtle ways of gender-based violence, such as psychological abuse or control over economic resources. For example, studies show that “behaviorally descriptive” terms versus labeling gender-based violence terms often result in different responses for women and men alike on what constitutes a form of gender-based violence.
What are some examples of best practices in addressing sexual and gender-based violence in the environment sector?
Some good practices exist across the environment sector, including:
- Ensuring diverse women and gender experts are included in project design and monitoring as they may help identify relevant GBV-environment linkages, including through gender analyses and designing gender-responsive programming that works to prevent unintended risks from gender neutral or blind approaches;
- Integrating awareness raising on gender-based violence as part of cross-sector resilience building in the context of climate change;
- Ensuring institutional policies and practices are in place and supported to mitigate and address GBV;
- Empowering women’s collective agency in the defence of natural resources (e.g., in relation to restoration or conservation activities);
- Engaging survivors in conservation efforts, empowering and supporting them;
- Using gender analyses to identify gender-based violence risks and developing recommended activities to address them; and
- Engaging men and men’s networks as champions and partners.
As an example, UNDP is supporting the government of Uganda to integrate actions to address gender-based violence within the ‘Building Resilient Communities, Wetland Ecosystems and Associated Catchments’ project. This approach was a result of formative research indicating links between gender-based violence – particularly child marriage and transactional survival sex – and climate change disasters, famine, and water shortages. The piloting of gender-based violence in this project is part of a broader UNDP project on ‘Ending GBV and achieving the SDGs’.