Around the world, one in three women will experience gender-based violence in her lifetime. Pervasive in every community, in all walks of life, gender-based violence is also used to assert control over access and rights to natural resources. Investment in knowledge inspires and spurs action, as IUCN’s work with partners demonstrates.
Environmental degradation drives competition over increasingly scarce resources, exacerbating tensions and exploitative practices that result in gender-based violence.
From sexual assault, to domestic violence; to forced prostitution, child marriage and survival sex, gender-based violence is used to negotiate or reinforce inequitable power across contexts. In some fishing communities, for example, ‘sex-for-fish’ exploitation has numerous effects, including resulting in HIV infection rates 14 times higher than national averages. In a single study of the Madre de Dios illegal mining area in Peru, 4,5000 women and girls were trafficked to work in brothels, with 78 per cent of them under the age of 18 and some as young as 12. Gender-based violence is also employed as a weapon against environmental defenders, diminishing or silencing their work.
In Sierra Leone, women are extorted for access to land rights, while armed security forces in Guatemala, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania use sexual violence as a means to control dissent from local communities. In Cameroon women report that their participation in environmental projects are at times met with domestic violence, due to disputes over managing agricultural resources. Around the world, indigenous women experience intersecting forms of discrimination that exacerbates gender-based violence as well as impunity ⎼ experiences that pervade the world of indigenous women’s work to protect the environment.
As the world celebrates The Time for Nature this World Environment Day, understanding and investing in strategies to address gender-based violence and environment linkages can spur change and innovations across sectors.
To help tackle this challenge, IUCN studied over 1,000 sources to create an evidence base for action.
The issues are vast – but not insurmountable
Gender-based violence and environment linkages: The violence of inequality, an expansive study presenting evidence across sectors and contexts, demonstrates that gender-based violence is not only a human rights violation, but also a barrier to conservation and sustainable development. Beyond the immediate impacts of gender-based violence ⎼ from physical to psychological health and wellness consequences ⎼ long-term effects include diminishing women’s engagement in and benefits from economic and educational opportunities, reduced visibility and agency in programming and projects, and marginalisation from decision-making spheres. Gender-based violence can thereby have significant impacts on efforts to conserve and protect the environment and to meet gender equality goals.
The violence of inequality was developed under a partnership on Advancing Gender in the Environment (AGENT) with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which has been addressing gender inequalities and gender-based violence as priorities across various sectors for decades. Through the research process, IUCN found that the pervasiveness of linkages across multiple environment-related contexts indicated an urgency for cross-sectoral solutions.
USAID’s Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GenDev) designed the RISE Challenge to identify and fund the innovative application of promising approaches to address GBV across programmes that address the access, use, control, and management of natural resources.
USAID’s Resilient, Inclusive, & Sustainable Environments (RISE): A Challenge to Address Gender-Based Violence in the Environment funds organisations to innovatively adapt and implement promising or proven interventions that have been used to effectively prevent and respond to GBV in other sectors to environmental programming, or to integrate GBV prevention and response interventions into existing environmental programming.
Among 200 applications from over 50 countries, the five grantees are announced this World Environment Day. As highlighted in a recent AGENT webinar, RISE presents an opportunity to learn from these diverse strategies in action. Through AGENT, IUCN both leverages learning from these efforts for wider awareness-sharing and offers technical support to these and other projects, continuously tailoring gender-responsive approaches to emerging promising practice.
Securing land rights and ending gender exclusive practices underpinning violence
In Eastern Uganda, approximately 80 per cent of women report experiencing physical and psychological violence when seeking to claim land rights ⎼ with only 8 per cent of men reporting that they believe it is wrong to commit violence against women. With RISE funding, Trócaire is working with the Land Equity Movement of Uganda (LEMU) and Soroti Catholic Diocese Integrated Development Organization (SOCADIDO) to integrate SASA!
A proven methodology to address power imbalances between women and men to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, SASA! will help partners ⎼ including traditional leaders and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms ⎼ promote positive social norms that support women’s access to and control of land and to live a life free from gender-based violence.
Tackling resource conflicts and addressing gender-based risks through REDD+
At least 64 per cent of women in Fiji have experienced intimate partner violence and/or sexual violence, which has also been observed as means of control over resources obtained from payment for ecosystem services mechanisms, such as REDD+. In this context, RISE is supporting a partnership between Marstel-Day and WI-HER ⎼ in consortium with the University of the South Pacific, the Fiji Environmental Law Association, Live & Learn Environmental Education, and Fiji’s REDD+ Programme.
Using WI-HER’s proven gender integration approach, known as iDARE, the partnership will raise awareness on gender-differentiated impacts of REDD+ implementation and will integrate gender and gender-based violence considerations into a Feedback, Grievances and Redress Mechanism to better address gender-based violence linked to environmental action.
Elevating voices for human rights and environmental protection in small-scale mining
In the eastern mining sites of the Democratic Republic of Congo, studies show that one in seven women were required to trade sex for access to work. Action pour la Sauvegarde de l’Enfant et de la Femme Abandonnés (ASEFA) is partnering with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) and two other women-led local organisations to develop an evidence-based, scalable and replicable curriculum in North Kivu, South Kivu and Maniema to address human rights and gender-based violence, along with reducing the impact of artisanal mining on the environment.
Addressing gender-based violence in mining
Recent studies show that gender inequality and gender-based violence are widespread in the mining communities of Antioquia, Colombia. The Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) is partnering with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Development Lab (MIT D-Lab) to support community action towards eliminating gender-based violence and applying economic empowerment as a lever for change.
By supporting women’s mobilisation to create safe spaces to share experiences and receive guidance on how to approach challenges, the project aims to address gender-based violence, reduce environmental impacts of mining activities and increase women’s socio-economic opportunities.
Improving women's access to land and gender-based violence referral systems
In the DRC, women experience high levels of gender-based violence but low land tenure security. Women for Women International (WfWI) is partnering with Innovation and Training for Development and Peace (IFDP) to promote women’s rights and improve women’s access to land and gender-based violence referral systems.
By working with men to shift social norms and training change agents to help prevent gender-based violence, the project aims to address the acute vulnerability women experience due to the lack of land rights and increase economic security benefits for families.