Table of Contents
1. General Analysis
1.1 Participatory approach
1.2 Gender, a cross-cutting priority
2. Towards participatory approach and gender mainstreaming in
It is of great importance to address environmental issues from a gender perspective. While environmental degradation has severe
consequences for all human beings, it affects mainly women and children. Women and girls walk great distances every day carrying 20
litres of water or fuel. “Progress on water and sanitation is essential to empower women who suffer most from a lack of freshwater and
private sanitation facilities”. They could devote their precious time to schooling or doing other productive work.
It is clear that “the most appropriate way to manage environmental issues is with the participation of all interested stakeholders “at the
relevant level”. Principle 10 of the Rio declaration provides some basic public participation institutional components of good governance.
The Aarhus Convention, considered a model for environment democracy, took root in Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration.
The Convention adopted and opened for signature in June 1998, “is a new unique international agreement which provides the public with
rights to access to information, participation and decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters”. It can be a basis for developing a framework for managing public participation in relation to sustainable development or decision-making policies. Greater awareness of environmental information will empower the citizens and enhance the democratic participation. UN Secretary-General called the Convention “the most ambitious venture in environmental democracy undertaken under the auspices of the United Nations. Its adoption was a remarkable step forward in development of international law as it relates to participatory democracy and citizens’ environmental rights”. The success of the Aarhus Convention will depend not only on the political will of governments but also on the readiness of the public to exercise the rights stipulated in the Convention. The public involvement will ensure that the Convention remains a living instrument.
It is important to explore the roles of women and men in relation to natural resource use and management and make them responsible for a gender approach in environmental work.
“A gender sustainable development perspective should be infused with a commitment to change the cultural values and sexual division of labour, to attain, in the near future, a state where men and women share power and labour in the management and control of fragile ecosystems”.
1. General analysis
Participation is a currently a key aspect of democratic decentralization which is an institutionalized form of participatory approach and aims at increasing accountability and by bringing public decision-making closer to the local populations. Participation is believed to make plans more relevant, give people more self-esteem, and to help legitimize the planning process and the state as a whole (Conyers 1990).
“Critical voices about participatory initiatives have focused largely on mismatches between overambitious aims and poor practice. One such breach is that between claimed social inclusiveness and the reality of gender biases (Guijt and Kaul Shah, 1998). Despite the aims of participatory development to involve people in development affects them directly, surprisingly little attention is paid to understanding who wants to ‘participate’, what makes their participation possible, and what’s in it for them. Often, participatory processes have left women on the sidelines, along with the gender issues that shape their lives”.
Sustainable development places people at the heart of development and gives the highest priority to poverty reduction, environmental regeneration and women’s participation in development process. Gender is inherent in the notion of participatory development.
“Any definition of development is incomplete if it fails to comprehend the contribution of women to development and the consequences of development for the lives of women. Every development policy, plan or project has an impact on women and cannot succeed without the work of women. And development with justice calls urgently for measures that will give women access to better jobs; that will diminish the arduous tasks and hundreds of millions of women face in their domestic and agricultural occupations; and that will distribute more fairly between the sexes opportunities for creative work and economic advancement”. “Gender has often been misunderstood as being about the promotion of women only. However, gender focuses on the relationship between men and women, their roles, access to and control over resources, division of labour and needs.” Inequality begins with basic human relationships between men and women who have faces extraordinary barriers worldwide and in particular in developing world.
1.1 Participatory approach
“Participation is in its ideal form when there is self-organization, self-responsibility and self-actualization”, says Burkey (1993). He also states that participation is essential for human development, self-confidence and growth. Participatory approach incites and teaches people to take charge of their own lives.
Participation is both a goal and method of change. First, it refers to the society without monopoly of political, economic and social powers in the hands of elite. Second, participation is a means that serves to develop the organizational capacity of those presently excluded in order to identify and express their needs and contribute to solving them.
Popular participation has become a fashionable, frequently used/misused concept which also vague and ambiguous. It is necessary to adopt bottom-up or participatory approaches in order to reach the poor and disadvantage people and guide them towards self-development efforts. Government and non-governmental organizations and agencies realized that the main reason of many unsuccessful development projects was the lack of active and lasting participation of the intended beneficiaries. Therefore, they started to promote the participation of people, particularly disadvantaged women and men on a pilot basis.
There is a wide range of definitions of participation:
“(1) sensitizing people to make them more responsive to development programmes and to encourage local initiatives and self-help; (2) involving people as much as possible actively in the decision-making process which regards their development; (3) organizing group action to give to hitherto excluded disadvantaged people control over resources, access to services and/or bargaining power; (4) promoting the involvement of people in the planning and implementation of development efforts as well as in the sharing of their benefits; and (5) in more general, descriptive terms: “the involvement of a significant number of persons in situations or actions which enhance their well-being, e.g. their income, security or self-esteem”. Self-development and self-reliance should be an outcome of participation allowing the poor practise the self-development.
The mechanism through which the theorists – Manor, Oyogi, and Smoke- believe that efficiency and equity should increase is by bringing public decisions closer and making them more open and accountable to local populations.
Walter points out, “Democratic governance cannot be realized at the centre if it does not obtain at the local level. Governance is democratic at the local level to the extent by which people are able to influence the process and substance of decisions made by government that are likely to affect them”.
It is crucial to establish dialogue, partnership and participatory approach among the main stakeholders and diverse actors. “Local authorities have often become open to adopting participatory practices in their work. In many cases, local authorities unused to proactivity on the part of the communities they serve, initially opposed community-initiated projects, but were later convinced of the merits of this approach.”
The term non-governmental organization encompasses a diversity of actors such as professional associations, labour groups, and church communities; in short, any non-profit groups with self-governing mechanisms and outside government. NGOs have becoming more active due to several factors: increasing recognition of global problems, the emergence of media and new communication tools, the spread of democracy and transparency.
“Public participation, and in particular NGOs, are very important factors in the development of environmental policy and institutions, both at the national and international levels. Among many roles, NGOs act as mobilizers of public opinion, publicizing the nature and seriousness of environmental problems, shifting public and political attitudes towards environmental issues and placing them high on the national and international political agenda; as advocates of view points and interests that governments and international organizations do not fully take into account; as watchdogs, monitoring the implementation and enforcement of environmental obligations; as policy analysts and expert advisors to governments and international organizations; and as bridges between local and global politics, supporting the local implementation of international environmental agreements”.
NGOs are increasingly using participatory approach in natural resource management (NRM). Use of gender analysis involves describing who does what and when; who controls resources and makes decisions about them, and who benefits from this distribution of responsibilities. Nina Lilja and Jacqueline A. Ashby define different types of participation:
Conventional: scientists make decisions alone without organized communication with populations;
Consultative: scientists make the decisions alone, but with organized communication with populations;
Collaborative: implies a shared decision between the populations and scientists through two-way communication;
Collegial: populations make decision individually or in a group.
Decentralization and participatory local governance are at the heart of MDGs because the achievement of many of the goals is dependent upon effective service delivery at the local level which is impossible without participation of citizens who can hold their leader accountable for the fulfilling these goals. Good governance, based upon the public, civic and private institutions, insures that the state meets needs of the people and that it is held accountable for the delivery of services. Nowadays, participation in governance is considered a right and is seen as fundamental to the social transformation necessary for development.
Democratic local institutions can better respond to local needs and aspirations due to their close proximity and are easily held accountable downwardly what is the centre of decentralization process. “Effective decentralization is defined by an inclusive local process under local authorities empowered with discretionary decisions over resources that are relevant to local people. Democratic decentralization reforms present the opportunity to move from a project-based approach toward legally institutionalized popular participation. Decentralization is believed to help to improve equity through greater retention and fair or democratic distribution of benefits from local activities.”
“There are limits to the effectiveness of representative mechanisms as vehicles for popular participation. This goal is especially difficult to achieve in fragile democracies, in areas where party bureaucracies are not very democratic, and in large rural constituencies where face-to-face contact between constituents and councillors is rare, where significant groups or interests are underrepresented, and where information is scarce, communication poor and education levels low”. The main constraint of genuine participation is the political will to promote this in a country that can be overcome by means of different strategies at international and national levels. The outcome of the strategies must be that officials and elites become motivated to support or tolerate the participation of the disadvantage people.
“If world leaders and international institutions are to be the highest expression of people’s values, and authentically inspired be the populace they represent, civil society must itself embody those ideals.”
1.2 Gender, a cross-cutting priority
Gender is inherent in the notion of participatory development however, the role of woman as the home-maker has not really changed and the equation is similar worldwide, irrespective of regional, national, or religious differences. The power-sharing seems to have reached a critical level: men are not willing to delegate any more of their power to control economic and political activity while women are unable to accept more of the multiple responsibilities of home and office without the power to alter existing socio-cultural equations. It is crucial that women be empowered to change our society.
Wikipedea defines gender as follows “In a variety of different contexts, gender refers to the masculinity or femininity of words, persons, characteristics, or non-human organisms. The classification into masculine and feminine is analogous to the biological sexes of male and female, often by physical or syntactical analogy, linguistic decay, misunderstandings, societal norms, or personal choice. Gender Equity, Gender Equality, or Gender Egalitarianism is the belief in the equality of the gender or the sexes. Many followers of this philosophy would like to see this term come to replace “feminism” or “masculism,” when used to describe a belief in basic equal rights and opportunities for members of both sexes within legal, social, or corporate establishments. They strive for ultimate fairness, and seek cooperative solutions so as to make things better for both males, females and everything in between. While they may share a number of critiques and analyses with self-described feminists and/or masculists, they feel that “egalitarianism” is a better word for a belief in equality than any word that focuses on one of the genders.”
“The world is unique for every human being, but, in general, women’s lives vary greatly from those of men because of patterns of socialization related to gender.” Different theorists have demonstrated that it is a gendered concept. “Although the citizen has been traditionally depicted as a universal gender-neutral category, closer examination of the characteristics associated with this supposedly genderless citizen reveals that he possesses qualities that women have been historically assumed not to possess and/or have been systematically denied.” Citizenship is constructed in a male image “with a number of specific references to ’himself and his family’ revealing an underlying assumption that the rights-bearers of these treaties are male household heads”. Equal political rights are guaranteed but women are still under-represented in political structures. Early United Nations efforts to promote social and economic development were gender-blind. In 1970s, the UN policy included explicit consideration of women in development, however emphasizing women’s role in reproduction and not production. Nowadays, women’s specific social and economic needs are incorporated into the UN system.
Citizenship is a contract between the individual and the society the individual lives. It is at the same time a framework that enables people to participate in political life. “The way we define citizenship is intimately linked to the kind of society and political community we want” stated Mouffe in 1992. “On one side of the citizenship ‘coin’ citizenship equals entitlement to a range of rights. On the other side of the citizenship coin is the issue of participation in governance…All are committed to the idea of active citizenship, in which individuals are at liberty to contribute their skills and knowledge to society through participating in public decision making which is relevant to their lives”. Citizenship has ended to be restricted to men and dominant social groups. There exists an age-old stereotype of men as actors in public life who represent the interests of all the family and women in particular. This means that women have no independent status to appeal to the state for support. In some countries, women are denied full citizenship rights outright. Modernising these laws is a great challenge, especially, because women are still marginalised and do not take active part in politics nor governance.
Gender equality and the advancement of women, like human rights, are cross-cutting aspects of United Nations policy and its activities. The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) is a voluntary fund that works to promote the political and economic empowerment of women in developing countries by strengthening women’s economic capacity as entrepreneurs and increasing women’s participation in decision-making.
On one hand, women’s knowledge about the environment is valuable but often been ignored. On the other hand, because of limited access to education women may be ignorant about some environmental issues like water pollution, waste disposal or safe use of agrochemicals. Another crucial factor is access and control over resources. There are still gaps in access to and control of resources; historically, women have inferior rights over resources than men do.
“Gender-sensitive governance means not just ensuring that women are equally represented in public institutions, but also ensuring that these institutions provide equal access to services and opportunities and encourage participation in a way that promotes the human rights of women as well as men, based on the evidence that most women still start from a different place”. Change of personal behaviours is required as well as challenges to socio-economic and cultural structures.
Gender equity is essential for countries’ economies, sustainable development and environmental conservation. Innumerable women organizations have contributed to natural resources management and the vivid example of the links between gender and natural resources is the Green Belt Movement launched in Kenya in 1977. Since its creation, the Movement has created a national network; in addition it has spread to other countries through Pan-African Green Network.
In spite of the fact that women have a decisive role and contribute actively to development and environment preservation, the entrenched patterns of gender inequality persist determined by social and cultural contexts; patriarchal values are instilled from childhood. Different current trends – fundamentalism, wars, globalization and environmental issues- feed the wide gap of gender inequality. In some African countries two thirds of women depend on land or/and other natural resources for their livelihoods; consequently it is important to redress the disparities related to land ownership in order to assure secure and direct access to land. All forms of discrimination against women’s access to natural resources must be removed.
Only seven developed countries have achieved high levels of gender equity and empowerment with 30 per cent of women in parliament. Since the early 1990s, women’s share of seats in parliament has steadily increased. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women’s representation has doubled. Nevertheless, women still hold only 16 per cent of seats worldwide. Only Rwanda – 49 per cent of members of Rwanda’s National Assembly are women- and Nordic countries have come close to parity.
By the end of 2004, 81 countries had amended their electoral laws to provide quotas for women that increase women’s participation as political leaders and voters.
The Mauritanian woman has fought for her emancipation like any other modern women since the independence and she has made known her voice in order to participate in the social and economic development of Mauritania.
The government has granted an important role to the women in any field. Thus there is today a ministry called "State Secretary's Office for Women's Status" (SECF) created in 1992 to the advent of democracy in Mauritania and ruled by a woman. It is charged with developing
programmes to promote the participation of women in the economic,
political, and social life of Mauritania.
Since democracy, born 20th of July, 1990, women have been given rights to enjoy all from all their physical and mental faculties. During the legislative elections in 1996 about 10 women were elected to parliament.
Added to that, from 1996 on, a great number of women were hired in different kinds of posts. The number of women's cooperatives has grown from 15 in 1982 to more than 500 in 1993. The Minister of Health and social affairs is a woman. However, there is a still lack of women's representation in all decision-making levels both in the public and private sectors. Few women hold decision-making positions in ministries or other government bodies.
Since 2005, the Mauritanian government has been committed to implement representation quota of 20% on behalf of women. Projet d’Appui à l’implication des femmes dans le processus de décision en Mauritanie (Support programme to women’s implication in decision-making in Mauritania) is a joint project of UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF and will be carried out in close cooperation with national authorities in particular with State Secretary's Office for Women's Status (SECF) and civil society. The aim of the project is to build the capacity of women in order to permit them to take an active part in decision-making within the society.
It is crucial to appeal to women and men alike in order to enhance their awareness of gender issues. It is understood that “policies that target women only cannot achieve the best results. Nor can those which assume that public actions are gender-neutral in their effects. Hence, promoting gender equality implies a profound change in socio-economic organization of societies: not only in the way women work, live and care for the other members of the households, but also in the way men do, and in the way their respective roles in the family and community are articulated with the need to earn a living”.
It is worth noting that there are gender differences in climate change impacts and in adaptive capacities; consequently a gender dimension should be taken into consideration in climate change policies. One example of such differences: in 1991, during the cyclone and flood in Bangladesh, the death rate was almost 5 times higher for women than men because the warning information was transmitted by men to men; moreover women were not allowed to leave the houses without a male relative.
Mainstreaming gender in energy planning and policies is crucial. Grid-based electrical power does not reach many rural and poor urban areas. Women and children collect water at distant sources that causes spine injuries and often prevent children from going to school. Specific relationships between women’s work and water, energy and waste management were investigated by sociologists. Women are usually the main providers water and fuel and organizers of daily household. When wastes are diverted to new uses, or competition for wastes increases, the energy and time spent by women on household needs increases. Consequently, women would benefit the most from access to improved energy services. While “rural energy needs for domestic, agricultural, and small-scale informal production activities, where women predominate, are given low priority”.
The United Nations is formally committed to gender mainstreaming within all UN programmes and policies. The Charter of the United Nations, signed in San Francisco in 1945, was the first international agreement to proclaim gender equality as a fundamental human right. The United Nations General Assembly celebrates International Women's Day to acknowledge the contribution of women to international peace and security. This year, the United Nations’ celebrations will be focusing on Women in Decision-Making.
The United Nations Charter reaffirms “the equal rights of women and men”; Article 55c reads “The United Nations shall promote universal respect for and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion”.
Gender equity is a human right, consequently is it at the top of agenda of United Nations and at the heart of achieving Millennium Development. Goal 3 specifically aims at promoting gender equality and calls for empowerment of women. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations said “In our work to reach those objectives, as the Millennium Declaration made clear, gender equality is not only a goal in its own right; it is critical to our ability to reach others. Study after study shown that there is no effective development strategy in which women do not play a central role”.
In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development recognized women as a ‘major group’ in sustainable development; the United Nations Fourth Forum on Women in Beijing provided an opportunity to consolidate decisions already made and offered a road map for achieving gender equity in different areas. In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg confirmed the need for gender analysis and gender mainstreaming in all sustainable development efforts.
United Nations Millennium Declaration states “Men and women have the right to live their lives and raise their children in dignity, free from hunger and from the fear of violence, oppression or injustice. Democratic and participatory governance based on the will of the people best assures these rights”. Decentralization has created new possibilities for popular engagement and direct collective action is one of the ways for ordinary people to influence decision-making and hold authorities accountable.
In the framework of gender empowerment, United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is committed to designing and implementing programmes that promote gender equity by:
assessing gender differences that women face in different areas;
designing projects that will enable women’s group to identify problems and solutions;
strengthening women’s role in local decision-making and representative institutions;
training the elected women’s representatives in local councils;
ensuring that women adequately represented in consultative bodies and local committees.
Regarding the perpetuating inequality between women and men, it is crucial to bear in mind that not only women but also men should be addressed in terms of gender.
2. Towards participatory approach and gender mainstreaming in environmental policies
What is new nowadays is the role of people and the shift of focus from states to people who has the capacity and the will to take control of their own lives as well as to improve them. Most people are not satisfied of only several minutes in a voting booth and expect more from democracy to satisfy their desire for participation and decision-making. It is possible due to educational facilities, access to information and improved opportunities for women.
Decolonization and democratization increased the proportion of people who can make their voices heard.
Participatory development, which dominates the whole development spectrum, was evolved to bridge the gap between the beneficiaries and planners. The relationship between these two actors has been characterised by mistrust and antagonism. Vettivel in 1999 argued that participation was not a new concept and made out the difference between participation in development and participatory development. According to Vettivel, participation in development “is a method to get the projects implemented by the people as ‘they’ participate in ‘our’ projects. Participatory development takes place when people are mobilized, organized over a long period of time to identify their local development problems, estimate the resources at their disposal, analyze various options, set their goals and implement projects. But it is possible that both participation in development and participatory approach can be made a continuum. In other words, a project I which participation is envisaged can be made participatory later”. However, it is important to note that these two concepts are quite different. While participation in development offers a chance to people to participate in development activities by means of top-down approach, participatory development implies a radical change in project management.
The key focus of the participatory approach must be on a three-stage process that includes “upstream-downstream-upstream” phases. “In the initial upstream phase, interactive workshops and broad-based consultations help formulate national strategies to activate communities and mobilize resources for local projects. Through downstream ongoing local consultations, collaborative projects are identified, supported and implemented, and systems for monitoring and evaluation are established. An upstream policy dialogue occurs in the final phase as collaborative projects lead to a collective impact on the means and methods of municipal or national policy-making”
In too many countries girls and women are left behind. Having an equal voice with men in the decisions –within the family or society- is a key element of women’s empowerment.
To bring change to the lives of women on the ground, to move from a numerical to a strategic presence in decision-making, women need to take power into their hands and participate actively in political life. UNIFEM is the women’s fund at the United Nations, providing financial support and technical assistance to the programmes promoting women’s rights, gender equality and economic and political empowerment. The stakes for women are high. In this regard, in 2004, the UNIFEM concentrated on supporting countries and projects that bring women’s human rights into the development agenda to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Moreover, the affirmation of the centrality of gender equality to human rights and development has given new momentum and it is crucial to assure that this momentum is not lost. One of the pillars of the UNIFEM’s work is women’s political participation which still extremely limited worldwide and especially in developing countries. Moreover, UNIFEM foster women’s roles in governance and supports women’s efforts to change discriminatory laws and train and equip women with skills to actively participate in elections as voters and candidates. “Using the political space provided by the United Nations, women have made considerable progress, I the last decade, in making their experiences and perspectives heard and their contributions visible”.
Regarding education and decision-making, in both rich and poor countries, gender discrimination persists, and in some developing countries, girls and women are excluded. Educated girls and women have many more choices and opportunities for employment will contribute to overall country growth and development advances. Furthermore, they are more empowered to shape their country's political, social, economic and environmental progress.
Recommendations: translate into action the gender-mainstreaming strategy in order to take up the challenge.
knowledge and understanding of the issue;
validation of women’s contributions to sustainable development;
full participation of women in decision-making;
gender mainstreaming in the policies of natural resource management institutions;
sensitization on women’s roles in biodiversity and desertification control;
women and men equal participation in planning and implementing the projects;
equitable sharing of benefits from natural resources (women and men);
use of participatory methodologies;
adequate technical and financial allocations to support women in natural resource management;
women’s access to information, education and training;
strengthening of women’s networks and organizations.
It is believed that the bottom-up approach must be strengthened. It is crucial to target children and young people; their implication in decision-making is important because they are our future. In this regard, environmental portal with interactive communications can be useful; that will provide feedback through debate.
Often, the promise of decentralization comes up against the brick wall of capacity deficits at the local level. Therefore, improving knowledge of rights and rules of public and developing capacities of communes is a key element for empowering local communities and fostering effective participation. People are willing to undertake initiatives for their collective welfare if they are sensitized and provided with requisite skills. “Some of the best capacity-related investments include strengthening the capacity of local governments to undertake the participatory process; the capacity of communities to organize and form inclusive associations; and the capacity of sectors to engage as partners rather than adversaries”.
“There have been many advances in international governance for the environment and gender equity over the last decade. International environmental treaties such as those on biological diversity and desertification now recognize the central role of women as stewards of the natural world”.
However, s everal institutions failed to make gender a cross-cutting priority in all the projects and include women in their work because of the lack of understanding of the links between gender and other issues as well as the contribution women can make. There is a pressing need to shift towards more equitable relationships between women and men without pitting them against each other; to develop best practices in mainstreaming gender in environmental work; to do research on gender and environmental implications with the emphasis of empowerment of women in environmental decision-making and gender balance in meetings.
Dissemination of information like reporting or notification of emergency situations is a main input for the development. Increasing the availability of information and access to public environmental information is an essential element for effective public participation.
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