News / 27 September 2011

Towards gender equality in Africa, Asia and Latin America

On the 14th of September, in the Public Library of Amsterdam, three partner organisations of Both ENDS presented their experiences with a method, developed by Both ENDS, to integrate gender equality in their work on access to natural resources. The presentations of the three organisations from Togo, Colombia and Bangladesh, showed the result of a process they each started in the beginning of 2010. They formed the starting point for a broader debate with other environmental and development organisations.


The work fields of the three organisations range from the promotion of right to water, sustainable small-scale mining, to the support of communities that depend on harvesting non-timber forest products. Network organisation ANCE, says that in Togo women are responsible for the supply of water within their family. Nevertheless, the decision makers on water supply are predominantly male; they determine the budget of the Ministry of Water and regulate investments in water at the level of municipalities. According to Amichocó, women in the Chocó region in Colombia are involved in mining together with their husbands, but their voices are not heard in municipalities and districts. Similarly, in the Sunderbans in Bangladesh, BARCIK sees that women have an important role in gathering and processing all kinds of forestry products, but are dependent on male park officers, traders, district officials and male honey collectors.


Specific knowledge of women is not being utilized as a result of unequal gender relations.  Women often have a double responsibility: to generate income and to take care of the family. In developing countries, 75% of agricultural labouring is performed by women, while they often hardly benefit from the returns: 90% of the profit is controlled by men. This does not only undermine the position of women, but also that of their family and the community as a whole, for men tend to spend income on themselves, while women more often reinvest their earnings in the family and community.


The debate focused on the specific value of gender equality for sustainable development, on challenges of up-scaling the project, and on making gender inequality more open for discussion. The experiences of ANCE, Amichocó and BARCIK clearly showed that people first have to become more aware of the inequality and role patterns that are dominant in their communities. This was done in various creative ways. like mapping the available natural resources and the use of these resources by men and women. The new insights made men more willing to work towards more gender equality.


This method is innovative because it is designed as a long term process in which communities, gender experts, environmental organisations, women's groups and the government all work together on a gender analysis and take this as a starting point for joint effort to address inequality. In some communities, women now actively take part in meetings of village committees, or facilitate workshops to men and women regarding gender equality. Considering the positive results of this pilot, financed by PSO, further elaboration of this method and a follow-up in these three countries is a logical step. A lot of work is still needed and Both ENDS is happy to continue  supporting these organisations in their efforts towards more gender equality.


Late November, we expect to publish a final report in which this method, the three cases, the most important lessons learned and the conclusions are presented. Please let us know if you would like to receive a copy and/or if you are interested in further exchange or cooperation on this issue.




Photo:Guillaume Collange

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