International Women’s Day: How nature-based solutions support and empower women 

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This International Women’s Day, EcoActor Hannah Lawton looks at how investing in nature-based solutions as part of your net-zero strategy can help support and empower women around the world.

International Womens Day 2022 © EcoAct- Farm Africa-Medhanit Gebrmichael
© EcoAct- Farm Africa/Medhanit Gebrmichael

The theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) 2022 is ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’, recognising the important role women play in climate change adaptation and mitigation for a more sustainable future.

Despite acknowledging that women are powerful leaders in the fight against climate change, women are disproportionally impacted and burdened by a changing climate. Women represent the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, with many of these resources now threatened by extreme weather events.

In the latest IPCC Climate Report released in February 2022, women and other marginalised groups were highlighted as being a fundamental component to effective Climate Resilient Development. The report promoted a solutions framework that is focused on mitigation and adaptation, while improving natural and human systems.

One way women are being empowered in the fight against climate change is through nature-based solutions. Nature-based solutions to climate change are those that involve working with the natural environment to address societal challenges to improve biodiversity and human well-being. Women are often more dependent on natural resources, meaning they can become leaders in efficient climate action and successfully implement solutions to climate change.

EcoAct supports a range of verified nature-based solutions projects, selected and developed by our team of climate finance experts. These projects bring tangible and measurable benefits to local communities, empowering women and girls through education, skills development and new sources of income generation.

 

The Anourok Cambodia forestry project in South-West Cambodia supports women’s leadership and participation in Ecotourism  

International Women's Day 2022 - © EcoAct-Wildlife Alliance
© EcoAct-Wildlife Alliance

The Anourok Cambodia forestry project in South-West Cambodia was set up in response to an increase in wildlife hunting and burn cultivation that was destroying thousands of hectares of globally significant ecosystems. Through forest protection and community support, this project now protects 497,000 hectares of tropical rainforest and more than 27,000,000 tons of CO2e have been avoided to date. At the heart of this project is community and government partnership, benefiting local communities with sustainable income generation.

This project empowers local women through their participation in Community-Based Ecotourism. Ecotourism is responsible travel to areas that support conservation of the natural environment and the well-being of local communities. Ecotourism has seen local women recruited into decision-making positions and provides opportunities for capacity-building. 44% of the positions in ecotourism and agricultural project management are held by women. The project promotes gender equality while providing women, including those from ethnic minorities, with their own sources of income.

International Womens Day 2022 © EcoAct-Wildlife Alliance 1
© EcoAct

In addition to supporting women’s empowerment and leadership roles, the project helps to support the education of girls in the area through the provision of educational scholarships. These scholarships provide students with the skills and knowledge to benefit their local communities. To date, five students – two of them girls – have been given educational scholarships and more than 1,715 students have been educated on the ecological significance of the Cardamom Mountains and Cambodia’s biodiversity.

 

The Yedeni project in Ethiopia supports an all-female forest patrol group

International Womens Day 2022 © EcoAct- Farm Africa-Medhanit Gebrmichael 1
© EcoAct- Farm Africa/Medhanit Gebrmichael

The Yedeni project, in the heart of Ethiopia, prevents deforestation by supporting local forest users and government to manage the responsibilities and benefits of the forest. The project aims to reduce deforestation by 70% across 333,924 hectares of tropical forest over the entire project period. Local farmers and forest users in the Bale Eco-region are able to develop forest-friendly businesses, while protecting this ecologically significant region.

In the Biftu Beri region of the Bale Mountains, this project supports an all-female group of forest protectors who patrol and monitor the status of the forest. The group looks out for signs of deforestation, reporting risks and forest damage to a local committee. These women are members of a forestry management cooperative where they gain access to training and awareness programmes that provide them with the skills and motivation to protect and enhance these valuable forest resources. As members, the women engage in weekly meetings where they discuss how to save money and strengthen their small businesses. The women pass on these teachings and encourage other women in the area to join similar cooperatives.

As part of the forest protection activities, the women find new ways to minimise pressures on the forest. With the support of the project, the group have been exploring the use of fuel-saving stoves to reduce firewood use.

The Melap Improved Cookstoves project in Cameroon supports education and entrepreneurship of women and girls

International Womens Day 2022 © EcoAct-Melap
© EcoAct

The Melap Improved Cookstoves project, developed by EcoAct and S2, provides rural households in Cameroon with affordable, clean and efficient cookstoves that reduce the dependency on forest resources. Particularly, the project will distribute 18,800 cookstoves throughout the Noun province. These cookstoves produce less smoke and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Besides a 60% reduction in wood consumption, this cookstove project also reduces significantly the amount of time spent on firewood collection.

As a result of this project, young girls are able to spend more time focusing on their education, using evenings to study instead of collecting firewood. The women beneficiaries of this project spend less time cooking meals due to these more efficient cookstoves and are able to engage in activities such as community leadership and entrepreneurship.

In addition to the empowerment of women, this project also supports the improvement of female health. As women often take on the majority of household responsibilities, many were experiencing respiratory diseases linked to indoor pollution. This was due to old cookstoves that produced significant amounts of smoke, with children in their care also experiencing these types of illnesses. Project beneficiaries now have fewer health concerns due to these cleaner cookstoves.

 

Nature-based solutions support women and align to the SDG’s and Climate Resilient Development 

These nature-based solutions projects benefit the natural environment while empowering and supporting women and girls to develop new skills and engage in effective climate action. These projects support Climate Resilient Development as well as several of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), in particular Goal 5 ‘Gender Quality’ and Goal 13 ‘Climate Action’.

Focusing on equity, justice and gender equality is key in the fight against climate change.  While traditionally women haven’t participated in decision-making or had control of environmental goods, these projects show that when women are empowered to engage in climate action, nature-based solutions are effective in the fight against climate change. Most importantly, while International Women’s Day is just one day, the projects that EcoAct works with help support women all year round towards a more sustainable and equal future.

 

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