We reiterate the importance of women empowerment and gender equality in order to improve environmental protection, rehabilitation and conservation. While not always recognized, women play a crucial part in ensuring that fragile ecosystems are protected, families are able to survive natural disasters, and natural resources are managed in a fair, efficient and sustainable way. Although women have proven their skills in managing natural resources and adapting to climate change, their contributions are often taken for granted or not valued.
Equality across gender also allow for full participation of everyone in the crucial role of actions for the environment or Aksyon Kalikasan. As we remind ourselves of women empowerment in this day, we likewise remind ourselves on the equally important tasks of gender equality.
On the other hand, as we suffer more and more to the ill effects of climate change, among the most affected are women, as they gather water, fish, or farm land affected by flooding. During pregnancy and motherhood, their health is more at risk. Meanwhile, their voices are often the last to be heard in environmental planning and management. They also have less access to land and productive resources.
Challenges to women empowerment and equality among men and women continues to be wide. In the Asian and Pacific Island regions, 58% of women involved in the economy are found in the agriculture sector. In the Philippines, this is only 23% but represents 2nd highest industry group next to retail trade where women are involved (NSO LFS. 2008). This involves work in own-account farms, labor in small enterprises for processing fruits, vegetables and fish, paid and unpaid work on other peoples land, and collecting forest products. Out of all the women working in this sector, 10–20% across Asia & the Pacific have been found to have tenure to the land they work on. Reasons for this number include economic and legal barriers. For example, in terms of loans women are found to get fewer and less loans to acquire land than men. For the Philippines, the rate is only slightly higher at 36.8% (NSO, 2002 Census of Agriculture and Fisheries) but still low.
One other factor that plays into women’s land rights for agriculture is the cultural norms of the area. In the Asian and the Pacific; including in the Philippines, rural areas women’s societal rolls have been defined by patriarchal norms of the larger global society, where men are viewed as breadwinners and women are viewed as caretakers. This can be expressed through the number of hours women spend doing unpaid care work per day. In developing countries in total, women spend 4 hours and 30 minutes of care work a day versus the 1 hour and 2 minutes that men spend. So the work continue and everyone must contribute.
For Aksyon Kalikasan, March every year is Women in Environment Month to give emphasis on the key role of women in our communities in environmental protection and conservation. Starting this month, we are incorporating a Women in Environment module in ALL our events and activities.