Shrinking Planet: Gender

March 7, 2014

As the world shrinks before our eyes, common questions thread through conversations about the next 20 years: how to feed us all, how to manage our water supply, and how to ensure we can power our ever-changing planet. With the urgency increasing every day and the unpredictable impacts of climate change looming on the horizon, including women in conversations about how to tackle these issues will be critical to creating durable solutions and novel approaches to complex problems. 

Communities on the front line of flaring tensions over resource control suffer firsthand from the battle over these resources, which are needed both for human survival and for economic development. As the pressures on resources like water, food, and energy increase, the possibility for those in a position of power to use them as leverage becomes increasingly more likely. Everyone affected by decisions such as these should be brought to the table. 

When women’s voices are heard, negotiated outcomes include significantly better representation of the issues. Sound and durable agreements, created with the consent of a fuller array of community perspectives, can help stem violent outcomes from disputes and improve development outcomes.

Civil society, corporations, and governments increasingly recognize that addressing gender inequality is central to achieving numerous societal objectives. Increasing the number of women across all sectors from agriculture to policymaking to finance can create impacts ranging from better market capitalization to decreases in corruption to improved public health. 

Resolving and preventing such conflicts calls for inclusive engagement and the negotiating skills of all members of the community, including women, who experience a disproportionate amount of the negative impacts from events like environmental degradation or mining.

  •   Women tend to lean toward more practical and durable solutions in discussions about community development funding. Firstly, women bring issues of concern to women and children to the table, and, secondly, a more gender inclusive process leads to a more practical community development approach overall. 
  •   Some consensus building efforts need women-only processes up front to build confidence in sharing voices at the table. Though the goal is to have an integrated, gender-balanced approach to participation, traditional gender norms may render this impossible at the outset. Initially segregated engagement efforts can position women stakeholders to enter negotiations with more agency and trust in the process.
  •   Involvement of women in consensus building processes increases the likelihood that the results of a negotiation will be accepted by a wider array of stakeholders. The World Bank Institute cites incorporation of gender issues among the most critical factors determining success of development policies. Likewise, policies crafted with the input of the stakeholders they are designed to help are often most effective.

A shrinking planet can lead to increasing conflict. Finding the solutions to the pressing dilemmas we all face will require a consistent effort to engage more women. Regardless of geography, tradition or culture, there are ways to amplify the voice of women – our survival depends on it. 

LOOKING AHEAD

  •   How do you include women in the decision-making process when their basic rights are denied?
  •   What can we do to find creative, game-changing solutions that help bring an equal number of women to the table? 

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