In many parts of the developing world, women of all ages play a critical role in managing natural resources, which they rely on for food, water, medicine and fuel wood for their families. Yet they often are excluded from participating in community decisions about resource use.
WWF addresses this issue by helping women in developing countries gain better access to education, health care and sustainable livelihoods. Doing so helps ensure that the voices, skills and knowledge of women are incorporated into discussions and decision-making related to conservation in their families and communities.
Meeta is a young mother from India. Back-to-back pregnancies and heavy housework responsibilities took a toll on her health and wellbeing. Noting her declining health, a neighborhood social worker invited Meeta and her husband Ramkishore to participate in a CARE maternal health program that fostered open communication, education and access to family planning information.
In many developing countries women are particularly vulnerable to climate change—for example, if water supplies dwindle due to increasing droughts they have to walk further to fetch water. They also tend to be less well educated than men and have fewer savings to help them recover from shocks. WWF works with partners to help women adapt to climate change. In Nepal, a strong process has been developed that first empowers marginalized women to participate actively in community adaptation processes. This includes identifying their specific climate vulnerabilities and ensuring that solutions for them are included in local climate adaptation plans. The plans are then implemented; activities can range from rainwater harvesting and improving water use efficiency, to introducing climate-adapted vegetable crops. If more intense rainfall threatens to cause landslides on degraded slopes, the sites are stabilized and restored. WWF aims to help women adapt to climate change while also building the resilience of the ecosystems that support them.
WWF and its partners provide health support—such as improved drinking water, sanitation, family planning and reproductive health—to people in remote communities. This is part of an approach referred to as Population, Health and the Environment (PHE). We use this approach because more than 90% of population growth in coming years will be concentrated in the poorest developing countries, where increasingly, nature’s resources are unable to meet growing local and global demand. The result is the declining health of people and environments.
WWF’s work focuses on reducing the environmental impacts of high per-capita consumption in the developed world, while also working with local communities in developing countries to improve health, and reduce population pressures on nature. The PHE approach includes partnerships to promote family planning and reproductive health to improve maternal and child health, enabling and empowering women to have the number of children they want, when they want to have them. We also work to improve food security and nutrition, and promote alternative livelihood activities that have less environmental impact.
Other work includes:
Working with partners to reach more remote communities with poor access to health services;
Developing approaches to reduce adverse impacts of migration on biodiversity;
Empowering women to participate in community decision-making for natural resource management;
And promoting clean energy which reduces women’s work collecting firewood and indoor air pollution.