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Empower Women and Improve Health

Overview

Namibia People and communities

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.

Saving a beloved home along the Luangwa River in Zambia

The Luangwa River is one of the longest remaining free-flowing rivers in Southern Africa. It flows through an area which boasts some of the most pristine habitats left in Zambia for elephants, lions, leopards and a myriad of other wildlife. A dam has been proposed on the Luangwa that would flood almost the entire Luembe chiefdom, destroying habitats and displacing thousands of people.  

Two women use the river to wash up while avoiding the threat of crocodiles along the Luangwa River.

What WWF Is Doing

Helping Women Adapt to Climate Change

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.

Devi KC, secretary of the Gauri Mahila Community Forest User group and Female Community Health Volunteer, prepares lunch for her family in the Khata corridor, Nepal.

Improving Health

Woman drinking water

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.