Written By Sarah Huang
Gender mainstreaming is a UN strategy to addressing gender equality. This term is used in different environmental development contexts, including at the WCC and COP21. It is a strategy that includes the goal of gender equality and gendered perspectives into all aspects of policies or programs, thus mainstreaming policies to be gendered.
I remember following an event at COP21 on gender that was sponsored by the UNDP where the presenter said, "This slide talks about gender, but I'll just skip over it because you all know about that". This is an example of a critique of gender mainstreaming; that even though we are including gendered perspectives into all aspects of policies, is this creating a radical enough change for women to have meaningful participation? This example shows how including a gendered perspective acts as a checklist item where we identify that gender is included and then we move on.
I have similarly seen this "checklisting" of gender here at the WCC. During an event a few days ago titled "Engaging the other half", the discussion surrounded on how including women in conservation management leads to better results and more effective management. While they were highlighting that women play an important role within conservation management and pointing to studies that supported these claims, there was a general ignorance of the intersectional identities of women. Even the title itself refers to only two genders that overlooks LGBTQ identities. But also, there was a lack of recognition of how minority women's experiences are often excluded from high level management positions. Finally, the conversation ended on the point that we need to stop talking about cultural differences. One woman made the point that all cultures are the same and we need to understand these similarities in cultures if we are going to achieve gender equality in conservation programming.
I think what we are seeing in this event is how gender mainstreaming can lead to homogenizing "women" as a collective group, detached from other identities. This process does not recognize that women of color, indigenous women, women from diverse classes, women from particular regions of the world hold diverse life ways and experience conservation management in different ways. And that by gender mainstreaming, we are firstly, including women and secondly, putting women into a boxed category that does not take into account the complexities of intersectionality. Does this help lead to gender equality? I personally don't think it does, because there are many examples of where gender mainstreaming can only exacerbate existing inequalities that women face. We need a radical shift in how we aim to address gender equality that does not categorize or truncate the experiences of women all over the world.
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Dr. Kimberly R. Marion Suiseeya, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University
Dr. Laura Zanotti, Department of Anthropology, Purdue University
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