Environmental degradation, illegal wildlife trade, and human-wildlife conflict undermine development and pose significant risks to health, climate change adaptation, peace and security. They weaken natural resource management and result in economic losses for communities that rely on wildlife and ecosystems. There are multiple approaches to mitigate these threats, but they are often gender blind when they should be gender equal. Illegal wildlife trade exists in the same gendered social spheres as everyday life. Are male poachers simply meeting livelihood needs, or are they also enacting masculinized expectations?
Women and men typically hold contrasting positions – literal and notional – in relationship to the environment, to decision-making about resources, and land ownership. Wildlife attitude surveys reveal that women and men often express quite different attitudes towards wildlife rights and hold distinct views on how to best manage human-wildlife conflict, which occurs when humans and wildlife interactions lead to adverse consequences on both people and/ or wildlife. For example, a study in Namibia revealed that more women than men worried about the effects of human-wildlife conflict on people, while more men than women worried about the effects on wildlife. Typically, men are the main poachers of wildlife; there is growing evidence that they are sometimes bullied into poaching through masculinity-shaming. But in resource-based communities, women participate in illegal wildlife trade in several ways, often by folding it into their traditional roles as small traders and market sellers.
“Wildlife attitude surveys reveal that women and men often express quite different attitudes towards wildlife rights and hold distinct views on how to best manage human-wildlife conflict, which occurs when humans and wildlife interactions lead to adverse consequences on both people and/ or wildlife.”
The Global Wildlife Program (GWP), funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and led by the World Bank, supports projects in over 30 countries that combat illegal wildlife trade, reduce human-wildlife conflict, and promote wildlife-based economies. For these projects, gender integration brings win-win returns. By enhancing gender equality, visibility is given to women’s roles in managing environments and actively engages them in conservation efforts. At the same time, it also improves the effectiveness of projects by incorporating gender-informed analysis of the actors and drivers of illegal wildlife trade.
Gender considerations gaining momentum
Target 23 to ensure gender equality and recognized that doing so would also support Targets 4 and 5 on managing human-wildlife interactions and preventing illegal wildlife trade. Similarly, the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP19) approved a gender resolution.The recent UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) adopted
Gender mainstreaming in Global Wildlife Program projects
At the CITES meeting, the Global Wildlife Program organized a side event in partnership with the Government of Panama and World Wildlife Fund where GWP projects showcased their progress in mainstreaming gender across conservation activities. For example, the GWP Tanzania project conducted a gender-differentiated baseline survey in the focal area. One of the key findings was that women were most affected by, and most vulnerable to, human-wildlife conflict, especially elephant raiding on women’s household-garden vegetable crops. Knowing this, the Tanzania project is developing gender-sensitive mitigation plans and community projects that ensure that women are involved in developing strategies to deter elephant raiding. The GWP Panama project on conservation of wildcats and human-jaguar conflict management has embraced a mandate to include women as equal participants in all roles, especially those that stretch gender stereotypes, such as training women to participate in field censuses and in collaring of jaguars. This brings employment opportunities to women and gives them training in fields from which they are usually excluded.
The GWP Indonesia project to combat illegal wildlife trade is developing cohorts of women to act as field agents and “champions for conservation” in national parks and protected areas. Having women as rangers has in many cases, resulted in de-escalation of conflict.
“The GWP Indonesia project to combat illegal wildlife trade is developing cohorts of women to act as field agents and ‘champions for conservation’ in national parks and protected areas.”
Three tips to start down the gender pathway
The GWP’s global knowledge platform is capturing and sharing good practices and lessons through webinars and trainings on gender approaches and tools for wildlife conservation. We suggest three entry points for project teams:
- Be curious about the patterns, actors, and drivers that characterize illegal wildlife trade activities in your project area: Are men the poachers? What are the consequences of having no women rangers in the project area? Do women experience human wildlife conflict differently than men?
- Make plans to be genuinely gender and diversity inclusive – in staffing, community engagement with projects, information dissemination, and knowledge-sharing – with the understanding that developing meaningful participation is different from head counting.
- Become familiar with one or two easily deployable gender tools and techniques, from mapping of gender-specific resource spaces to gender-disaggregated surveys.
The GWP aims to expand this work across projects as expectations for gender integration deepen. The World Bank, as the lead agency for the GEF-8 Wildlife Conservation for Development Integrated Program (WCD IP), will support the development of GEF-8 projects with a gender mindset from the very beginning. WCD IP has a focus beyond combating illegal wildlife trade; it includes human-wildlife coexistence and zoonotic spillover risk reduction, thus offering new opportunities for prioritizing gender-transformative approaches and improving the likelihood of conservation success while reducing social inequalities.
- Event: The Win-Win of Gender Integration Knowledge Series
- Event: The Vital Role of Rangers in Achieving Biodiversity and Development Outcomes
- The GWP Tanzania project is executed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism with support from UNDP.
- The GWP Panama project is executed by the Ministry of Environment and Yaguará Panamá Foundation with support from UNEP.
- The GWP GEF-6 Indonesia project is executed by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Indonesian National Police, Wildlife Conservation Society and supported by UNDP.
Yes. Wildlife conservation and gender equality go together. Thank you 🙏🌍