WCS Global Initiatives

Women and Conservation

Half of the world’s farmers are women, but women only own about one percent of the world’s land. Women make up nearly 50 percent of the global fisheries workforce, but in most countries have little to no say in how fisheries are managed.

These statistics are indicative of a more general trend: women’s interests and roles are seldom seriously considered in the design and implementation of rural development and conservation initiatives.

The common biased view is that that men are farmers or fishers and women only care about children and health care. But how can we eradicate poverty, or improve environmental governance, if we ignore what Sheryl WuDunn and Nick Kristoff have so eloquently called “Half the Sky?”

At WCS, ensuring equality for women in pursuing economic opportunity and political participation is essential to creating secure economies, resilient families and the transparent, accountable and democratic governance systems essential to conserving wildlife in wild places.

Our Work

In Bolivia, strengthening political authority of Takana, Tsimane-Mosetene, Lecos and Isoso indigenous women by helping them have a voice in group decision-making influences how successful are efforts promote sustainable land-use, better efficiency and transparency in financial management, and negotiations to address the social and environmental impacts of infrastructure projects.

In Afghanistan WCS is training the first women park rangers from local communities to work in the newly created Band-e-Amir and Wakhan National Parks.

In 2012 we conducted a gender assessment of WCS marine conservation sites in Bangladesh, Belize, Fiji, Gabon, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Nicaragua, and Papua New Guinea to identify a broad and relevant set of core gender-related strategies and recommend the best solutions, for both WCS and the wider conservation and fisheries community. These sites are an excellent representation of the range of conditions to be found in coastal fishing communities around the world, thus the findings presented here have wide applicability. By focusing on these sites, we were able to explore the most important issues related to gender and fisheries in the world.

Women waiting to buy fish from fishermen in Kenya. (Photo: Angela Yang © WCS)

Further Reading

Author(s): Elizabeth Matthews, Jamie Bechtel, Easkey Britton, Karl Morrison, Caleb McClennen
Year: 2012
Description/Abstract: Women and men play different roles in fishing communities around the world, however in all communities the failure to engage women in management efforts results in lost opportunities to improve conservation practices and ensure secure, viable livelihoods. WCS has identified a portfolio of opportunities around the world where understanding gender dynamics more broadly and engaging women specifically can provide positive and long-lasting environmental change and improve coastal and fisheries management efforts. We have leveraged our global network of sites to identify a broad and relevant set of core gender-related strategies and recommend the best solutions, for both WCS and the wider conservation and fisheries community. This report summarizes the findings of WCS’s effort to provide a contextualized assessment of opportunities for improving the livelihoods of people involved in small-scale fisheries and marine conservation by focusing on the impacts of gender dynamics and women’s engagement.
Publisher: Wildlife Conservation Society
Full Citation: Matthews, Elizabeth, Jamie Bechtel, Easkey Britton, Karl Morrison and Caleb McClennen (2012). A Gender Perspective on Securing Livelihoods and Nutrition in Fish-dependent Coastal Communities. Report to The Rockefeller Foundation from Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, NY.

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