The environment is the fundamental resource and while we would expect it to affect all those who interact with it similarly, we find that it isn’t the case. Gender and social norms often dictate how one interacts with their environment and how they are impacted by the environment in return. Further, it has been observed that social class, caste, sexual identity, religion, age and other social variables also have a bearing on how one engages with their environment. It is proposed to investigate the links between Gender and Environment, how the disparity across gendered identities can possibly hinder development and how the situation can be remedied to adopt a more sustainable approach to development, whilst empowering women. In order to look into the link between environment and gender, the analytical framework developed by Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (Protecting the environment: Why a gender perspective matters (2015)) can be adopted and moulded to fit region specific requirements. The study will draw from existing epistemology relating to Ecofeminism, feminist environmentalism, historical movements and current practices, with special focus on the Indian Subcontinent.
Gender permeates through and affects all aspect of an individual’s life. From the clothes they wear to the work they do to the expectations societies makes of them, everything is based on the social activity of performing gender. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that gender also influences the relationship of an individual with the environment.
It is undeniable that people all around the world change the environment by their actions, and in turn, are acted upon by it. Environmental degradation and its impact is a process riddled with inequality because those who are most responsible for environment destruction seldom bear the brunt of it. It has been observed as a global phenomenon that women are more vulnerable to forces of nature than men, simply because they continue to be overrepresented in the poorest population and those communities which depend on their immediate environment for survival. Adding on to these factors, the inequalities that arise from the process of gendering exacerbate the burden of ecological changes on women.
India ranked 125th in terms of Gender Inequality in a report by UNDP Human Development Database in 2017, emerging as one of the poorest performers. As stated in UN’s Women and Climate Change Fact Sheet, women possess a strong body of knowledge of the environment, climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. As most of them are responsible for managing natural and household resources, they should be at the forefront of dictating how the resources can be judiciously used. However, the gender inequality prevalent in the country, and the world over, prevents the knowledge to be put to use and despite being the closest to nature, women are often the furthest away when it comes to decision making.