The UNCCD promotes a bottom-up approach targeting gender issues and rights-based policies in which existing programs are reviewed by stakeholders including local government NGOs and community leaders.
The Convention’s Preamble emphasizes the role played by women in affected regions and the importance of ensuring the full participation of both men and women at all levels in programmes to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought. Gender integration is the norm in the Convention’s national action programmes as evidenced by a recent review of gender mainstreaming in decision-making at the national level (Knabe and Poulsen: 2004).
Even so, greater attention to drylands women in the implementation of the Convention is warranted in light of the increased vulnerability of women to the effects of drought due to existing resource inequalities and shifting gender roles associated with forced migration, and in the context of the 10-Year Strategy. Gender mainstreaming should aim to improve the livelihoods of women living in the drylands, enhance the realization of global benefits and promote partnerships in the attainment of both these goals.
Policy still needs to address women’s ownership and access to productive and other resources such as advisory services and farm inputs that are provided to men in the same communities. Considering their knowledge management roles, priority needs to be given to the design of technologies and policies that are relevant to women and build on their knowledge, and to the involvement of women in decision-making.
There are many strategies for advancing women’s empowerment as it relates to land. Establishing partnerships and forums, enhancing capacities, promoting better access to educational opportunities and health care, legalizing women’s land rights and developing gender-sensitive land ownership regimes are all part of the solution.
Incorporating gender issues into the entire project lifecycle stages of initiatives supported by financial mechanisms and organizations that promote sustainable land management in drylands would also reinforce these measures. It is also necessary to study and take action on research that provides insight into dryland women’s access to and ownership of assets and gender roles, including women’s contributions to carbon offsetting, water management, sustainable use of biodiversity and payment for environmental services.
Finally, policies that target women need to pay attention to the different forms and hierarchies of gender discrimination. The connection between environment, cultural practices and primary economic production all need to be taken into account in addressing gender concerns in the drylands.