Gender Day at the Rio Convention's Pavilion at UNCCD COP12


Women's Empowerment for a Land Degradation Neutral World

The UNCCD COP12 Gender Day focused on three dimensions of policy action to ensure women are agents of positive change and that they are able to eradicate poverty and become resilient to climate change. These dimensions are land rights, decision-making and resilience. During the COP12 session, high-ranking delegates and civil society organizations stressed the importance of gender-responsive strategies in the implementation of the Convention, going forward.

Gender day

Above, participants at the UNCCD COP12 Gender Day in Ankara, Turkey.

The main goal of the Gender Day event was to identify the policy actions needed to boost women’s empowerment so that they can play a more effectives role in creating wealth for their families and minimizing the negative effects of climate change that they face at the family, community, national and global levels. The event was informed by a three-part series global study titled, Women’s Empowerment in the drylands, which was jointly commissioned by the UNDP and UNCCD, as a follow-up to the recommendations of the COP11 Gender Day. The priority areas of action identified are contained in this brief report.

The COP12 Gender Day was jointly organized by FAO, IUCN, UNCCD, UNDP, Gender Unit of the University of Namibia (UNAM) and WOCAN and was made possible through the financial support of the Government of Finland. Follow-up activities with these partners on these issues is envisioned, with a view to promote and monitor gender mainstreaming in the projects and activities supported by the UNCCD and in order to build synergy among the Rio Convention partners – the Convention on Biological Diversity, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Global Environment Facility. The UNCCD COP12 Gender Day builds on the Windhoek Initiative on Women’s Empowerment contained in the Namibia Declaration, a key outcome of the UNCCD COP11 Gender Day, held in Windhoek, Namibia.

Opening Session

The Executive Secretary of UNCCD, the Namibian Minister of Environment and Tourism and the Ambassador of Finland opened the event while the South African Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs delivered the Keynote address. Former President of Finland and UNCCD Drylands Ambassador, Ms. Tarja Halonen, delivered a video-message, at the event, which had more than 100 people in attendance. Ms. Pervin Sarvan, the head of the last remaining indigenous community in Turkey – the Yoruk people and Ms. Silvia Hämmerle, Chairwoman of the Life-Giving Forest eV, and winner of the Terre de Femmes Award also spoked at the opening session.
Above: the lineup of speakers (l-r), Pervin Saravan and Fatma Karata, Monique Barbut (UNCCD), H.E. Barbara Thomson (South Africa), Hon. Pohamba Shifeta (Namibia), Ambassador Nina Vaskunlahti (Finland) and Silvia Hämmerle (Life-Giving Forest ev)

Session 1: Ensuring Women Land Rights for a Sustainable Future

Women make up more than 40% of the agricultural sector, yet 95% of the agricultural training excludes them. This session raised awareness about the situation of women’s land rights globally and the implications for the sustainable management of natural resources. Drawing on concrete country examples, the event showed best practices in governance of land tenure for strengthening large scale land rehabilitation and restoration approaches.

Strengthening Dryland Women’s Land Rights: Local Contexts, Global Change: Lara Forsyth, University of Greenwich in the United Kingdom, presented the results of the study on Women’s Land Rights. She found that women in the drylands are characterised by insecure land rights, due to various factors, including inappropriate policies, overlapping tenure systems and poor capacity at local level. The failure to recognize women’s land rights and the absence of women’s representation in land governance result in the lack of equitable distribution of land rights for dryland communities and women, and need to be addressed through policy.
Above, Ms. Umadevi Swaminatha, SEWA, speaks about women's land rights in India

Session 2: Drylands Women and Resilience Building

This session highlighted women’s strategic role in building resilient livelihoods and ecosystems in the drylands, underlined the challenges and opportunities for enhancing their role and identified strategic actions to mobilize potential partners.

Gender Justice at the Household Level: The core argument is that women in these areas spend their income on households. Therefore, the real impact of enhancing women’s livelihoods needs to be assessed further. Two issues stood out. First, the need for social mechanisms targeting women, with Ethiopia and Tunisia as positive examples of what that means in practice. Second, the importance of engaging with men and community leaders on gender justice.

Women are Important Development Actors: Women have difficulty accessing finance. But at the very least, micro-finance projects targeting women need to be encouraged because of their high added value for combating poverty and desertification, and building food security and resilience.

Livestock: Livestock production activities such as animal fattening and dairy processing need to be encouraged for women. Well designed, they can contribute to women’s empowerment and resilience building.

Resilience is a key concept in improving livelihoods and ecosystems in the drylands. Gender equality is vital to building resilience. It calls for: improved recognition of women’s rights, knowledge and contribution; better representation for women in dryland decision-making; and the redistribution of resources and services for more equitable outcomes.
Above, Elie Kodsi, UNDP, explains the livelihoods challenges facing drylands women

Session 3: Land Degradation Neutrality: Seeing Through the Gender Lens

This session covered four areas: the status of the gender implementation in the three Rio Conventions; the ROAM tool designed to mainstream gender in landscape restoration; the experience and lessons learned from this tool; and lessons learned from the successful project on gender mainstreaming in India’s Uttarakhand Watershed Sector.

Implementing Gender Commitments of the Rio Conventions: Are we the Change we Want to See?: The presentation focused primarily on the capacities that the three MEA’s have to support gender mainstreaming. It concluded that the internal capacities of the three Rio Conventions in terms of gender need to be strengthened in order to support Parties and other stakeholders to effectively mainstream gender.

Mind the Gap: The Value of Gender-Responsive Approach in Forest Landscape Restoration: This presentation of the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM), underlined the risks of ignoring gender in restoration activities and the need for rooting gender responsive initiatives in solid gender analyses.

Addressing Gender to Ensure Achieving Land Degradation Neutrality: The key lessons from using ROAM in Jordan were: accountability is vital for the ownership and long-term sustainability of the project; gender mainstreaming shifts the focus not on women, but on gender equity and equality as goals; and a gender-responsive approach being less costly, increases project effectiveness and ensures equitable access to livelihoods.

Gender Mainstreaming in the Pursuit of Land Degradation Neutrality in Uttarakhand Watershed Sector: GEF Initiative: Some of the key lessons from gendered projects like this one are: the value of NGOs in mobilizing women social workers; setting a mandatory percentage for women’s participation in local project-related institutions; the importance of administrative reforms that give women control over financial disbursements; the creating alternative livelihoods sources; providing resources directly to women.
Above, participants listen to and watch the presentations

Session 4: Where are the Women in Decision-Making?

The fourth session was an interactive discussion. The moderator poses questions to each panelist in order to deepen discussion on how to transform local and national governance structures in order to scale up women’s decision-making powers in policy processes, from the global to local levels.

Lora Forsythe, University of Greenwich: Based on a global study, she found cultural norms are still the greatest barrier to women’s empowerment in dryland countries. Working with men can help to roll-back social and cultural norms and stereotypes. Lack of information and communication is an obstacle to women knowing their rights; they continue using customary law even where laws that recognize women’ rights to land exist. However, allocating quotas for gender equality alone are insufficient; building women’s capacity to participate in decision-making is vital.

Christine Monsieur, FAO: DIMITRA cubs in West Africa are empowering women. They give a voice to women, and can help them to negotiate their land rights allocation. The DIMITRA experience shows that transformation occurs where there is collective action. With self-esteem comes behavior change and a change in gender roles, leading to participation in income generating activities, and improved sanitation among other achievements.

Zeliha Unaldi, UN Women: The impact of climate change on women and men are differentiated by division of labor, which in turn is strongly influenced by cultural norms. She stressed the need to improve access to information in order to increase self-confidence in women.

Anna Sidona Hakusembe, Namibia, Representative in Communal Land Boards: Cultural norms hinder women’s participation and enhance men’s dominance in decision-making processes in Namibia. Empowering women requires targeting women, who are willing to participate, at the inception of project intervention. It ensures ownership and sustained progression of activities after the closure of projects. A collective approach whereby all stakeholders from local leaders, government extension officers, local communities all work together in planning and implementation of activities is necessary.
Above, session panelists (l-r), Immaculate Mogotsi (UNAM), Christiane Monsieur (FAO), Lara Forsythe (Uni. of Greenwich), Anna Hakusembe and Zeliha Unalidi (UN Women, Turkey).

Session 5: Report and Recommendations

The rapporteurs of each session presented the outcomes of each session, highlighting the policy, institutional and capacity-buidling requirements needed at the UNCCD, Party and other stakeholder levels to ensure gender is front and center in future global efforts to avoid degrading and to restore degraded land. The report is here.

During the high-level segment held the following week, on 20-21 October, parties and civil society organizations called for greater attention to gender. The Ankara Ministerial Declaration, the ministers commited to "dedicate ourselves to promoting gender equality and the role of women as actors of change in addressing DLDD."
Above, Ms. Sakhile Koketso, Convention on Biological Diversity, facilitating the report back session.

The Background Studies

The papers consist of three thematic studies and one synthesis report. Each of the thematic studies explored the issues of gender justice with respect to land rights, governance and resilience. More specifically:

Thematic study 1 - Strengthening dryland women’s land rights: local contexts, global change outlines various key opportunities existing for facilitating dryland women’s empowerment with respect to land, in international research, policy, dialogue and practical action.

Thematic study 2 - Gender and drylands governance: empowering women for change focuses on the significant opportunities existing for facilitating dryland women’s empowerment in governance, in the context of wider support for processes seeking greater democracy in dryland governance and values.

Thematic study 3: Achieving Dryland Women’s Empowerment: Environmental resilience and social transformation provides the overview of major opportunities to strengthen the resilience of dryland environments and for women to actively contribute to and benefit from sustainable drylands development.
Above, Plenty of networking opportunities are available during lunch and cocktails in the evening.

For more information on Gender Day or the UNCCD's work on gender, contact: Ms. Wagaki Wischnewski,


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