02 October 2014

Women, Environment, and Sustainable Development

 A study of Women among Sumi Community of Nagaland - Page 6 

Women  all  over  the  world  have  embraced  the  environmental problems  and  are  among  the  most  ardent  activists  for protecting the earth systems and the lives of the inhabitants in it (Filomina Chioma Steady, 1998).

From Greenbelt movement of Kenya (women initiate and promote afforestation) to Chipko movement of India (women protested against illegal cutting of trees)  to  Pacific  Region  (where  women  protested  against nuclear  testing)  to  Philippine  movement  (Filipino  women halting  the  building  of  environmentally  threatening  dam)  to South  America  (Guyanese  women  initiating  a  biogas  program to save fuel) etc. all these represents the contribution of women in the environmental fronts dedicated to the continuation of life on  earth.

 Accordingly,  in  the  present  work  an  attempt  was made  to  connect  the  movement  of  local  women  to  promote organic  farming  against  land  degradation  and  other environmental  conditions  with  the  ecofeminist  perspective  in the background of patriarchal social order.

The  present  study  is  in  sync  with  many  other  existing literature  and  scholarly  research  studies.  Many  researches, organization, platforms at both national and international level have addressed the dynamic role of women in the management of  natural  resources.   A  number  of  contemporary  researches (Nath,  2013;  Kshatriya  &  Mitra,  2013;  Dem,  1993;  Loots &
Witt,  2005)  etc  have  discussed  on  the  active  contribution  of women  in  maintaining  sustainability  of  resources  with  her power  to  create,  nurture  and  transform.

 These  studies  also bring into picture the constraints of gender inequality in policy, ownership  of  assets  and  decision-making  in  environment development and welfare and stressed for inclusion of women in decision  making  to  enhance  greater,  if  not  sustainability.  In sync with the present study, many existing studies (Filomina Chioma  Steady,  1998;  Susan  Buckingham,  2002;  Mary  AA, 2005; Janet Brand, 1996; Pottier Johan, 1999) etc opined that in-order  to  achieved  sustainable  development,  women indigenous knowledge should be incorporated and gender parity be attained in policy and decision-making as women are more likely  to  have  better  knowledge  and  perhaps,  a  close  affinity with the environment (Earth Summit, 1992).

Many ecofeminist discourses  (  works  of  Gwen  Kirk,  1997;  Bina  Agarwal,   1992; Gunnel  Cedarlof,  2004;  Susan  H,2004)  etc  confront  gender disparity  and  articulates  women  as  the  active  agents  or  the driving  force  of  environmental  movement.  Some  ecofeminist argues  that  due  to  their  intrinsic  connection  they  become  the ultimate  victim  of  environmental  crisis  and  disfavors  the western technologies in favor of women’s indigenous knowledge that ensure sustainability. In sync with the present study, some studies also bring us to an understanding of how development programmes directly impacts women and increased their labor and  therefore  stressed  the  urgency  of  gender  mainstreaming and  inclusion  of  women’s  voice  in  decision  making  which otherwise from women point of view, it can be argued that all development  is  ignorant  of  women’s  needs,  often  anti-women, literally designed to increase their work burden (Anil Agarwal
(1986),  in  Guha’s  1994).

Given  a  chance,  women  would procreate  whatever  be  given  to  them  had  they  given  equal opportunity  in  terms  of  resources,  decision  making  and  social
spaces etc. Gender fair policy and programmes emerged as the crucial  need  of  the  hour  coupled  with  recognition  of  their knowledge  and  contribution  aimed  to  achieve  greater  if  not,
complete sustainable development.


The present study was a small attempt to understand the role of women in the context of environment and their contribution to  sustainable  development.  This  study  further  confirms  and validates existing studies in terms of gender inequality in policy making, environmental crisis, indigenous knowledge of women, and  their  intrinsic  connection  which  brings  about  new ecological  paradigm.  Jhum  cultivation,  deforestation,  new developments,  population  pressures,  food  demand,  etc contributes to increasing issue of land degradation.

With proper management  in  terms  of  forest  land,  incorporation  of indigenous  knowledge  and  innovative  agricultural  practices  of organic  farming,  these  problems  is  found  to  be  moderate.
However, if human’s voracity of utilizing resources continues to grow  at  the  present  rate  then  the  outcome  shall  be  grave  for humanity to bear.

Recognition of women’s work and inclusion of their voice in policy and decision-making on natural resource management emerged as the crucial need of the hour for the betterment of all life on earth. Existing custom in the form of patriarchal society is  also  needed  to  overthrow  its  harsh  biasness  and  promote gender parity in terms of recognition of women’s right over land and property ownership. Economic independence of women also emerged as important agency to empower them in speech and action and to assert their rightful position in the affairs of the village  or  the  society.

It  is  found  that  when  women  are empowered  economically,  they  utilize  the  hard  earned  money for  the  human  development  such  as  quality  education, nutrition,  healthcare,  medicines,  and  a  scope  of  improvement for  themselves.  Therefore,  in  sync  with  the  existing  literature
and  emerging  researches,  the  present  work  concludes  on  a positive  note  by  acknowledging  women’s  inherent  role  as  a nurturer  and  promoter  of  environment  sustainability  and
demands  the  urgency  of  gender  fair  development  in  favor  of sustainable development.

Reflexivity of self as young feminist scholar 

Conducting fieldwork in my community did not affect me much in terms of familiarity because I chose the field site of a village which  was  alien  to  me  rather  than  my  ancestral  village.
Moreover, as  a true socio-cultural anthropologist I have imbibe a  greater  lot  of  cultural  relativism  that  allows  me  to   respect and regards every other culture, tradition and customs and this
leaves me no room to nurture prejudices against other culture nor any favoritism of my own culture.

As a feminist, growing up unconsciously  in  my  community  headed  by  male  oriented ideology  and  supremacy  I  could  relate  myself  to  the  plight  of women which helped me in obtaining their narratives of daily lives,  struggles,  and  anguish  at  the  hands  of  patriarch. Relating myself to their situation also gained me insights into the sensitive issues like income, gender relations within as well as outside the household, social evils and conflicts of the village, recent growth and development of their work and position, and many  others.

 However,  I  faced  some  sort  of  resistance  from some male elders in the village because my topic was somehow in critic of the patriarchal setting. Other than this the fieldwork enriched  me  with  life-long  experiences  and  a  will  to  continue the struggle more rigorously.

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