A Presentation on Gender and Environmental Conflict

Last week, the University of Rwanda’s Center of Excellence in Biodiversity (CoEB) hosted a joint talk. Lisa Dale of Columbia University gave a presentation on climate change and sustainable development and I discussed the gender dynamics of environmental conflict in the region.

Most of those in attendance were biologists and our aim was to bring a social science analysis to the conversation. Dr. Dale’s talk focused on how global policy can better deal with the challenges of climate change and Rwanda’s role in achieving that goal. My presentation offered a general overview of the intersections of three fields of academic study: environmental security, gender and the environment, and gender and security. My line of inquiry for this year falls right in the middle of those three.

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There isn’t a plethora of research on gender and environmental conflict in Rwanda, which is why I am drawn to it.  Some things we do know about the land and the environment in developing countries could apply here. Most of the research comes out of India and some from other African countries. Thus far, investigations have shown:

  1. Men and women place different degrees of importance on different categories of ecological services (ES). ES are the ways the environment serves human needs: provisioning, e.g. food, regulating, e.g. temperature, supporting, e.g. oxygen, and cultural roles, e.g. spiritual practices.
  2. Women use land daily and men sporadically.
  3. Women may need communal lands more because they are less likely to have access to private land for alternative resources if they are displaced. They also have less access to the cash economy, paid employment, and markets
  4. Environmental damage, conflict, and conservation disproportionately cost women time, especially in increased domestic chores.
  5. Men and women engage in environmental violations for different reasons.

The Rwandan students and professors were engaged and intellectually curious, which is promising for future environmental studies in Africa.

For the entire PPT, click here: CoEB Talk