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International Women’s Day 2012

On 8 March, ICIMOD joins millions of women, men, and organizations from around the world in a celebration of women’s achievements, knowledge, and agency on International Women’s Day. It is an important day that highlights the rich diversity of women from all over the world and the unique accomplishments and struggles that connect them. At a moment when women’s empowerment and gender equality are gaining momentum worldwide, there is great hope and potential for gender-positive change for future generations in the Hindu Kush Himalayas. Such change will ensure healthier and more sustainable environments, increased wellbeing of mountain communities, and equal sharing of the benefits of development and decision-making among women and men, girls and boys.

David James Molden

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This year ICIMOD’s celebration has the theme ‘Celebrating and Inspiring Futures of Mountain Women’. While it is important to celebrate achievements, it is also important to recognize that we have a long road ahead of us to achieve equitable livelihoods where women’s and men’s wellbeing is prioritized. At the same time, we must look to the future for impact based on the efforts and strategies that we put into place today, and based on critical lessons learned from past efforts. It is important to invest in the future of girls and young women – as researchers, farmers, natural resource managers, water users, pastoralists, entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, artisans, and others – as they have a key role in ensuring sustainable environments and the wellbeing of mountain communities. For instance, with climate change expected to affect generations to come, it is critical to recognize that women and girls are often disproportionately affected by climate and socioeconomic changes, yet they are key to adaptation efforts in mountain contexts where high rates of migrating men mean that women and girls carry out the main responsibilities for managing natural resources, households, communities, and everyday survival. To reduce the vulnerability of women and girls to these changes, and to increase the capacity of society as a whole to adapt to them, women and girls must be central in sustainable development strategies and decision-making processes to be implemented in the coming decades.

This year, the United Nations theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Empower rural women – end hunger and poverty’. We at ICIMOD believe and support this important message. Globally, it is estimated that 70% of hungry people are women and girls. Mountain women, especially those living in remote mountainous rural areas, face a number of challenges such as limited access to development services, information, credit, decision-making opportunities, and productive resources such as land, livestock, inputs, income, and culturally appropriate technologies. Their labour burdens are often very high given their multiple responsibilities in farming, pastoralism, and forests, as well as households and communities. Yet they continue to be under-represented in decision-making forums and institutions, and often experience gender inequality in various forms. Considering this situation, we need to strategize future initiatives towards eliminating discrimination against women and girls both in policy formulation and in practice. We need to work towards ensuring that all research initiatives and policy interventions respond to women’s needs and priorities first and foremost. Ensuring women’s access to resources and improving their role in decision-making are equally vital to achieving gender equality and empowerment of women in mountain contexts.

It is an important moment in history to take stock of past achievements and challenges and to develop new strategies to ensure positive impact for the multitude of women and girls who continue to live in dire poverty and hunger. Later this year, following Rio+20, ICIMOD will be organizing a major conference on Gender and Sustainable Mountain Development in Bhutan to do just this: to take stock of major achievements and challenges in the last decade, to review the state of the art in gender and mountain development, and to develop new strategies to effect real gender-positive change and impact.

This year also marks the second year of ICIMOD’s Gender Champions Award, which honours individuals and teams that are making a difference for gender positive change within the Centre and in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region. ICIMOD connects women and girls from the region through the generation of valuable research and knowledge on gender and natural resource management, outreach efforts, and dissemination of useful information on women’s successes and strategies in achieving gender equality and advancement in various spheres of life.

Imagine what can be possible if development policies, initiatives, and strategies continue to actively address gender dimensions of poverty, hunger, and unequal access to resources, which are most pronounced in mountain contexts. Envision the possibilities as we actively work towards ensuring that gender equality, eliminating gender discrimination, and ensuring gender-sensitive policies are a reality for future generations. Imagine what can be possible when women and girls are given due recognition as strategically important actors, knowledge innovators, and decision-makers in their own right. At ICIMOD, we believe these efforts will make the difference required to address economic poverty and hunger, to ensure the wellbeing of mountain women and men, and to sustain their precious environments.

With best wishes for a happy International Women’s Day,
David Molden

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