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International Women’s Day 2013

The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum

Strengthening Past Achievements, Building Gender Transformative Futures

Every year on 8 March, ICIMOD looks forward to joining millions of women, men, and organizations from around the globe in observing International Women’s day. For ICIMOD, this important day is significant, as it gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on emerging gender issues, opportunities for positive change, as well as new ways of tackling gender challenges in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region. It is also a much-anticipated occasion to actively celebrate women’s knowledge, valuable work and agency within ICIMOD and the region. The positive atmosphere is palpable throughout ICIMOD, as professional women and men from all disciplines and work areas gather together to add our collective voices to the mass celebrations that stretch across mountains, oceans and continents.

David James Molden

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This year’s theme, the Gender Agenda – Gaining Momentum, is especially significant to us in several ways as an International Centre working on mountain issues. First, as an inter-governmental organization with regional member countries stretching from the mountains of Afghanistan in the east to China and Myanmar in the west, and include Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, we are proud to note that positive, transformative changes are happening. From the collective voices and rising up of women and men in protest of senseless acts of rape of gender-based violence (as well as the thousands that go unreported), to the individual voice of a girl in Pakistan to demand her rights to education in the face of violence and intimidation, these are inspirations to us, as well as our partners and regional member countries. We are also inspired by the everyday and courageous acts of women who are fighting for their environments, adapting to rapidly changing climates and environments, struggling against the dehumanizing effects of poverty, and demanding a better life for themselves as well as their families and communities. In a rapidly changing world – with high rates of men’s out-migration to urban centres in search for incomes, globalizing forces that tend towards homogenizing and male-centric cultures, and changes in climate that impact farmers’ and pastorists’ ability to manage their natural resources such as water, pastures and landscapes – women are often at the frontline of negotiating such changes. However, they do so in situations where they disproportionately bear intensely heavy workloads, enjoy few rights to property, inheritance and decision-making, and have limited access to development resources and representation in governance institutions. These are some of the issues and challenges that ICIMOD continues to work on, together with our member countries and partners in the region.

In additional to the global theme for International Women’s Day, this year, ICIMOD is pleased to have its own sub-theme, Strengthening Past Achievements, Building Gender Transformative Futures. This has great meaning for us, as ICIMOD moves to embrace and implement its new Medium Term Action Plan from 2013 to 2017. Within the Plan, ICIMOD highlights in its vision the importance of improving the well-being of women, men and children in healthy environments of the Hindu Kush Himalayas.  Cross-cutting issues of gender, governance, inclusive development and poverty are also at the foundation of our thematic areas and development cycles. Building on past achievements and ongoing gender positive practices, it envisions strengthened and enhanced traction in terms of gender integration and focused work. To achieve this, the Plan explicitly maps out a gender strategy. The strategy not only outlines specific approaches for integrating gender into the research agenda, but also specific actions strengthening women’s leadership capacities, as well as promoting gender positive transformations through more inclusive policies, partnerships and organizational change. Most importantly, such efforts need to have positive impacts for those who we are really accountable to: the most economically poor and marginalized people in the region, many of them women and girls.

In order to demonstrate positive gender development impacts on the ground, ICIMOD has been working on gender analytical research for almost 18 years. It has carried out research on gender issues relating to biodiversity, rangelands, early warning systems, disaster risk reduction, value chains, income generating opportunities, community based forestry, agriculture, and water management.  For instance, in the past couple of years, it has contributed to much needed knowledge through publications on gender and adaptation to climate change, gender and biodiversity management and a soon to be launched study, Gender and Pastoralism in the Rangelands of the HKH: from Margins to New Heights.  It recently held the highly successful international conference, Bhutan+10: Gender and Sustainable Mountain Development in a Rapidly Changing World, which led to rethinking on the ways we “mainstream” gender issues towards a more transformative framework for change, the formation of a regional gender network W-GEM (Women, Gender, Environment and Mountains) and focus journal issue on Gender and Sustainable Mountain Development in Mountain Research and Development forthcoming in August 2014. Some of our programmes implement the good practice of having dedicated components on the role of women and gender, while others integrate gender as a cross-cutting issue on research ranging from adaptation to climate change, water management, reducing black carbon to managing landscapes. Under the special Gender Strategic Institutional Area, ICIMOD continues to implement gender positive actions to strengthen the role of women, through efforts such as the annual gender champion’s award, women’s leadership trainings, our gender equity policy and guidelines for implementation, gender sensitivity trainings, and for the first time in our history, a gender audit.

ICIMOD recognizes the importance of gender equality and is committed to improving the livelihoods of women in the mountains of the region, where access to services, environmental fragility and remoteness pose special challenges.  In enhancing the livelihoods of women, we aim to walk to walk and not just talk the talk, through numerous efforts within our own organization, as well as our programmatic work in the region. My promise to you, on this 102nd celebration of International Women’s Day, is that we will continue to increase our efforts to innovate and enhance gender transformative impacts on the ground for those who it matters the most.

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

David Molden

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