For mountains and people
Gender refers to the socially constructed roles held by women and men in a specific society, including their responsibilities, behaviours, and attitudes towards each other.
The Himalayas are home to people from a variety of ethnic groups with different cultures, religions, and social structures. Like anywhere else, being a woman or a man determines a person’s role, access to and control over resources, status, and relationships. The gender roles can differ greatly from one region to another depending on the dominant culture within which people live.
Living in a mountain environment means having to deal with daily challenges. The steep slopes increase the burden of collecting water, firewood, and fodder, making them heavier and more dangerous to carry. Women’s workloads become overwhelming with the combination of household chores, childcare, and other daily work activities. The social norms and gender ideology restricts women’s mobility making social infrastructure and government services,
including the opportunity to get an education, inaccessible for most; as such the literacy level is generally very low. These inequalities are further increased by health problems, poverty, vulnerability to violence, and conflicts. Although many of these issues are similar to the ones women in the lowlands face; mountain women’s conditions are made worse by the fragile, harsh environment, and the fact that they belong to already marginalised communities.
Changes in the economic and natural environment have a significant impact on women wherein they are found to be at a disadvantage due to gender-based discrimination and bias.
Himalayan women know how to maximise the use of the natural resources of the fragile mountain ecosystem. Their knowledge also contributes to the survival and care of their families and to their adaptation in extreme situations. However, despite their tremendous contributions to household wellbeing and community development, their knowledge and skills are still not acknowledged and valued. Experiences have shown that gender inequalities obstruct the achievement of sustainable mountain development.
ICIMOD is addressing these issues by promoting equity; the development of basic capacities, and equal opportunities for women and men, particularly for those from marginalised groups. A gender perspective acknowledges the fact that difficulties faced by women and men are not only caused by a lack of material resources, but also by people’s status and relationships. Mainstreaming gender perspective in development and environment programmes contributes to acknowledging both women’s and men’s capacities and constraints, identifying and analysing the causes of gender inequalities, addressing both women’s and men’s needs, and challenge the causes of inequalities. The ICIMOD Gender Equity Policy, 2013 states as its goal, “to ensure gender equality and transformative change in sustainable and equitable mountain development in the HKH” and the objectives specifically include ensuring equitable and meaningful participation of both men and women, and the empowerment of women.
How I protect the pulse
Dr Suman Bisht joined ICIMOD as a Gender and Climate Change Expert in January 2012, with a special focus on the role of women and gender in adaptation to climate change. She is working on integrating and strengthening gender analysis in various components of the Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP).
News and features
Hindu Kush Himalayan Monitoring and Assessment Programme (HIMAP) is a platform for long-term collaboration and coordination among a broad and diverse group of leading researchers, practitioners, and policy specialists working in HKH.
The Koshi Gender Portal unfolds gender realities by sharing knowledge, exchanging experiences, and promoting networking among stakeholders of the Koshi river basin.