Requirements of gender friendly public participation in Environmental Impact Assessments

Environmental Impact Assessments(EIAs) are used as a regulatory, planning and decision making tool for most medium and large scale development projects around the world. These assessments have three main components: planning and decision making; documentation of potential impacts (positive and negative); and involvement of stakeholders throughout the project life [1]. Unfortunately there is no standard protocol for EIAs and jurisdictions around the globe specify different requirements for public involvement in the EIA process [1]. For example, in the Canadian Environmental Assessment System, public participation has been identified as one of the integral parts of the EIA process [2]. CEAA 2012 has five main domains for public participation: adequate notice, access to information, public comment, public hearing, and participant funding [2]. However, the importance of the involvement of women in the practice of EIA public participation process has not been well addressed. In fact, provision of gender involvement in EIA public participation process is lacking.

Men and women have different priorities, demands, knowledge and skill of the utilization of existing natural resources [3]. Since these differences exist, women play very important role in protecting and managing the natural resources such as forest, land and water at the local level [4]. In fact, women hold unique knowledge of ecosystems and environmental sustainability from being the primary users of natural resources in their daily livelihood and are further most affected by distortion in ecosystems [5]. Equal participation of women in the EIA public participation process would allow for a more comprehensive assessment of impacts by including a wider range of public knowledge. This video 

highlights the importance of gender equality. For these reasons, a gender-friendly policy would help to strengthen the voice of women in the EIA planning and decision making process so both sectors of the community (men and women) are compensated for the negative impacts of the development project.  At the same time, the development project would also benefit from more relevant and important indigenous and traditional ecological knowledge from both men and women.

Involvement of women in the EIA process can also minimize the long term cost of impacts and help to mitigate conflict by creating meaningful roles and responsibilities to facilitate the effective implementation of the project by having inclusive representative public participation from the initial phases of the EIA. Several organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [6] have already indicated the importance of gender equality in access to resources, goods, services and decision making.

Most parts of the world, women still struggle for equality, empowerment, and chance to learn and chance to decide (see this video) 

 Women are the most vulnerable group of the community [6]. Although all human beings are impacted, vulnerable fractions of the community such as women who represent the majority of the world’s poor, are most affected by environmental degradation from development projects [7]. Thus, women need access to information about  proposed developments, and the opportunity to participate in decision making process.

Therefore the equal participation of men and women is important in EIA process. Recognizing the significance of women’s participation in the EIA process, we require policy to focus on encouraging the participation of women in environmental activities. However, the existing policies for EIAs are completely gender blind and do not provide for equal involvement and participation of men and women.

References:

1. Noble, Bram F. 2010. Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment: A Guide to Principles and Practice. 2ndedition, Oxford University Press, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 274 pp

2. CEAA. 2012. Canadian Environmental Assessment Act-2012. Available at     http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/C-15.2.pdf

3. UNDES (United Nations Development of Economic and Social Affairs). 2004. A Gender Perspective on water Resources and sanitation, submitted by: Interagency Task Force on Gender and Water, background paper 2. DESA/DSD/2005/2.

4. Elizabeth,Byers and Sainju Meeta.1994. Mountain ecosystems and women: opportunities for sustainable development and conservation. Mountain research and development 14(3): 213-228.

5. Ivens, Saskia. 2009. Gender Perspectives in Integrated Water Resources Management.  The 25th session of the Governing Council / Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GMEF) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi, Kenya.4 pp.

6. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). 2013. Food policy on gender equality: attending food security goals in agriculture and rural development. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 11 pp

7. OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe). 2009. Gender 

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