Women and Nature Share a Powerful Moral Connection: Know-How

It’s often a cultural myth that women and nature share a powerful moral connection and are somehow closer to each other

Different discourses have shaped the way that sustainable development is approached, and as time goes on women and nature share a powerful moral connection which integrated into shaping these ideas. The definition of sustainable development is highly debated itself but is defined by the High court as a way to “establish equity between generations” and to take into account “social, economic, and environmental needs to conserve non-renewable resources” and decrease the amount of waste produced by industrialization.

The first discourse that emerged about women and nature sharing a powerful moral connection was Women in Development (WID), the perspective that advocated for women’s status to be improved in developing countries which then transformed into Women, Environment, and Development (WED). Critiques for WID included its place in a larger western mindset, perpetuating a colonial and liberal discourse that was not compatible with supporting the global population of women. WID placed women as central actors in household, rural, and market economies and looked to the hierarchical institution of western development to fix the issues that arise because of this.

The women, environment, and development debate (WED-debate) is anchored in a critical view of development policies where the link between modernization/industrialization and technology on the one hand and environmental deterioration on the other is focused. WED discourse is centralized around the synthesis of different ideologies, one of which is ecofeminism. 

Ecofeminism may be seen as a root ideology for WED, whereas women and nature share a powerful moral connection that enables them to have a deeper connection and stewardship of it. This ideology was transformed into the political sphere where it took a new shape as women having a socially constructed connection to nature through our global systems.

Environmental or ecological feminism :

Environmental or ecological feminism differs from ecofeminism in that it is more focused on the actual, specific interactions with the environment. Connections between environment and gender can be made by looking at the gender division of labor and environmental roles rather than an inherent connection with nature. The gender division of labor requires a more nurturing and caring role for women, therefore that caring nature places women and nature to share a powerful moral connection with the environment.

The knowledge of nature is shaped by the experiences an individual has. Women have a distinct knowledge of the land, yet are excluded from policy decisions of development on that land. This is prominent in many developing countries where the responsibility of collecting fuel and fodder is placed upon women. Both the resources and the meanings are taken into consideration with environmental feminism. 

There is a challenge to not only focus on the gender division of labor but also the actual appropriation methods of the resources. In other words, there is not simply an inherent woman and nature share a powerful moral connection, rather there are material realities that exist. Bina Agarwal opposes ecofeminism and outlines three problematic elements which are:

(a) Historical characterization of the situation of women and nature.

(b) Linking of the emancipation of women with that of nature.

(c) Assumptions about women’s agency.

Welfare :

Due to gender differences in income-spending patterns, women are at a higher risk of living in poverty. For this reason, access to land is of special importance. Land access allows for several production advantages such as growing trees, fodder, and/or crops. But, land access also allows for increased credit, bargaining power and strengthens aggregate real wages rates. 

Incentive effect:

If women are given secure land rights, there will be a greater incentive for higher production rates. Women will be motivated to use the best technologies, increase cultivation, and make long-term investments. Environmentally sound use of the land resource and reduced out-migration to cities by women and their dependents are other benefits of women’s secure land rights.

Credit and input access effect: 

Titles would enhance women’s ability to raise production by improving their access to agricultural credit, as well as by increasing women’s independent access to output, savings, and cash flow for reinvestment.

The efficiency of resource use effect: 

Studies have shown the possibility that women use resources more efficiently than men. This could mean anything from making more productive use of loans of money earned to the ability of women to achieve higher values of output based on cropping patterns.

Gender-specific knowledge and talent pool effect: 

Many women have specific and often greater knowledge about certain crops and planting patterns. If women are included as farm managers, a more diverse and talented informed pool will be created.

Bargaining power and empowerment effect: 

Providing women with the opportunity to own land will increase their sense of empowerment and could help women to assert themselves more in various situations such as policy creation other government schemes.

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