Women’s Effectiveness in Natural Resource Management

Research PaperFeminism
Apr 6, 2008

The inequality of men and women has always been evident. No matter which era, the supremacy of patriarchy was considered absolute and thus have placed women at a disadvantageous position. Because of that notion, women have always been seen as incapable and untrustworthy when it comes to important tasks. But are women really inefficient and ineffective when it comes to working? This expository essay will talk about natural resource management and the constraints that women face in the field.


Women are key players in natural resource management. Women have always been portrayed as the foremost participants in interacting with the environment – a role that tends to equip them with invaluable skills and knowledge in matters of natural resource management. Yet a broad range of factors – including gender – mitigate against women’s greater potential in their role as key players in environmental resource management.

In many areas, traditional practices and customs have effectively hindered women’s productive roles and capacities. Some nationalities or cultures even go as far as expecting every woman in the world to have the same beliefs and customs as them. This then resulted in a largely biased and unfair view of women which put them at a disadvantage most of the time.

It can also be linked to the gender division of labor, whereby many societies structure work allocation in such a way that women end up being overburdened, overworked, and underpaid. While the opposite gender would not admit how capable and effective women really are, they still tend to give more administrative positions to women.

Administrative positions often entail women handling more paperwork but, more often than not, are given a lower salary than their male contemporaries. The wage gap between men and women is still present even if more and more women are starting to protest that they should at least be given equal pay for the same work as men.

In some cases, socio-cultural practices are enforced by law or a country’s dominant religion, which serve to further constrain women in their productive roles. Because customary law sometimes forms the basis of institutionalized laws in developing countries, it becomes difficult for women to undertake any meaningful law reforms with regard to gender issues.

The strong presence of patriarchal systems acts as an impediment to women’s full participation in development projects. Lack of support from local authorities and institutions — whether financial, agricultural, legal, or educational — means that the needs of women are often very poorly represented, overlooked, or misinterpreted.

Further, women are poorly represented in local organizations. They are barely involved in community leadership. Men continue to dominate in decision-making and leadership circles. Political and bureaucratic factors also exert a strong influence in determining women’s access to natural resources, such as land and water. In the long run, women’s productivity is hindered.

The invisibility of women in roles and activities in environmental resource management efforts is a factor that continues to impede increased productivity in sustainable development activities. Women’s work in the environment as well as in development projects is not given full recognition or accorded an economic value. The multi-dimensional nature of women’s work as producers should also be taken into consideration.

The majority of working women spend as many as fifteen hours each day in productive roles. Although there has been a significant amount of scholarship and publicity focusing on women’s role in sustainable development, a large portion of their experiences and activities are as yet undocumented or unnoticed.

The invisibility of women is a critical factor that needs to be addressed in policy-making spheres because before their role as environmental resource managers can be enhanced, it must first be recognized. The main challenge, therefore, is how to make invisible women visible.  

What is natural resource management?

Natural resource management is such a broad spectrum that encompasses activities from conserving natural resources like water to finding a way on how to provide a community with it.   It involves coming up with a strategy on the best way to sustain natural resources to be used both in the present and the future. Not only is it concerned with future generations, but it also aims to protect the environment.

Natural resource management is handled by organizations and individuals who are concerned about the welfare of every individual in the whole world – especially indigenous individuals because they are the ones most affected by changes in the natural landscape caused by building structures like dams and the like. Their way of living can be affected by poor management of natural resources.

Individuals or organizations who are handling natural resource management checks on the water quality and supply in different parts of the world like Africa where help is needed the most. Apart from providing the people with safe drinking water, managing the water supply that is meant for other purposes is also very important as some regions are getting particularly dry due to global warming.

They also help manage other natural resources like fisheries, because some tend to overfish or catch even the young ones and not giving them the chance to grow; forestry, to avoid illegal logging, and; testing the agricultural capability of land as not all types of land are good for planting or is not recommended to be used for a residential area. Proper management of natural resources can surely help save the environment.

On Women

All over the world, women make up of more than half of agricultural workers. This means that women prove to be capable of jobs that society deems are meant only for men. However, despite this fact, women are almost never taken into consideration when it comes to reformations and thinking up ways on how to make the system work a lot better for everyone.

When it comes to agriculture, technology, necessities provision, and planning, women are rarely given the chance to speak up and impart their opinions on the issue. The people immediately reach out to the leader of the community, which is almost always a man, to take care of their needs without even thinking of consulting a more qualified and capable woman.

In households, women are usually the ones who provide the family the basic necessities like water, food, clothing, and sources of energy . At the level of the smallest unit of a community, a woman is already proving herself to be capable of managing the natural resources. Being able to manage it at such a basic level shall not equate to being limited to just that.

Women are constantly being discriminated against in their respective fields. Being part of an organization that is geared towards managing natural resources, preserving them and helping save the environment does not save women from that type of discrimination in the workplace. Women are known to be better at managing tasks and finding ways on how to better handle a situation which makes them perfect at handling tasks like natural resource management.


It should be noted that there can be no “blanket” actions or strategies that can effectively be applied to enhance women’s role as active agents in environmental resource management and sustainable development. Some specific actions and recommendations would, of course, be more suited to particular contexts while they may very well be less effective in a different case.

The category of “women” nor expectations that women’s perceptions, knowledge and strategies in natural resource management are identical in all regions should not be universalized. Nonetheless, from a feminist perspective that is aimed towards gender equality, there are a number of strategies that could be applied.

Development projects must ensure that their project formulation is gender-sensitive. There are numerous projects going on in developing countries where sustainable development is a priority. Many of these projects are located in rural areas where women are the primary community participants.

Several males have migrated to the urban centers in search of labor wage or are more heavily involved in plantation or commercial agriculture. Project design and implementation need to be conducted bearing in mind that women constitute the majority of participants in sustainable development initiatives. Their input must, therefore, be both recognized and enhanced.   In this regard, gender issues should be given a careful analysis.

Women need to be more involved in decision-making, project design, and implementation of environmental policies. This is especially crucial because women are the primary actors in agriculture, water supply and sanitation, forest management, fishing, and health, all of which are key sectors in socio-economic development.

Involving women in policy-making would, therefore, necessitate their greater political participation and representation in the legislature. It becomes necessary, then, to undertake outreach activities with the goal of educating women about various democratic processes.

At local, national, and international levels, the situations, needs and roles of women, must be urgently addressed. Awareness and advocacy can be undertaken both by local women as well as other groups. Group organizing for sustainable development is highly effective. Awareness and advocacy must, of necessity, be sustained. The plight of women must be steered to the forefront of national development planning agendas.

Women must form a key target of education and training sessions. While it has been noted that time constraints appear to be a universal factor for most women, it is important that they undergo training sessions as this would greatly enhance their time management.  Education and training can be conducted in small informal groups with women being encouraged to assume leadership roles.

This would have the effect of bolstering their self-esteem and confidence and encourage them to participate more actively in wider community events. Education also has the effect of making women aware of their political and legal rights. Development agencies need to specifically incorporate and implement a gender training aspect in their activities.

Ultimately, this would encourage them to participate in decision-making and leadership roles, a factor that would positively influence their quest for increased rights to resources.

There has to be an increase in economic opportunities accessible to women.  Constraints that hinder women from fully accessing economic facilities should be addressed. Local cooperatives and agricultural financing institutions need to be encouraged to co-opt women into their clientele base.

Once women have greater access to capital and credit facilities, they would be able to purchase, with greater ease, the necessary farm supplies and equipment that would greatly facilitate their role as producers. This is particularly crucial in the agricultural sector where the majority of women are engaged in food production.

Besides access to capital and credit, particularly within the agricultural sector, women’s access to markets should be improved. Difficulties in transportation should be addressed so that women experience fewer difficulties in getting their produce to markets.


Clearly, lack of access to land continues to be a huge obstacle to women’s role as producers in developing countries. Although reforms in land tenure have been instituted in several countries, women still continue to be overwhelmingly disadvantaged in matters of land ownership.

If women have greater access to land, not only would this encourage them to be more productive in their role as producers, but it would also enhance their creativity and resourcefulness because they would experience a greater sense of agency in determining their priorities and directing their actions in matters of environmental management and sustainable development.

The fact that women are often rendered invisible in sustainable development circles tends to overlook not only their actual role but the potential they have. Women’s indigenous skills, knowledge and insights should be welcomed in development planning and sustainable development efforts. This is a crucial factor in empowering women because their resourcefulness would be recognized and ultimately, their productivity would be heightened.

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Kamdar, P. (2015, January 5). UN Report Highlights Women’s Roles in Natural Resource Management During and After Conflict . New Security Beat. https://www.newsecuritybeat.org/2015/01/report-highlights-womens-roles-natural-resource-management-conflict/

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