Gender refers to the attributes and opportunities associated with being male and female and the socio-cultural relationships between women and men. These attributes, opportunities and relationships are socially constructed and are learned through socialization processes. They are context specific and changeable. In most societies there are differences and inequalities between women and men in activities undertaken, access to and control over resources as well as decision making opportunities. Gender is part of the broader socio-cultural context which also takes into consideration factors such as class, race, economic status, ethnic group and age.

Adopting a gender perspective means focusing on both women and men and their relationships with each other and natural resources. In addition, it means working with a global perspective that allows for and appreciates regional diversity. IUCN further understands that mainstreaming gender means creating an enabling working environment that in turn attracts and helps to retain gender sensitive staff.

Why is gender essential to the sustainable use, management and conservation of natural resources? Gender equality and equity are matters of fundamental human rights and social justice and a pre-condition for sustainable development. In the use, management and conservation of natural resources women and men have different roles and responsibilities, which vary greatly from region to region. Women often make their contributions to the family, community and society with unequal access to, control over and benefits from resources and resource use. This inequality often exists in a context of discrimination and unequal power relationships.

Understanding the linkages between gender relationships and the environment means achieving a better analysis of patterns of use, knowledge and skills regarding conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Only with a gender perspective in place can a complete picture of human relationships and ecosystems be built up.

IUCN’s commitment to gender equality and equity is Union-wide and is an integral part of all policies, programmes and projects. IUCN considers that its commitment to gender equality and equity means building a Union that understands the issues and whose policies respect diversity.

See IUCN's website on Gender and Environment