[READ] International Women’s Day 2023

March 8, 2023

March Statements
Members of APNED at COP 27

Strengthening Pathways for Women’s Environmental and Social Rights

In celebration of the courageous women environmental human rights defenders (EHRDs), the Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders (APNED) is in solidarity with everyone in commemorating International Women’s Day. We recognize the essential role of women in protecting our environment and fulfilling our rights.

The climate and environmental crisis we face today devastates ecosystems and hinders the fulfillment of our fundamental human rights worldwide. The worsening impacts of increasingly harmful disasters make it more difficult for everyone, especially on the frontlines, to access, utilize and protect natural resources vital for livelihood, water and food security, health, education, and cultural rights for indigenous peoples. Our right to a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is in the constitutions and laws of 150 nation-states.
1 However, we have yet to make significant progress in fully realizing it. Thus, more decisive collective action is needed, and women have been unrecognized yet influential leaders in this arena. 

Women in most rural households, mothers, daughters, and sisters are responsible for securing and providing vital resources for their families. They manage farmlands for crops, vegetables, and fruits and travel great distances to get clean water, sources of fuel, and medicine. Because of their primary role as caretakers of households, they have formed an inherent connection, profound understanding, and significant reliance on the natural environment.
As a result, communities look to them for their knowledge to manage, protect and conserve biodiversity.2 Increasing evidence has shown that when a community protects women’s rights and promotes participation, it leads to better food security3 and forest4,5 and water6 conservation. 

According to the UNFCCC, Climate change, and disasters act as a “threat multiplier” in society, significantly impacting women and girls more than their counterparts. For example, as the principal caretakers of their households, women and girls are forced to abandon school to travel even further lengths to provide food and water for their families, increasing their risk of experiencing gender-based violence.
7 They are also more vulnerable to sexual assault, violence, discrimination, trafficking, and forced unions after disasters. In addition, as child-bearers, women have less access to healthcare resources and services for pregnancy and child-related concerns.8

Mother Earth has long been calling for its defenders to save and protect what is left of her bounty, and
our respective mothers, daughters, and sisters have never failed to answer the call. They have been valiant in the face of fear, discrimination, threats and assaults, and persistent lack of support and recognition. Thus, they are worthy of their title: Women Environment Human Rights Defenders (WEHRDs). Per the IUCN, WEHRDs are “women defenders working on human rights issues related to environmental justice, land rights, and access to and control over natural resources.”9

APNED calls on everyone; governments, international organizations, and civil society to increase and strengthen the support and protection of the countless women and WEHRDs striving to attain social, environmental, and climate justice worldwide. Furthermore, we continue to call for their further inclusion in environmental, climate, and human rights discourse to mount a better response to the social inequalities plaguing our world today. 

Happy International Women’s Day!


1. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). 2021. “Human rights, the environment, and gender equality: Key messages.” UN Women. https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2022/06/policy-paper-human-rights-environment-gender-equality

2. United States Department of State Bureau of International Information Programs. 2012. “Chapter 11: Women and the Environment – Global Women’s Issues: Women in the World Today, extended version.” BC Open Textbooks. https://opentextbc.ca/womenintheworld/chapter/chapter-11-women-and-the-environment/.

3. World Food Programme. 2021. “Empowering women and girls is crucial to ensure sustainable food security in the aftermath of COVID-19, say UN food agency heads on International Women’s Day | World Food Programme.” WFP. https://www.wfp.org/news/empowering-women-and-girls-crucial-ensure-sustainable-food-security-aftermath-covid-19-say-un.

4. University of Colorado at Boulder. 2019. “When more women make decisions, the environment wins: Gender quotas lead to greater forest conservation, study shows.” ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190321152838.htm. 5. United Nations Development Programme and The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. 2019. “Gender Equality as an Accelerator for Achieving the SDGs.” United Nations Development Programme. https://www.undp.org/publications/gender-equality-accelerator-achieving-sdgs.