Resilience Dispatch #8: Elevating Women’s Voices in Nature-based Solutions

Aug 1, 2020
Credit: Juan Patiño.

In this edition

Resilience Means Closing the Gender Gap

Michael Jenkins

Peru, where Forest Trends is leading a $27.5 million project to scale nature-based solutions, is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. Peru is staring down the barrel of longer droughts, bigger floods, and shrinking of the glaciers that supply water for millions.

Peru faces a second challenge: its water sector is overwhelmingly dominated by men.

Women share the work in maintaining Peru’s natural infrastructure. They hold knowledge about things like where which local plant species are indicators of compacted soils, or how indigenous water management technologies interact with local springs.

But when it comes to the institutions that make decisions about water – whether government agencies, water utility management teams, or local water boards – women are largely absent.

We know that gender equality leads to better water security outcomes. Research shows that water projects are more successful and more sustainable when both men and women have a voice. Including women in water decision-making also has been shown to improve economic status and personal wellbeing of women and families.

Our focus on closing the gender gap in Peru’s water sector is a little bit unusual for a large-scale conservation initiative. But gender equity is inseparable from water security. In this Dispatch, we share what we’re learning and the impacts Forest Trends and partners have had to date. These are valuable lessons for our future work and for nature-based solutions investments everywhere in the world, not just Peru.

As always, please get in touch if you’re interested in learning more or finding ways to work with us on this issue.


Our Impact: Elevating Women in Peru’s Water Sector

  • Forest Trends has secured institutional commitments from Peru’s leading national water agencies – the National Superintendence of Sanitation Services and the National Water Authority – to mainstream a gender equity approach and address gender gaps in the water sector.
  • We launched a Women’s Leadership Program for Water Management to support 88 women leaders with training to increase political, technical, and leadership skillsets.
  • Forest Trends worked closely with the Ministry of Environment to add a representative of women’s organizations to Peru’s National Climate Change Commission.
  • Forest Trends is working with civil society, water utilities, and public investment professionals to ensure gender equity in our entire portfolio of nature-based solutions.

Read more about our work ensuring that nature-based solutions include women in Peru in our latest briefing.

Environmental engineer Melina Moreno collecting phytoplankton samples for the Quellaveco project. Photo credit: Carlos Alberto Vergara Manrique de Lara.
“I used to be scared to talk about water at the Commission meetings, because I did not feel I could understand the science or technology.

The training programs and events like this one have given me the confidence that I need to participate in decision making for my watershed. I hope to share this knowledge with other women who want to work in water management.”

Clara Vásquez: The Value of Capacity-Building

Born in the town of Capote in the Lambayeque region of Peru, Clara Vásquez
Santisteban, has spent most of her life farming 15 acres of rice, fruit trees and staple crops. Water is very important to her livelihood. But until she began participating in trainings supported by the Natural Infrastructure for Water Security Project, she never felt she could have a voice in how water was managed in her region.

Vásquez is now the President of the Capote Water Users Commission and conducts
trainings around water resource management for women. She was amongst 20 Peruvian women celebrated at the 2019 Gender Equality and Water Security Forum hosted by Forest Trends and our partners.

“Water is a scarce resource and, in many occasions, because of being women, we have been the last to receive it and do not have a role in managing it,” Vásquez explained in a presentation about her local water user group. “Pollution and climate change are problems that affect us all. I ask myself: what planet do we want to leave our children?”

A family from the Llachon community fishing for trout and silverside on Lake Titicaca.
Photo credit: Enrique Sarmiento Calagua.