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USAID WEE CoP Learning Event: Examining Gender-based Violence and Women’s Economic Empowerment in Environmental Contexts (March 2024)

On March 6, 2024, the USAID Women’s Economic Empowerment Community of Practice (USAID WEE CoP) hosted, “Examining Gender-Based Violence and Women’s Economic Empowerment in Environmental Contexts.”  We appreciate the 115 attendees from 26 countries who joined this virtual event and would like to extend a special thank you to our speaker and panelists:

  • Jamie Wen-Besson, Senior Gender Program Manager at International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), presented an overview of the linkages between gender-based violence (GBV), women’s economic empowerment (WEE), and the environment, anchored in evidence from a 2020 study. She also discussed the origins of the Resilient, Inclusive and Sustainable Environment’s (RISE) grants challenge, shared key learning, and emphasized the importance of working with local partners.
  • Ruwani Dharmakirthi, Senior Gender Programme Officer at IUCN, moderated a discussion with RISE grantees in Zambia, Mexico, and Vietnam.
  • Samantha Munag’andu, RISE Program Coordinator at ActionAid Zambia, shared their work with women and diverse community groups to prevent and mitigate GBV and increase women’s access, benefits, and control over resources in the fisheries sector. Specifically, they are combatting sex-for-fish practices by facilitating awareness campaigns that help break taboos; conducting training sessions with GBV service providers to increase knowledge and enhance abilities to handle disclosures; and holding dialogues with men, boys, traditional leaders, and other influential community members, especially custodians of culture and natural resources. 
  • Tzinnia Carranza López, Coordinator at Espacio de Encuentro de las Culturas Originarias, A.C. in Mexico, provided insights on addressing inequities that women face in ecotourism, such as limited employment opportunities and sexual harassment. Key interventions from their work include raising awareness about women’s rights through campaigns and community engagement; providing safe spaces for reporting violence and receiving services; and promoting a ‘safe seal’ for businesses that designate their commitment to operating equitably, justly, and without violence while also contributing to women’s advancement.
  • Dr. Trang Nguyen, Founder and Director at WildAct Vietnam, addressed harmful organizational culture, such as sexual harassment, in the wildlife conservation sector. Key interventions from their work include building the capacity of more than 200 conservation practitioners and government partners to recognize and address GBV in the workplace; creating and implementing safety mechanisms, codes of conduct, and safeguarding policies; rolling out a GBV and sexual harassment assessment for staff; integrating zero tolerance statements in partnership conversations and contracts; establishing GBV focal contact points in organizations to support survivor reporting; and promoting safe houses across Vietnam. 

Here are three key takeaways from the discussion:

  1. The connection between GBV, WEE, and the environment is often overlooked. RISE’s pioneering work recognizes that women are key users, managers, and stewards of environmental resources, as well as knowledgeable advocates, leaders, and technical professionals. The learning of RISE grantees and partners demonstrates the importance of centering engagement with local actors, incorporating safeguarding training for environmental stakeholders, connecting with service providers for GBV referral pathways, and engaging men and boys as advocates. 
  2. GBV, in all its forms, exists in environmental contexts and is a threat to WEE. GBV is a barrier to women’s participation in jobs and environmental livelihood opportunities, as well as their ability to make decisions safely. Examples include exposure to violence in traveling long distances or crossing geographic boundaries to reach natural resources or places of employment, demands for sexual acts in exchange for access to resources, and sexual harassment in the workplace. 
  3. WEE programming that addresses GBV is critical for women’s environmental livelihoods. Advancing WEE can be facilitated through raising awareness of GBV issues, promoting access to networks and safe spaces for reporting and services, and supporting operational and policy change. In some contexts, violence may be normalized, while in others, it is considered too taboo to discuss. By engaging diverse stakeholders through these approaches, we can address these challenges and transform women’s ability to thrive and contribute economically.  

Resources: Below are the learning event slides and recordings available in English and Spanish. 


Recording (English)
Grabación (Español)

To learn more about the RISE grants challenge and its grantees, refer to:

For questions about this event, or to join the USAID WEE CoP, please contact: