Gender justice and dismantling patriarchy

A look at Friends of the Earth International's position on gender justice and dismantling patriarchy.

02 Dec 2022

For International Women’s Day on March 8, we celebrated the work of some internationally renowned women alongside some of our own wonderful local women leaders. Together they're inspiring examples who bring the principles of work on gender justice and dismantling patriarchy to life.

The environment and patriarchy

The theme for this 2022's International Women’s Day was "gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow". This is similar to the position on gender justice and dismantling patriarchy (GJDP) that both Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Friends of the Earth International have long held.

A feminist approach to the environment, with gender justice at its heart, acknowledges that the climate and nature crises aren't independent of power and politics but are instead driven by them. It also highlights the need to challenge and dismantle that power.

Although not the only form, the exploitation of women by men makes up an essential part of how power and politics work. By extension, this exploitation is a key driver of the resource extraction and land use that are ravaging the natural world. GJDP work asserts that overturning this exploitation – also known as patriarchy – requires a radical change to society, and that we need a "grassroots, anti-capitalist feminism".

Women and food

An example of patriarchy at work when it comes to the environment is a food system that sees women owning 2% of land globally despite producing 50% of our food. This is the same food system that's failing to feed us all healthily and is a huge source of ecological destruction.

Grassroots, anti-capitalist feminism challenges exactly this type of everyday reality. It also helps realise a world with different ways of working, farming and caring, which prioritise wellbeing, cooperation and sustainability over profit and patriarchal power. Read more about the crossover between dismantling patriarchy and food sovereignty.

Protagonists, not victims

Women are disproportionately affected by environmental injustice, and this is especially true for women who experience other forms of injustice, for example due to their class, race, or sexual or gender identity.

Despite this, GJDP sees women as being on the frontline of tackling environmental injustices, rather than victims. They’re often the first to fight back, and their experience of injustice brings an essential insight to our work. It's vital that we understand the role of women in our movement in this regard – as leaders who shape and restructure the movement for the better.

What can you do?

International Women’s Day is an important moment, but feminism/GJDP and the role women play in our groups is something we need to continuously reflect upon and change accordingly. Making space for and inviting discussion on how your group can challenge patriarchy is a great start.

If you make time to do this in your group, please let us know – we'd love to hear how it goes. You can also take a look at our GJDP webinar with Dipti Bhatnagar and Rita Uwaka to help frame the conversation.