How a new carbon standard seeks to benefit women worldwide

Women are the majority of the world’s farmers, yet carbon mitigation projects in agriculture and forestry are rarely designed in ways that benefit their economic and social status.

So says Jeannette Gurung, a Bangkok-based women’s development advocate whose group WOCAN (Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management) is trying to change that through the Women’s Carbon Standard. According to Gurung, no such standard currently exists for carbon projects or any other type of project that specifically addresses women.

“By and large, gender issues are not considered important to most climate change mitigation projects," Gurung said at the standard’s launch on Wednesday in San Francisco. “There are a number of projects out there -- for example, improved cookstoves -- [developed] without even a thought about how to improve women’s [status]. We wanted to see if we could use the carbon markets to benefit them.”

The Women’s Carbon Standard aims to boost project benefits in income, health, food security, education, leadership and increased discretionary time. It requires that a portion of the profits from carbon offset sales be channeled back to the women's community where the offset is based.

But despite its name, it’s really a social standard designed to measure outcomes benefiting women who participate in carbon mitigation projects.  

“We call it 'carbon' because we feel like there’s a market around carbon,” Gurung said,“but it can be used on all sorts of activities.”

The mitigation project must exhibit certain indicators in income, health, food security, education, leadership and increased discretionary time before it can achieve third-party verification. For example, has the project increased access to education and improved air quality? What about water quality? Has it increased community funds under women’s control?

Photo of Burmese field worker wearing thanaka powder (a natural sunscreen and cooling agent) provided by Dirk Ott via Shutterstock

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