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New Carbon Credit System Considers Women’s Well-Being

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Tuesday April 30th, 2013 | 1 Comment

VSO Tanzania 2012The advocacy organization, Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources Management (WOCAN) has come up with a new way to inspire sustainability by reaching out to the workers that often play the biggest role in agricultural production: a women’s carbon credit standard.

“More than half the world’s farmers are women,” says Jeannette Gurung, executive director of WOCAN, “but women are seldom included in aid, funding or decision-making.”

The Women’s Carbon Standard aims to change that, says Gurung, by making women key players in questions that help to promote carbon mitigation.

“Including and empowering women has powerful and positive impacts for families, communities and the environment.” According to WOCAN, the WCS program, which was launched last week in Bangkok, Thailand, would not only help set standards for sustainable practice at the product source, but help communities as well, by helping to inspire better living standards through education, food security, sustainability and improved income.

WOCAN likens the system to the popular fair trade model that has helped farmers increase their earning potential.

“The …WCS is a set of project design and implementation requirements that complement existing compliance or voluntary carbon standards such as the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and others,” WOCAN explains on its website. The measuring system it uses to rate projects submitted to WOCAN for verification is calibrated according to standards and challenges commonly found by women in third world countries.

carbon_credits_ nepal_Martin_Wright-AshdenFor example, a project might be scored based on factors that determine the economic independence of the woman farmer:

  • Does she earn independent income, and is she allowed to make business decisions herself?
  • Does she own assets such as real estate and is she able to buy and sell those assets independently?
  • What level of education does she have and is she able to implement new ideas from home and from her community?
  • Does she have time to herself, and do men in the family share in traditional women’s responsibilities in such a way that the women would have time and freedom to improve her education or her standing as an entrepreneur?

One question that came to mind while reviewing the WCS scoring criteria (found in the program guide) is whether the program would favor projects and women whose standards of living, education and social circumstances were closely aligned with western expectations.

For example, what about women who live in traditional religious communities and social structures where women may not earn independent income recognized as such, either because of social expectations, communal social structures, family care responsibilities or poverty? In many communities, men still do not share in “reproductive” tasks in the home, and the expectation would be contrary to cultural traditions. Is there a way for a woman to excel using this carbon standard without potentially creating discord or alienation in her rural community?

Does the scoring allow a liberal interpretation of education, according to the religion and social practices of her community, or will it be based on western secular standards? What if she lives in an area where there is political strife? Will she be able to attain the educational certifications or even the basic training that the standard calls for, in order to get high scores?

Lastly, the program’s submission fees ($500-$1000) assume that entrepreneurs are able to earn sufficient amounts to pay such fees, and projects must be submitted in English for them to be considered.

Still, the framework provides a wide range of areas in which the applicant can qualify for points, offering incentives for women that can ultimately benefit not just their communities, but the environmental health of the planet as a whole.  WOCAN’s Women’s Carbon Standard offers yet another innovative way for entrepreneurs to endorse gender equality and sustainable methods in their workplace as well as at home.

Photo #1 courtesy of Ben Langdon

Photo #2 courtesy of Martin Wright/Ashden


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  • WOCAN

    Thanks Jan for highligthing the focus of Women’s Carbon Standard (WCS) which is to provide maximum benefit to women. Hope to hear more comments and reflection. Please join us @WOCANupdates and @WCSupdates