Sugar communities and resilience to change : opportunities for enhancing women's participation in sustainability initiatives
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This project was funded by SRDC, in partnership with CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems and the University of Queensland. The project commenced in November 2005 and this final report, completed in November 2008, summarises the key outputs, outcomes and lessons that have emerged from the project.The focus of this project was to build industry and community capacity for change by targeting the participation of women in a broad range of sustainability initiatives, as a key opportunity to strengthen industry decision-making and the resilience or adaptive capacity of sugar communities in the face of change. This project explored women’s experiences with ‘sustainability initiatives’, which were defined broadly as ‘formal activities, processes, relationships or tools focused on making the industry economically, socially and/or environmentally sustainable’.Previous research has shown that gender relations are a significant factor influencing farm, industry and community decision-making and that women are a poorly utilised resource in the agricultural sector. It is also well recognised that communities and industries closely dependent on natural resources need to enhance their capacity to cope with and adapt to the impacts of uncertainty and on-going change and to shape sustainable futures. Although it is recognised that women have the potential to provide a largely untapped opportunity for fostering innovation and facilitating change, many women are marginalised from knowledge exchange and decision-making roles within the sugar industry, with many industry-based initiatives and advice networks failing to meet their needs or appeal to them.The challenge for the sugar industry is that reducing the barriers to communication, information flow, and feedback and creating opportunities for new interactions and knowledge creation, generation and capture can lead to enhanced resilience and increased ability of both communities and individuals to cope with and adapt to uncertainty and change. Importantly, a clear need exists for new approaches to enhance the participation and engagement of women in sugar industry decision-making and training/educational initiatives and to help them embrace change.