© Yannick Schutz

Q&A on the nexus of gender and the environment with Dr. Malgorzata ‘Gosia’ Smieszek-Rice

We wanted to explore the nexus of gender and environment in the Arctic and caught up with Dr. Malgorzata ‘Gosia’ Smieszek-Rice for a rapid Q&A. Gosia is postdoctoral researcher at UiT The Arctic University of Norway and co-lead of the Pan-Arctic Report on Gender Equality in the Arctic.

© Dr. Malgorzata ‘Gosia’ Smieszek-Rice

What sparked your interest in gender and the environment?

The UNEP’s 2016 Global Gender and Environment Outlook. The report delved into how gender and gender equality intersect with environmental concerns. My interest initially focused on gender and climate change, but it quickly broadened to include gender dimensions in forestry, energy, fisheries etc.

To offer one example, a recent study in Alaska revealed that women’s active participation in fisheries had been largely overlooked because of how data is collected and the outdated image of the sector – a finding that we have seen across many areas.

Any “aha” moments in your work?

The first was when in 2016 with Tahnee Prior we realized the lack of gender and women’s perspectives in most Arctic conferences. At that time, there was little or no attention paid to gender, gender equality or specifically women’s perspectives at general Arctic events. This led to the establishment of our nonprofit, Women of the Arctic.

The second links to our work on the Arctic Council’s Gender Equality in the Arctic project. In collected research we have seen that when it comes to the gender- environment nexus, the experiences of women in the Arctic correspond more with the experiences of men from the Global South where most of gender-environment data comes from. In other words, the situation is often directly reversed when comparing the Arctic and other parts of the world.

What it means in practice is that we cannot take results from other regions and assume that the situation will be similar in the circumpolar North. We also realized how many knowledge gaps we still have, and we need to address those.

What would you say are challenges and opportunities for gender equality in the Arctic?

Achieving gender equality in the Arctic involves recognizing and embracing the diversity of gender experiences, including those of Indigenous Peoples, and acknowledging they come with different forms of knowing and understanding. There's a need for continued dialogue and action to address the complexities of gender equality, including accounting for a spectrum of gender identities and experiences.

The biggest challenge is perhaps that many still consider gender and gender equality as stand-alone issues, rather than seeing them as integral to all aspects of life, environmental protection, green transition, and sustainable development of the Arctic. A gender-equal Arctic would account for the diversity and dynamics of gender and gender equality, ensuring that discussions, research, and policies inclusively address these issues. We should move away from considering gender issues as something to be “solved” and start seeing them as central to solutions we need in the North.