The roles and knowledge of men and women in society differ. Development has tended to be biased toward men and consequently effectively undermined not only the position of women but the wide range of social and environmental relationships and activities dependent upon women's knowledge and engagement.
Women and men often possess different skills and knowledge of local conditions and everyday life. Women, as important users and processors of natural resources for human subsistence, are often the repositories of Indigenous Knowledge on matters of sustainable resource management. In many cultures women bear the main responsibility for growing, collecting and processing food, securing water, fuel and herbal medicines, and for providing cash income for education, health care and other family needs. Women also contribute much of the labor and day-to-day decision-making that goes into crop and animal production.
Recognition and support of the indigenous knowledge of both women and men is essential for improving the livelihoods of local communities of different ethnic minorities. A gender perspective in development emphasizes acknowledging the role of women in their local communities, understanding the interaction between women and men and the linkages of this interaction with indigenous knowledge, and engaging women fully within the development process. It implies understanding the roles and knowledge of men and women in all our programs as part of our participatory approach and means working with women to strengthen their self-esteem, raise their voice in the community development and watershed management programs, and acknowledge their ways of knowing for development planning and action.