Gender, Territory & Environment: An Interview with Margarita Velázquez-Gutiérrez (in English)

February 28, 2023

On Friday, March 3, the new session of our Gender & Policy Forum was dedicated to discuss sustainable development in relation to territory, society, and gender. One speaker was Dr. Margarita Velázquez-Gutiérrez, PhD in Social Sciences from the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of London, and currently a professor and researcher at the Regional Center for Multidisciplinary Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Dr. Velázquez-Gutiérrez is the leading Mexican expert in exploring the links between gender, society, and the environment. We spoke with her about some of the topics she also developed in the forum.


First, could you explain to us what the concept of sustainable development means, and what is its relationship to gender issues?


Sustainable development refers to the need to build human societies capable of implementing just, egalitarian, and respectful life systems within the natural environments where they develop. The relationships between people and their natural environments, including their use, management, control, and distribution, are essentially social relationships that generate forms of inequality, including gender inequalities. For example, the low rate of women in the world who own land.


Besides gender, what other identities are related to sustainable development?


All social identities are related to the possibility of disrupting and building new social contracts that are sustainable and just. No one can be left out or discriminated against. I argue that we need to disrupt social contracts in order to stop the production of greenhouse gases and compounds and stop global warming. On the other hand, we need to build alternatives to social production and reproduction that stop alll kinds of social injustices, especially those related to gender inequalities. Rather than making communities more “resilient,” we should give them the tools to transform themselves.


In what aspects of sustainable development has there been progress, and what are still challenges?


We know which resources are deteriorating and at what rate, but we still do not understand which people use which resources and why they do so in one way or another. In sustainability discourse, people, women and men, seem invisible. Yet it has been societies through patterns of production and consumption that have accelerated environmental transformations.

 ”Rather than making communities more “resilient,” we should give them the tools to transform themselves”

How can the general public contribute to sustainable development in relation to gender?


By understanding the social roles that women and men of different social, age, national, and cultural groups should have in a future with environmental justice.


What gender and sustainable development paradigms continue to circulate in the public imagination despite existing research questioning them?


From the social sciences, we work from theoretical-methodological frameworks to observe and analyze reality. The essentialist notion that women, by the biological fact of being women, are “natural” caregivers of the environment persists. This is a biologistic and essentialist principle that has always been rejected by feminism and gender studies.

What public policies are in the process of being implemented in the short term regarding this issue?


This is a topic that requires a lot of work. Environmental, social, and economic policies, both regional, national, and global, need to be rethought from two central perspectives: gender and territory. It is not enough to “incorporate” gender. Policy action must be in line with what people and communities want where they will be implemented.


Finally, what book on this topic would you recommend to our readers?


Feminismo socioambiental: Revitalizando el debate desde América Latina, by Ana De Luca Zuria, Ericka Fosado Centeno, and Margarita Velázquez Gutiérrez. Published by the Regional Center for Multidisciplinary Research, UN.

Sign up for the event here.

By Francisco Ángeles & Alan Mendoza-Sosa