Helping to heal nature and ourselves through human-rights-based and gender-responsive One Health

One Health Outlook. 2020;2(1):22. doi: 10.1186/s42522-020-00029-0. Epub 2020 Nov 16.


The health of our planet and humanity is threatened by biodiversity loss, disease and climate crises that are unprecedented in human history, driven by our insatiable consumption and unsustainable production patterns, particularly food systems. The One Health approach is a pathway to synergistically addressing outcomes in term of health and sustainability, but gender issues at the One Health and biodiversity nexus are largely ignored. By examining the roles and responsibilities of Indigenous and Local People, and especially women, in conserving natural resources, and the social costs of living at the Human-Animal-Environment interface under current conservation strategies, we show that women bear a disproportionate health, poverty and climate burden, despite having pivotal roles in conserving biodiversity. To mitigate risks of emerging infectious diseases, food insecurity and climate change impacts, a gender perspective has previously been proposed, but implementation lags behind. Endemic zoonotic diseases, human-wildlife conflict and environmental pollution lack gender-sensitive frameworks. We demonstrate that women can be powerful agents for change at all levels of society, from communities to businesses, and policy-making institutions, but gender inequalities still persist. We develop a framework for mainstreaming a gender-responsive and rights-based One Health approach, in order to heal ourselves and nature. Using a leverage-points perspective, we suggest a change of paradigm, from the pursuit of GDP and over-consumption, to a focus on human well-being and their reconnection with healthy environments, using a One Health understanding of nature and health. We recommend learning from Indigenous People to re-position ourselves within nature and to better conserve biodiversity. We also propose integration of gender equity in leadership, the respect of human rights, women's rights (access to health care, healthy food, land tenure, natural resources, education, and economic opportunities), and the rights of nature, through the implementation of gender-responsive and rights-based One Health Action Plans, at policy-making level, in the private sector and the civil society. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unveil deep socio-economic inequities in the wealthiest economies and the vital role of nature in supporting our health, we argue to seize this opportunity to build back better and improve resilience and sustainability by using a gender-responsive and rights-based One Health approach.

Keywords: Biodiversity; COVID-19; Climate change; Gender; Health; Human rights; Indigenous; Nature; One Health; Resilience; Women.

Publication types

  • Review