Gender and the Environment
The importance of gender equality for a sustainable future has been established in Sustainable Development Goal 5 - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. However, it is not a stand-alone objective; rather, gender equality is important for the achievement of other global goals, including those related to environmental challenges. This page aims at listing relevant information, research, and initiatives at the crossroad of gender and the environment from by our partners in Geneva and other institutions around the world.
The Gender and Environment Nexus
While men and women must work hand in hand to confront the environmental challenges of our time, considerations of gender and environment are crucial to our ability to achieve a just and sustainable future. Gender inequalities, such as weak rights to own land and reduced access to energy, water and sanitation facilities for women, have a negative impact on human health, the environment and sustainable development. Therefore, mainstreaming gender into the global environmental agenda is essential to strive for a healthier planet for all.
Environmental change (…) has specific differentiated impacts on women and girls or on men and boys. Using a gender-specific approach to examine these complex linkages (which may be referred to as the “gender-and-environment nexus”) is therefore an appropriate way to investigate the dynamic relationships between environmental change and gender equality, as well as between impacts on sustainability and the realization of women’s rights and empowerment.
Global Gender and Environment Outlook, UN Environment Programme, 2018
This section provides resources on the relevance of adopting a gender lens on environmental issues.
- Gender Equality and the Environment – Policy and Strategy | UNEP
- Gender and Environment Breakfast | Geneva Environment Network | 31 May 2017
- Gender and Environment | The World Bank | 2010
- Gender, inclusiveness and the SDGs | OECD
- Gender and the Environment – Building Evidence and Policies to Achieve the SDGs | OECD | 21 May 2021
International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day, celebrated each year on 8 March, is a time to reflect on progress made on gender equality, to call for change and to celebrate the contribution of women to numerous challenges around the globe.
The theme for 2023 is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, recognizing and celebrating the women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education. Advancements in digital technology offer immense opportunities to address development, humanitarian, and environmental challenges, and to achieve the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals. Unfortunately, the opportunities of the digital revolution also present a risk of perpetuating existing patterns of gender inequality. For example, the lack of gender- and sex-disaggregated data regarding many environmental issues renders women, girls and their needs invisible to policymakers (Commission on the Status of Women, 2022 & Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, 2023).
This year’s celebration of International Women’s Day in Geneva will highlight the role women and girls play as “agents of change” in the face of the triple planetary crisis. As Geneva plays an important role on data and environment, the session will also have stakeholders discuss how they are leading the way in ensuring innovation and technology in the service of the environment contribute to achieving gender equality.
Previous editions of International Women’s Day focused on:
Gender Equality for a Sustainable Tomorrow
Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world
I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights
Think equal, build smart, innovate for change
Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives
Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030
International Cooperation on Gender and the Environment
Many actors in International Geneva and beyond are actively working at the gender-and-environment nexus. International institutions and multilateral processes on the environment have started to engage with issues of gender.
The Global Gender and Environment Outlook (GGEO), undertaken by the UN Environment Programme, combines gender and environment perspective into a comprehensive assessment, and provides an overview of the links gender and the environment to inform policy decisions aimed at increasing gender equality.
Mainstreaming gender – making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated (UN Economic and Social Council, 1997) – is essential to achieve SDG 5 on Gender Equality. Recognizing the importance of the gender dimensions of their work, multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) have taken steps to mainstream gender into their practice. These include the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD), the Basel, Stockholm, and Rotterdam Conventions (BRS), the Minamata Convention, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
More information on these international efforts is provided in this section.
- About Gender | UNEP
- Global Gender and Environment Outlook (GGEO) | UNEP | 19 May 2018
- Environment and Gender | UNECE
- Gender | InformMEA
- The Gender Action Plan | UNFCCC
- 2015-2020 Gender Plan of Action | CBD
- BRS Gender Action Plan | BRS Conventions
- Gender Action Plan | UNCCD
- Guidance on Mainstreaming Gender under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands | Ramsar Convention
- Gender Equality | WMO
Women in Leadership
Women’s participation in decision-making is essential in environmental governance. The fourth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) recognized the importance of promoting gender equality and the human rights and empowerment of women and girls in environmental governance (EA.4/Res.17). The resources below provide relevant information on International Women’s Day and the role of women in environmental action.
Environmental decision making – decisions we make for people and planet – need to be inclusive and involve all voices, including equal voices from women. The triple planetary crisis – of climate, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste – places a triple burden on women. According to UN Women, climate-related extreme events can lead to increased violence against women and girls. And we know that biodiversity loss places profound pressures on women and girls as land managers and resource users. And as food producers, women are frequently at greater risk through endocrine-disrupting chemicals in pesticides, or persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme, on International Women’s Day 2021
- #Women4Multilateralism |Delegation of the European Union and the Permanent Mission of Gabon in Geneva | 8 March 2022
- Gender Heroes | BRS Conventions
- Meet seven women saving the planet | UNEP | 5 March 2021
- Women Leading the Plastic Revolution | WWF | 8 March 2021
- Promoting gender equality and the human rights and empowerment of women and girls in environmental governance | UNEA-4 Resolution | 28 March 2019
- Women’s Participation in Global Environmental Decision Making | IUCN & UN Women | August 2015
- Women underrepresented in decision-making on climate change | UNESCO | 25 January 2016
- Inclusion of women in decision-making on environment-related security challenges is key for equitable, safe and stable societies concludes OSCE event | OSCE | 5 July 2019
- When more women are decision-makers, the environment wins | Lisa Marshall | University of Colorado Boulder | 21 March 2019
- Gender and Environment Advocates Award Ceremony | Geneva Environment Network | 8 March 2017 (International Women’s Day 2017)
- Inspirational Women in Geneva Working for the Environment | Geneva Environment Network | 8 March 2016 (International Women’s Day 2016)
International Gender Champions Geneva
The International Gender Champions (IGC) is a leadership network that brings together female & male decision-makers determined to break down gender barriers and make gender equality a working reality in their spheres of influence. The initiative was co-founded by former UN Geneva Director-General Michael Møller, former US Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Pamela Hamamoto and Women@TheTable CEO/Founder Caitlin Kraft-Buchman in 2015.
The network numbers over 250 active Champions and 160 Alumni who are the heads of International Organizations, Permanent Missions, and Civil Society Organizations. Find news, events and champions of the Geneva Hub in the links below.
- Geneva Hub | International Gender Champions
- Champions in Geneva | International Gender Champions
Climate change impacts are gender-differentiated, as the social conditions of men and women in different places influence their resilience to increase in extreme weather and climate events. Gender-aware policies, especially in the context of climate adaptation, are thus important to address the specific needs of men and women. Although women offer valuable insights and solutions into better managing the climate and its risks, their contribution is often overlooked in humanitarian and climate action. Building a sustainable future entails harnessing the knowledge, skills, and leadership of women in climate action.
Gender and other social inequities (e.g., racial, ethnic, age, income, geographic location) compound vulnerability to climate change impacts. […] Addressing inequities in access to resources, assets, and services as well as participation in decision-making and leadership is essential to achieving gender and climate justice.
IPCC, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (AR6, WG3), Chapter 18
Bodies such as the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) have mainstreamed gender issues since its inception; and the UNFCCC Paris Agreement recognizes the intersection of climate change and gender equality, empowerment of women and realization of their rights.
- Introduction to Gender and Climate Change | UNFCCC
- Climate change and the environment | UN Women
- Women most hit by climate change effects – UNDP | The Star | 20 April 2022
- Gender equality isn’t just a numbers game | UNDP | 31 March 2022
- Gender is linked to the biodiversity and climate crises. When will our policies reflect this? | IUCN | 19 May 2021
- Women bear the brunt of climate change | Geneva Solutions | 12 February 2021
- International Women’s Day – Climate Justice & Gender Justice | Geneva Environment Network | 5 March 2020
- Women’s Rights Obligations of States in the Context of Climate Change | CIEL | 2020
- Policy brief: Empowering women in marine communities to mitigate the impacts of climate change | WWF | 26 September 2019
- Women’s participation and gender considerations in country representation, planning and reporting to the BRS Conventions | IUCN, BRS & EGI | October 2017
- Gender and climate change: Strengthening climate action by promoting gender equality | IUCN | November 2015
- Gender and Climate Change: evidence and experience | CIFOR | 2015
Chemicals and Waste
Women and men are impacted differently by chemicals and through different routes. They have different experiences of dealing with sources of exposure, and different priorities, responsibilities and needs relating to the reduction of toxic chemicals and wastes. In many places, gender also impact levels of access to participation, decision-making, information, education or justice. Women and men can also play different roles in making decisions about pollution prevention, waste management, identification of sources of chemical exposure, and building a safer environment for communities. Therefore, understanding the relationship between gender and sound chemical management is important to establish effective projects and policies. This section provides additional references on the differentiated impact of chemicals and waste, as well as efforts to mainstream gender in chemicals and waste management.
- Module on Gender, Chemicals and Waste | UNITAR
- Gender – Overview | BRS Conventions
- Integrating gender issues into the implementation of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions | BRS Conventions
- Minamata Convention on Mercury & Gender | Minamata Convention
- Gender mainstreaming | SAICM
- Guide to Ensure a Gender-Responsive Action in Eliminating Plastic Pollution | World Economic Forum | May 2021
- Three Experts on Why Eradicating Plastic Pollution Will Help Achieving Gender Equality | Kristin Hughes, Global Plastic Action Partnership | 31 March 2021
- Make Gender Inequality and Mercury History | Minamata Convention | 8 March 2021
- Gender inequalities exacerbated by exposure to hazardous chemicals | IPEN | 7 March 2021
- Community of Practice Addresses Links Between Gender and Chemicals | IISD | 27 August 2020
- Promoting gender equality a ” crucial contribution” in efforts to restore, protect our planet’s oceans’ | UNDESA | June 2019
- How a gender strategy improves the management of chemicals and waste: implementation tools & best practices | WECF France | 9 May 2019
- Women disproportionately vulnerable to health risks from chemical and waste pollution | BRS Conventions | 8 March 2019
- Gender and the sound management of chemicals and waste | SAICM | 20 December 2017
- Gender dimensions of hazardous chemicals and waste policies under the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions | WECF International | June 2017
- Mainstreaming Gender into UNDP-GEF Projects on Chemicals and Waste | UNDP & GEF | February 2017
Gender indequality creates barriers to effective sustainable development and livelihoods by limiting or restricting women’s access to resources and decision-making opportunities. Thus, addressing gender gaps in ecosystems management is essential to achieve conservation goals, community wellbeing and human rights.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recognizes the vital role women play in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
- Best practices in gender and biodiversity – Pathways for multiple benefit | UN Convention on Biological Diversity | 8 March 2022
- Gender is the key: effective gender mainstreaming unlocks ‘Green List’ success in Protected and Conserved Areas worldwide | IUCN | 1 December 2020
- Gender and the environment: What are the barriers to gender equality in sustainable ecosystem management? | IUCN | 23 January 2020
- Marine and Coastal Communities and Ecosystems – Key messages from the GGEO | UNEP | 19 May 2018
- Forests and Forest Ecosystems – Key messages from the GGEO | UNEP | 19 May 2018
- Gender and Conservation | WWF
Water and Sanitation
Women and men everywhere are affected by water availability, access and quality, but in different ways due to prevailing gender roles and norms. In many places, women are in charge of collecting water, and are thus particularly impacted by environmental change and disasters. The health impacts linked with water, sanitation and the This section provides resources on the interlinkages of gender and environment in that area.
- Domestic Water and Sanitation – Key messages from the GGEO | UNEP | 19 May 2018
- What’s Gender Got to do with it? Global Gender & Environment Outlook – Water & Sanitation | GRID-Arendal | 11 April 2019
While the need for energy transitions is increasingly recognized due to the necessity of mitigating climate change, using a justice and gender lens to address this question is essential to create transitions for all. Both in developed and developing countries, energy poverty remains a gendered problem. Decision-making in the formal energy sectors is heavily gender-skewed, and policies are mostly gender unaware. Resources on this issues are found in this section.
- Energy – Key messages from the GGEO | UNEP | 19 May 2018
- Gender and sustainable energy | UNDP | 17 April 2017
- Energy and gender: A critical issue in energy sector employment and energy access | IEA |
Gender inequality is highly present in the current food system, in terms of access to and control over resources such as land and production inputs, access to information and technology, and food security. Closing the gender gap in these areas would increase productivity and generate a range of other social and economic benefits. Health issues related to poor diet or pesticide use are also more prevalent with women. This section provides information on the differentiated impacts of the food system on men and women, as well as the opportunities for improving food production systems through gender equality.
- ‘Getting gender right’ is essential for the sustainability of food systems | International Food Policy Research Institute | 4 Februaruy 2020 |
- Food production and food security – Key messages from the GGEO | UNEP | 19 May 2018
- Gender, climate change and food security | UNDP | 17 April 2017
- Summary of the FAO policy on gender equality: Attaining food security goals in agriculture and rural development | UN Women | 2014
- Focus on Women | Biovision
This section provides additional resources to enhance your knowledge on the gender-and-environment nexus.
- Open Online Course on Gender and Environment | UNITAR
- Gender Equality and Human Rights in Climate Action and Renewable Energy | UN CC: e-Learn
- Mercury and Gender | InforMEA & Minamata Convention on Mercury
- Introductory Course to Gender and the Environment | InforMEA
Past GEN Events
Celebrating International Women’s Day 2023 | Women, Girls, and the Triple Planetary Crisis
International Women’s Day 2023 | 8 March 2023
Gender and Environment Breakfast
Women@thetable, UN Environment Programme & Geneva Environment Network | 31 May 2017
Inspirational Women in Geneva Working for the Environment
International Women’s Day 2016 | 8 March 2016