Last updated: 19 May 2021

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.

Women in Leadership – International Women’s Day 2021

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 2021, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”, celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the occasion to echo the growing call for women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life.

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 (see video message)

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.

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.

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.

Climate Change

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.

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.

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.

Ecosystem Management

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.

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.

Energy

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.

Food Security

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.

Learning

This section provides additional resources to enhance your knowledge on the gender-and-environment nexus.