Boosting women’s equality—critical for tackling environmental challenges

IUCN is working closely with three key United Nations environmental conventions to develop a shared roadmap to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.

Woman at water pump, Tanzania

Empowering women and ensuring gender equality are seen as critical to achieving sustainable development and tackling environmental challenges. The three conventions: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) are inter-related and all address gender issues to a different extent.

Realising that increased cooperation between them is needed to maximise progress on gender issues, the heads of the Conventions have decided to synchronise their efforts and increase collaboration with the Global Environmental Facility, the international finance organization that provides grants to improve the global environment.

A meeting was held between all parties during the recent UN General Assembly in New York and comes in preparation for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June next year. It also helped develop a Gender Policy Framework and Action Plan for the UNCCD whose conference takes place this month.

Dryland populations include the poorest, hungriest, the least healthy and the most marginalized people in the world and many of those suffering are women. It is therefore critical to recognize the important and diverse roles of both women and men within the sustainable development agenda, and in which UNCCD plays a crucial role.

In drylands women make crucial contributions in agriculture and rural enterprises. Their roles vary across regions, but in every part of the world women face constraints that reduce their productivity and limit their contributions to agricultural production, economic growth and the well-being of their families, communities and countries.

“Gender mainstreaming isn’t just paying lip service to equality between men and women by adding women’s participation to existing strategies and programmes,” says IUCN’s Senior Gender Advisor Lorena Aguilar. “Rather, it transforms unequal social and institutional structures to realize the full creative and productive potential of women and men, reducing vulnerability and enhancing efficiency of development programmes.”

“The UNCCD Gender Policy Framework recognises there is no single entry point for gender mainstreaming—it has to take place at different levels– and that no single entity is solely responsible. It is a multi-stakeholder responsibility,” said UNCCD Global Policy Head, Sergio Zelaya.

For more information contact: Lorena Aguilar, IUCN Global Senior Gender Adviser,

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