International Women’s Day 2016: Women’s rights and the Environment


    Every year on March 8, International Women’s Day (IWD), the global community comes together to champion the rights of women, marking an opportunity to not just commemorate women, women’s achievements, and progress toward equality, but to also take stock—to carefully study the gains made and to dig deeper into the challenges. Women continue to play an integral role in addressing the complex challenges our world faces on a daily basis—but data shows our contributions as women are still undervalued.

    The same data show that women and the environment have a strong connection. Gender equality and environmental progress are not often talked about in the same breath, but there are many reasons why they should be. Women can support sustainable development through increased access to education and economic opportunities, and involvement in governance and decision making.

    Girls playing in Liberia, a country where 75% of the Ministers of the Environment are women.
    Girls playing in Liberia, a country where 75% of the Ministers of the Environment are women.

    Over the past 20, 50, even 100 years, the world has made great strides when it comes to empowering women, but we have not yet reached gender equality. As we continue to move forward, gender-related actions need robust tools to inform policy and decisions and continue to identify persisting gaps. Research finds that women still have less access to environmental decision-making spheres at all levels. For example:

    – Across key environmental fora, less than 1/3 of decision makers are women.
    – 29%* of Rio Convention government delegates are women.
    – 43%** of Rio Convention NGO representatives are women.
    – Less than 25%** of Rio Convention focal points are women.
    – Out of 43 international environmentally focused institutions, 35%** of the executive directors (or equivalent) are women.

    Women form a disproportionately large share of the poor in countries all over the world. Women in rural areas in developing countries are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood, because of their responsibility to secure water, food and energy for cooking and heating. The effects of climate change, including drought, uncertain rainfall and deforestation, make it harder to secure these resources. By comparison with men in poor countries, women face historical disadvantages, which include limited access to decision-making and economic assets that compound the challenges of climate change.

    It is therefore imperative that a gender analysis be applied to all actions on climate change and that gender experts are consulted in climate change processes at all levels, so that women’s and men’s specific needs and priorities are identified and addressed.

    Soucre:, UN Women’s website