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Our Planet magazine focuses on Women, Health and the Environment

LONDON/NAIROBI, 31 August 2004 – Throughout the developing world women are often the most intimately connected to the use and care of the natural environment. They are also particularly vulnerable to environmental change. The latest edition of UNEP’s magazine Our Planet launched today examines these and related issues, such as the implications of the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS among women in South and Southeast Asia (where 60 per cent of young people infected with HIV/AIDS are female) and the growing danger to young mothers and their babies from toxic chemicals. It also takes a frank look at the UN’s progress in tackling poverty reduction and women’s rights.

Produced to coincide with the tenth anniversary celebrations of the International Conference on Population and Development in London, Our Planet, UNEP’s flagship magazine, is publishing a special issue on Women Health and the Environment, in collaboration with the United Nations Foundation.

Our Planet: Women, Health and the Environment, released in London today at the International Round Table, “Countdown 2015”, brings together leading women’s voices from around the world. The magazine is an all-women issue, featuring prominent female UN leaders such as Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of UNIFEM, the UN Development Fund for Women.

It also includes contributions from environmental leaders such as Margot Wallström, European Commissioner for Environment, and Marina Silva, Brazil’s first woman environment minister, as well as grassroots activists such as Aishwarya Rai, a former Miss World and award-winning Bollywood actress, who describes a unique attempt to tackle the spread of HIV/AIDS among women in India.

“It is high time that national and international policies reflect gender differences and give far greater weight to the empowerment of women,” writes Klaus Toepfer, UNEP’s Executive Director, in his editorial. “If we ignore the role of women, all our hopes and aspirations for a better and more stable world will be harder to achieve.”

“This edition of Our Planet celebrates women,” writes Toepfer, “and underlines their unique vulnerability to environment-related health problems, from water and sanitation issues to ones of indoor air pollution.”

The magazine will be an important input to the upcoming “Global Women’s Assembly on Environment: Fighting Poverty”, to be held in Nairobi from 11 to 13 October 2004. The Assembly will focus on the UN General Assembly’s forthcoming Beijing+10 review of the Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held in Beijing in 1995. It will also look at the Five-year Review of the Millennium Development Goals and the Thirteenth Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD 13).

UNEP recognizes that women’s participation and experience are central to environmental management and sustainable development, and is accordingly increasing its focus on gender-related issues. As part of its mandate to promote the wise use and sustainable development of the global environment, UNEP is urging that national and international development policies and programmes respect gender equality and support women’s empowerment.

Our Planet: Women, Health and the Environment reflects these priorities. It also complements the recent UNEP publication, Women and the Environment, which was launched in May 2004. A production of UNEP’s Major Groups and Civil Society Branch, the book calls for greater recognition of women's role in conservation and poverty eradication.

Drawing on observations and research by a wide range of individuals and organizations, including UNEP and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, Women and the Environment details anecdotes and case studies that reflect the crucial and often ignored role of women in the environment. It also highlights programmes, often established by individual women or women’s groups, that are tackling environmental and development issues.

Note to Editors

Our Planet, Women, Health and Environment is published on 31 August 2004, and will be available (in English, French and Spanish) on www.ourplanet.com.

Contributions include:

Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, assesses progress over ten years of action on poverty reduction and development, and sets out priorities for the decade ahead.

Nafis Sadik, Ms. Obaid’s predecessor and board member of the UN Foundation, describes progress and setbacks since the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo ten years ago.

Mamphela Ramphele, the retiring Managing Director of the World Bank and Senior Advisor to its President, describes how collecting and burning wood and biomass damages women’s health and the environment, and how household electricity revolutionizes their lives.

Margot Wallström, European Commissioner for Environment, describes how mothers and their babies are at risk from a host of little-understood substances, and outlines steps to test and control them.

Kathryn Bushkin, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the United Nations Foundation, explains the importance of adolescent girls to our global future, and describes a programme that is giving them hope and skills for life.

Aishwarya Rai, a former Miss World and award winning Bollywood actress describes a unique attempt to tackle the spread of HIV/AIDS among women in India.

Marina Silva, Brazil’s first woman environment minister, describes her work to implement sustainable development policies that promote social and environmental health.

Lena Sommestad, Minister for the Environment, Sweden, and Rejoice Mabudafhasi, Deputy Minister for Environmental Affairs and Tourism, South Africa, describe how empowering women is vital for improving health and the environment through the provision of adequate water and sanitation.

Mary Robinson, formerly President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is Executive Director of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, explains that gender equality must be the core of any successful approach to combating HIV/AIDS.

Adrienne Germain, President of the International Women’s Health Coalition, says that securing women’s rights is the key to ensuring their health and to protecting the environment.

Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director, UNIFEM, describes the impact of AIDS on women and girls and calls for specific measures to give them access to land and water.

Beverly Miller, Secretary of the UNEP Governing Council, describes UNEP’s work to integrate gender issues into environment and development programmes.

More information on UNEP’s work with and for women can be found on www.unep.org/dpdl/cso/ or via the UNEP homepage www.unep.org.

Women and the Environment is available online at www.unep.org/PDF/Women/Table_Of_Content.pdf

For more information please contact: Eric Falt, Spokesperson/Director of UNEP's Division of Communications and Public Information, on Tel: 254 2 623292, E-mail: eric.falt@unep.org; Nick Nuttall, UNEP Head of Media, on Tel: 254 2 623084, Mobile: 254 733 632755, E-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org, or Robert Bisset, UNEP Spokesperson in Europe on Tel: +33 1 44377613, Mobile: +33 6 22725842, E-mail: robert.bisset@unep.fr.

At the United Nations Foundation contact: Laura Rogers on Tel: 1 202 778 3508, email: lrogers@unfoundation.org

UNEP News Release 2004/41




Further Resources

Our Planet: Women, Health and the Environment
Online version

UNEP’s Major Groups and Civil Society Branch
More information on UNEP’s work with and for women.

WAVE (Women As the Voice for Environment) UNEP's Global Women's Assembly on Environment
(11-13 October 2004, Nairobi, Kenya)

Women and the Environment
UNEP 2004

United Nations Foundation
Web site

UN Millennium Development Goals
UN website on the Millennium Development Goals

Fourth World Conference on Women


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