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CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE

Many countries are introducing policies to address gender issues, including positive action measures, often called 'gender mainstreaming' tools. These include measures geared at improving equity such as legislation for gender-balanced quotas and targets, gender-sensitive budgets, equal education of girls and boys at all levels, and support for women's networks. They also include institution-building measures such as gender-mainstreaming advisors, gender impact assessments of old and new practices and policies, gender analysis and gender audits, and visioning about the future of institutions to weed out discriminatory practices.

The full success of forward-looking strategies for bringing gender into environmental analysis - and vice versa - may hinge on four major areas of activity.

First, improving and supporting women's capacity to participate and shape environmental policy and action at all levels from grassroots to government. Worldwide, women are still very poorly represented in governments and other decision-making bodies. There has been an improvement in women’s participation in development programmes, but their role still falls far short of men’s. Part of the solution is to prepare women for greater participation by equalizing education and literacy rates for girls and women with those of boys and men.

Second, adjusting government priorities so that awareness and promotion of gender equality are integrated into financial
planning. In 20 countries so far, UNIFEM has supported the development of gender- responsive budgets that examine how the allocation of public resources benefits women and men, and addresses gender equality
requirements. In Mexico, the government earmarked the equivalent of 0.85 per cent of the total budget in 2003 for programmes promoting gender equity. Fourteen ministries are required to report quarterly on the status
of these programmes.

Third, improving institutional capacities to incorporate gender-related environmental analysis. Much of modern environmental analysis is framed by the technical/scientific paradigm and relies mostly on quantitative biophysical data. Much of the work on gender and environment, on the other hand, is framed by a social science approach relying more on qualitative material, case study narratives, and anecdotal evidence. Merging these two paradigms will be a challenge.

It is difficult enough to mainstream social considerations within environmental work; adding gender as a third dimension is even more challenging. Many people in the environmental field see issues such as climate change or loss of biodiversity as urgent, first-order global problems. Bringing a gender perspective into the discussion is often dismissed as trivial – or at least not essential to priority problem solving. It is not unusual for environmentalists to consider that attention to
gender diverts energy and time away from pressing issues; it is “like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic”, one environmentalist was recently cited as saying (UNDP 2003b). Part of this challenge is to convince technical experts that gender matters, and that analyses of gender balance and equity do not weaken or delay, but actually strengthen and sharpen environmental analyses, policies and programmes.

“As agents of change, bound together by our commitment to justice, equality and peace, we can sustain our environment and our common future.”

Women as the Voice for the Environment Manifesto

Gender-related environmental analysis at all scales, in all regions, and across all topics is hampered by the lack of appropriate data and indicators. Thus there is also need for gender-disaggregated and gender sensitive data. Since most social and environmental data are still not disaggregated, analysts need to be trained to use a gender-sensitive lens when
analyzing them. Time budgets are increasingly used to document livelihood activities by
gender, and changes in these budgets can be used as early warnings of environmental stress. A future challenge will be to develop gender sensitive criteria and indicators in all areas of sustainable development, covering
social, cultural, economic and institutional aspects. This will require gender- disaggregated data for assessment and monitoring purposes.

Finally, there is a need for explicit commitment to bring issues of gender into the environmental arena. The 2004 Global Assembly of Women on Environment called on UNEP and the world’s governments to bring to the table indigenous and women’s perspectives on sustainable development, and to implement the World Summit on Sustainable Development commitments from a gender equality perspective (UNEP 2004).


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