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Multi-stakeholder dialogue on gender and environment held in advance of 55th GEF Council meeting

December 18, 2018

From women’s groups engaged in sustainable oyster harvesting in Gambia, to the conservation of medicinal plants in Morocco, stories in “Women as Environmental Stewards: The Experience of the Small Grants Programme” make a compelling case: investing in women is not only good for the environment, but also contributes to sustainable development of their communities. Photo: IISDRS

A special session on gender gathered civil society organizations, representation of indigenous peoples, youth and women's groups, to dialogue on the links between gender equality and better environmental stewardship as part of the Civil Society (CSO) Forum, traditionally held on the day preceding the first day of the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Council meeting. 

In line with GEF’s increased ambition to address gender equality, the event served as an opportunity for the Council to hear from this diverse range of stakeholders about their current experiences addressing gender equality in environmental policies, programs and projects, and to consult on the role that civil society organizations can have in supporting gender-responsive projects and programs in GEF-7, the GEF’s new four-year investment cycle.

Women depend on and are direct users and stewards of natural resources, and in areas such as energy and food systems, women farm and produce most of the world’s food supply. Yet, they own less than 20% of the world’s land, lack equal rights to own land in more than 90 countries, and commonly face more barriers than men to access markets, capital, training, and technologies, and remain unrepresented in decision-making spheres at all levels. Women’s needs, roles, and leadership have historically been unrecognized and undervalued, and persistent social and economic inequalities between men and women hold back today’s prospects for sustainable development and sound environmental management.

The much-needed dialogue covered best practices and lessons learned on women’s role in promoting environmental sustainability, as well as challenges and opportunities available to connect global environmental impact and gender equality in GEF’s projects and programs. During the event the GEF Council heard stories from across the world about the role that CSOs play in supporting women’s participation in local and global environmental policy-making and natural resource management. The CSO representatives also talked about the importance of investing in capacity building of women, recognizing Indigenous women’s knowledge, and supporting women’s rights to land and control over natural resources. 

To accentuate the importance of the gender dialogue, the newly produced video, “Investing in Women is Good for the Environment”, served as a perfect illustration of the lessons, statements and takeaways offered by the event. The video highlights GEF projects, including GEF-SGP and other UNDP-supported initiatives, that are promoting women's rights, participation and leadership in natural resource management.

The updated GEF Guidance on Gender Equality as well as GEF’s new Gender e-learning course were also presented at the event. The e-course is the result of an initiative led by the Global Environment Facility and the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) in collaboration with the GEF Gender Partnership and UNITAR, involving International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), UN Women, UNDP, UN Environment, and the Secretariats of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements that the GEF serves, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, among others.

Empowering women and providing them with equal opportunities to contribute to sustainable development undeniably benefits both people and the planet. Built around this message, the new publication launched at the event by the UNDP-led GEF Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) showcases stories of great environmental stewardship told by women in various parts of the world.  

From women’s groups engaged in sustainable oyster harvesting in Gambia, to the conservation of medicinal plants in Morocco, stories in “Women as Environmental Stewards: The Experience of the Small Grants Programme” make a compelling case: investing in women is not only good for the environment, but also contributes to sustainable development of their communities.

At the launch event, Françoise Clottes, the GEF’s Director of Policy, stressed the timeliness of the publication, referring to the fact that GEF is getting ready to implement its new Policy on Gender Equality, approved by the GEF Council in November 2017.

“The good practices identified in this publication demonstrate ways in which efforts to advance gender equality and support women’s empowerment can contribute to GEF’s strategy moving forward.” Said Ms. Clottes. “They show how investing in women and the process toward greater gender equality can have significant positive impacts on environmental goals and objectives.”

The publication aims to inspire further innovation from the local to the global level, support both the GEF Policy on Gender Equality and the UNDP Gender Strategy, and boost interest in additional financing for gender equality and women empowerment.

Summarizing the session, Moderator Anar Mamdani, Alternate GEF Council member, Canada, noted inter alia that gender equity intersects with many other issues which should not be considered in silos. And that the importance of taking onboard the perspectives offered by traditional knowledge and of creating platforms for women and girls to gain access to leadership should not be undervalued.