Main Issue

Women are essential to global efforts to safeguard the environment. They depend on, influence, and manage natural resources including through farming. Still, they own less than 20 percent of the world’s land, lack equal rights land ownership in more than 90 countries, and often face more barriers than men do in accessing markets, capital, training, and technology. They also remain unrepresented in decision-making spheres and governance at all levels. Women’s needs, roles, and leadership related to the environment have historically been unrecognized and undervalued, and persistent social and economic inequalities between men and women hold back prospects for sustainable development and sound environmental management.

At the same time, governments around the world have made legally binding commitments to promote gender equality and fulfill women’s human rights. Building on these commitments, the 2030 Agenda, including its Sustainable Development Goals, recognizes the links between gender equality and the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development and call for integrated solutions. Similarly, the Conferences of the Parties to multilateral environmental agreements have called for specific actions to improve women’s participation and promote gender equality and gender-responsive policies and programs related to the environment. These measures reflect a growing recognition that gender norms influence how people impact the environment, how environmental degradation impacts all people, and how efforts to engage women more effectively can make environmental policies, programs, and institutions more effective and sustainable. Governments and international organizations alike are working to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment to support efforts from decreasing carbon emissions and protecting soils to saving forests and preserving biodiversity.

What We Do

The GEF is working to support the systematic, substantive integration of gender perspectives in every project and program that we support. This reflects an appreciation of the wide benefits from engaging more people in environmental efforts, and specifically of the ways women can contribute unique skills, knowledge, and experiences that can inform and support positive results for the global environment. 

The GEF’s Policy on Gender Equality, adopted in 2017, reflects an increased ambition to collaborate with governments, the private sector, and civil society to support gender-responsive approaches to environmental challenges. These collaborative commitments hold promise to harness opportunities to connect global environmental benefits and gender equality, including:

  • Supporting women’s improved access, use, and control of resources including land, water, forest, and fisheries
  • Enhancing women’s participation and role in natural resources decision-making processes, with women as agents of change at all levels
  • Targeting women as specific beneficiaries, and creating opportunities from the support of sustainable livelihoods and income-generation opportunities for women, such as conservation, rehabilitation, and restoration actions
  • Investing in women’s skills and training with a focus on communities and local women’s organizations.


The GEF’s Policy on Gender Equality (2017) and Gender Implementation Strategy (2018) provided a set of principles and guidance for the planning and management of environmental projects. The common template they provided for reflecting gender perspectives in project design provided a set of measures that each project should include, namely: gender analysis; a gender action plan; gender-sensitive indicators; sex-disaggregated data; improvements in women’s empowerment with respect to participation and governance; access to and control of resources; and socioeconomic benefits and services. These provide a critical basis for the implementation of gender-responsive projects and programs, and for ensuring that women and girls are seen as both agents and beneficiaries of environmental activities.

GEF Gender Partnership

The GEF Gender Partnership (GGP), first convened in 2016, is a platform for knowledge exchange and learning across the Global Environment Facility partnership. It includes gender focal points of the 18 implementing agencies the GEF works with, and the international environmental conventions it serves, namely the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Minamata Convention on mercury, and the Stockholm Convention on toxic chemicals.

The GGP serves as a platform for knowledge exchange and learning about best practices for the integration of gender perspectives in environmental projects. It also leverages the expertise of those who have worked to design, manage, advance, and scale up environmental projects in the developing countries in which the GEF works. The goal is to raise awareness and enhance understanding of the potential of gender mainstreaming across thematic and focal areas, reflecting the GEF’s integrated approach to environmental support across the board.