“The strategic actions needed for sound environmental management require a holistic, multidisciplinary and intersectoral approach. Women’s participation and leadership are essential to every aspect of that approach. The recent United Nations global conferences on development, as well as regional preparatory conferences for the Fourth World Conference on Women, have all acknowledged that sustainable development policies that do not involve women and men alike will not succeed in the long run. They have called for the effective participation of women in the generation of knowledge and environmental education in decision-making and management at all levels. Women’s experiences and contributions to an ecologically sound environment must therefore be central to the agenda for the twenty-first century. Sustainable development will be an elusive goal unless women’s contribution to environmental management is recognised and supported” (para 251, p.104, BPFA)
Women live in environments which continue to be exposed to pollution, degradation, poor sanitation, industrial hazards, toxic chemicals and pesticide residues but there is little data on the impact of these elements on women’s health. The lack of such data inhibits the development and delivery of gender sensitive environmental programs. Women continue to be excluded from environmental decision making at all levels in all areas of environmental management.
In the Beijing + 10 year review, it was of great concern that despite the BPFA integrating gender concerns and perspectives in policies and programs for sustainable development, this has not been accepted, much less, implemented.
The importance of women’s roles and gender equality in protecting the environment and promoting sustainable development was acknowledged. Overall women as a group gained visibility as one of nine major groups promoting sustainable development.
However, globalisation led by multi-national mining, logging and agribusiness enterprises extract natural resources vital for the life of poor women and contaminates rivers and seas. Multi-national businesses also dominate public goods such as water, air and land through activities such as privatisation of water supply and production and distribution of genetically modified seeds. These adversely affect poor women and their households, and violate their fundamental rights and livelihood. The power gap between multi-national enterprises and poor women and their communities results in a lack of accountability of these enterprises, and impedes women’s access to empowering information and training.
Warfare and conflicts inflict continuing and intensifying damage to people’s lives and the environment. Unsustainable lifestyles of hyper production, consumption, and disposal, as well as the extensive use of chemical substances, are spreading on a global scale. In waste management measures, the gender dimension has often been neglected. When women are involved, their roles are often limited to home and community.