Tag Archives: gender equality

Gender equality and sustainable development

Africa’s powerful economic performance has been accompanied by many development challenges that threaten to slow down the continent’s path and pace towards structural transformation and sustainable development. Among those, the twin challenges of tackling widespread inequality particularity gender inequality and the un-sustainability inherent in the over exploitation/depletion of the continent’s
natural and mineral resources reveal is a critical imperative. As the continent strives to achieve the structural transformation of its economy then order to achieve its agenda 2063, a greater understanding of the strong linkages between gender equality and sustainable development is a condition sine qua non for its socio-economic transformation. It will also inform effective implementation of the African Common Position and priorities on the Post2015 as well as the domestication of the sustainable development goals that will be endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in its September 2015 session.

This brief contributes to the 2015 Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) by shedding light on the powerful nexus between gender equality and sustainable development.

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Including women and the poor in water management systems

Providing everyone with access to water is vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on health, livelihoods and economic growth. Providing women and the poor (lowincome earners and those who are landless) with access to water is especially important in rural and urban fringe areas. A series of far-reaching strategic solutions and policies need to promote social inclusion to achieve the SDGs, including to:

• Train and build the capacity of women and marginalized socio-economic groups so that they can have more active leadership roles in water management systems, at household and community levels.
• Train policy makers, planners and those in water organizations to actively consider women and poor farmers’ water needs.
• Develop specific technologies and inclusive institutions and policies so women and poor farmers can participate in water use and management systems in the context of prevailing gender norms and local realities.
• Improve women’s access and rights to water, through informal channels and legal mechanisms.

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Strategically engaging women in clean energy solutions for sustainable development and health

There are three billion people, or 40% of the world, that still relies on biomass for cooking, lighting, and heating (WHO, 2014). This has led to a significant burden for the planet and for those living on it. Unsustainable biomass collection depletes forests, contributes to soil erosion and loss of watersheds, placing additional pressure on agricultural productivity and food security. Searching for and using solid biomass fuels places women and children’s safety at risk and jeopardizes human health and household and community air quality through toxic smoke emissions. In regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, where the lack of access to clean energy solutions and electrification is particularly significant, nearly a third of the urban population and the majority of the rural poor are using biomass for cooking and heating in traditional open fires (GACC, 2014).

Like nearly all global environmental problems, the consequences of reliance on biomass for cooking and lighting impacts women significantly more than men (ICRW 2010). Women and children, usually girls, spend several hours per day gathering fuel, increasing their daily drudgery and increasing their vulnerability to sexual violence. As forests are degraded, the energy burden increases and women are forced to walk even further to collect fuel or use more toxic fuels, such as dung or trash. Risks for displaced and refugee women are even more alarming as 75% – 90% of the rapes reported occur when women leave camps for cooking fuel (WRC, 2011). The health risks of household air pollution are substantial. As the primary managers of household energy, women are disproportionately at risk for harmful emissions exposure every day. Recent global health estimates show that household air pollution leads to over 4 million deaths annually, while millions more suffer from cancer, pneumonia, heart and lung disease, blindness, and burns (Lancet 2013). Approximately 300,000 of the deaths, 88% of which are women, are attributed to burns resulting from traditional cooking fires (Lancet, 2013).

While women and girls bear the brunt of clean energy poverty, their central and pivotal role in sustainable development is becoming increasingly clear (WB, 2014; UN Women 2014). The strategic engagement of women in the clean energy sector is directly in line with the landmark 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development which states, “sustainable development is economic, social and environmental development that ensures human well-being and dignity, ecological integrity, gender equality and social justice, now and in the future.” Building upon the synergies between gender equality, environment, economics and health are critical as we move forward on the path towards sustainable development.

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