The Poverty- Environment Initiative

Filling the gender gap to end poverty for sustainable development
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Poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and is indispensible to sustainable development. Ensuring women’s equal rights to access, own, control and inherit land and natural resources has a positive impact on environmental sustainability, economic growth and poverty reduction.

Women’s and girls’ traditional responsibilities as food growers, water and fuel gatherers, and caregivers connect them closely to natural resources and the climate, making them important agents of change in sustainability efforts but also more likely to be impacted by environmental hardships. The participation of women in environmental decision-making and policy processes is thus crucial for advancing sustainability. Investing in resources to increase the opportunities for and participation of women and girls has resulted in progress across all the MDGs.

The proposed SDGs to “End poverty in all its forms everywhere” (Goal 1) and to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” (Goal 5) are inextricably linked in the work of the Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI), a joint UNDP-UNEP programme. Working across 28 countries in four regions—Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, and Latin America and the Caribbean, PEI seeks to support governments to include a gender perspective in environmental, natural resource and climate policy and budgeting.

To monitor the implementation of the SDGs, countries need to improve availability of and access to data disaggregated by, for example, income, gender, age, race, ethnicity and migratory status. In 2014, PEI supported a rapid assessment of gender, the environment and natural resource relevant data and indicators in Malawi. The assessment found a dearth of data and indicators on women’s roles and access to environment and natural resources. Urgent steps must be taken to remedy this.

In an innovative study, UN Women and PEI Africa, together with the World Bank, are undertaking an assessment of the cost of the gender gap in agriculture productivity in Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda. The study will not only explain the various factors behind the gender gap, but will also cost its impact in agricultural productivity in terms of foregone GDP and poverty reduction efforts. The study aims to inform agricultural policies and programmes to be more gender sensitive, thereby increasing agricultural productivity and related economic and social returns, such as poverty reduction and food security. Elsewhere, Rwanda has already demonstrated that improving women’s land and inheritance rights has contributed to increasing both agricultural productivity and environmental protection.

In Mali, the Poverty-Environment Initiative commissioned a study on the integration of gender considerations into poverty-environment policies and actions. The study highlighted that, unlike development areas such as health and education, the natural resource sector in Mali does not have targeted objectives and budgets for gender, despite the 2012–2017 National Development Plan highlighting gender in all its main chapters.

In Rwanda, a women-led cooperative is demonstrating the benefits of environmental sustainability. In Kabeza village, a set of technologies ranging from rainwater harvesting and biogas systems to terracing and tree planting have been adopted, supported by PEI Rwanda and the Rwanda Environment Management Authority. Flooding, siltation and fertilizer pollution have decreased, and food security, incomes and access to water and energy by the villagers have increased. The use of the technologies has improved the villagers’ quality of life and enhanced environmental sustainability.

PEI celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2015.

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