Commission on the Status of Women
8 February 1995
COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
New York, 15 March-4 April 1995
Item 3 (b) of the provisional agenda*
PREPARATIONS FOR THE FOURTH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN: ACTION
FOR EQUALITY, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE: REVIEW AND APPRAISAL OF
THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NAIROBI FORWARD-LOOKING STRATEGIES
FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN
Second review and appraisal of the implementation of the Nairobi
Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women
Report of the Secretary-General
II. CRITICAL AREAS OF CONCERN
K. Lack of adequate recognition and support for women's
contribution to managing natural resources and
safeguarding the environment
1. In the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of
Women, 1/ the theme of environment is dealt with in a specific chapter under
the objective "Development". Attention was focused on natural and man-made
disasters and the environmental degradation that results. There was concern
that such degradation deprived a growing number of poor women, in rural and
urban areas, of their traditional means of livelihood and pushed them into
marginal environments, leaving them in critical circumstances.
2. The theme of environment was also implicitly touched upon under the
objectives "Equality" and "Peace". Women were recognized as intermediaries
between the natural environment and society in areas such as agro-systems, the
provision of water, energy and sanitation, and in relation to demographic
pressure. However, the lack of statistics specific to the environment and
disaggregated by sex was considered an obstacle to the assessment of women's
contribution and needs, as reflected by the example of the Green Revolution
and many agrarian reforms which failed to understand the environmental impact
and the key role played by women producers.
3. In order to reduce the negative impact of environmental degradation on
women and, at the same time, increase and improve women's real and potential
impact on the environment, actions were suggested for the creation of
alternative means of livelihood for affected women and the inclusion of women
as beneficiaries in and contributors to all programmes and projects dealing
with environmental degradation and ecosystem management. The main actions
were related to the promotion of women's control of resources such as land,
capital and technology, the control of the product of their labour and the
rights to benefits from agricultural research, training and credit.
4. Governments were also requested to include women at all levels of
decision-making in the planning and implementation process. Sanitary
conditions needed to be improved, including drinking water supplies. The
environmental impact of policies, programmes and projects on women's health
and activities should be assessed and any mismanagement corrected, if negative
effects are detected.
5. In the first review and appraisal of the Nairobi Forward-looking
Strategies, it was noticed that the theme of the environment was one of those
least often referred to in the answers from Governments. However, related
areas such as agriculture, rural development, water and energy supply received
considerable coverage. In this case, many developing countries saw a direct
link between macro models of development and environmental degradation, with
its detrimental effects on women's lives. In this context, deforestation was
mostly associated with large-scale lumbering, agricultural expansion and
over-use of existing agricultural land than with micro survival practices.
6. Adding to the intermediary role between the natural environment and
society suggested by the Forward-looking Strategies, most countries recognized
that women are active, key actors in conservation and the safeguarding of
natural resources, acting as managers, producers and users. Many countries
expressed the view that traditions, inheritance laws and practices and lack of
funding for women's programmes resulted in a lack of resources for women,
jeopardizing the possibilities and opportunities of increasing and
strengthening women's impact on the environment.
7. Another suggested factor was that the majority of programmes were still
oriented towards developing small-scale and non-sustainable projects, often
separated from main development projects and, moreover, in answer to the need
for alternative but also sustained means of livelihood.
8. On the other hand, in 1990, there was concern about the lack of national
machinery to deal specifically with environmental issues and with special
concerns to women's involvement as planners, contributors and decision makers
in the field of environment.
9. In some developing countries, in order to increase the supply of energy
for rural and poor households, education on energy conservation and
alternative sources of energy has been made available to women at
1. General considerations
10. The environment is referred in many reports presented for the 1994
review and appraisal of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the
Advancement of Women as an important new area of concern, recognizing the role
of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in
such awareness. Many national reports from all regions reported specifically
on this issue, while other reports made reference to it. This reflects the
growth of the awareness about the importance of women in environmental
11. Some countries noted that they have specific national machinery on the
environment, usually inaugurated in the past five years, in preparation for
and fulfilment of Agenda 21, 2/ while others mentioned their concern with this
12. A common statement is the recognition that women are affected in
specific ways by environmental degradation and that, on the other hand,
women's practice and knowledge in dealing with environmental issues should be
13. Some countries declared that the women's movement has had a great impact
on discussions about sustainable development, before and after UNCED, and that
thanks to women's associations and non-governmental organizations, the
environment is gaining higher priority on society's agenda. Emphasis is also
given to the role of women's associations and women non-governmental
organizations, but more as pressure groups than partners in the national
14. The association between the social roles of women and men and the
environment is considered complex by the majority of countries that dealt with
the subject and generally was approached without support of desegregated data
by sex, making it difficult to monitor achievements in women's conditions of
life and status in relation to men.
15. Very little information is provided in relation to global programmes and
mechanisms established since the Rio Conference and their impact on women on
the linkages between environmental degradation, women's quality of life and,
for example, big business practices. National reports presented a broad list
of issues when considering environment as a specific field of action.
However, in addition to women's roles in areas such as water and energy and
the effects on women's health, for example, not all the countries follow the
same guide, indicating a flexibility of interpretation of what is an
environmental theme. These variations also suggest the need for more
systematic international efforts from the United Nations system to introduce
and diffuse a set of standards, areas of concern, perspectives, and
suggestions for indicators.
16. Despite recognition of the growth, visibility and importance of women's
non-governmental organizations and women's associations to run and monitor
environmental programmes, in general there is an institutional weakness
between women's organizations and the governmental environmental machinery.
17. The importance of women's practices in health care, farming systems,
crop production, food processing, the use of forest resources and energy,
water and sanitation supplies is increasingly being recognized world wide.
Nevertheless, few efforts have been made to reverse women's
underrepresentation in formal governmental institutions that deal with those
issues. Women's presence in the national machinery that deals directly with
environmental issues is said to be growing in some countries. However, women
are far less well represented at the top managerial levels of departments and
ministries in fields such as environment, ecology, fishery, forestry, rural
development, agriculture, water, energy, sanitation and habitat. The slight
progress made in some countries and areas is considered insufficient for
facing the long-term inequalities in the sharing of power and decision-making
between women and men. Some Governments mentioned that women's domestic
burden and traditional values that support the male status jeopardized women's
18. Women's health and the environment were addressed, highlighting damage
caused by chemicals and pollution to the reproductive systems of women and by
radioactive elements to mothers' milk. Epidemiologic studies indicate a
possible link between breast cancer and organocholorine pesticides such as
DDT. Exposure to toxic substances such as pesticides, lead, and radiation
are also thought to cause male infertility and female sterility.
2. Regional trends
(a) Developing countries
19. Most developing countries expressed their concern with the environment,
indicating that awareness of its importance and the centrality of women's
roles is a recent but growing trend which has been stimulated by the active
involvement of women's associations, non-governmental organizations,
international agencies and the Agenda 21 process.
20. Most national reports gave a clear indication of the gravity of the
environmental situation and its impact on women. For example, testimonies on
how African women are more affected than men by the precarious balance between
fragile natural resources and population density were common.
21. In developing countries, where natural resources are central and in the
absence of alternative means of livelihood and services, some countries
suggested that poverty is strongly linked to the mismanagement of natural
resources, resulting in environmental degradation. For women, environmental
degradation means an increase in their workload of domestic chores and other
reproductive activities. In these countries, adult women and girls are more
likely to be charged to get water for the family's needs, walking about 30 km
daily in some rural areas, as stated by a government report from a Sahelian
country. Water and wood-gathering are also tasks commonly performed by adult
women and girls. The quality of the environment - of its soil, water and
energy sources - affects women's daily routines. Time and energy are spent
every day trekking back and forth to the river or other water source.
22. According to other national reports, the elimination of traditional
means of livelihood, such as wood collection, is not so acutely related to the
survival strategies of the poor. Rather, environmental degradation is
exacerbated through the use of unfriendly technology and fertilizers by
business corporations and rural-based industries. Water contamination,
desertification and deforestation, caused by the type of land use and land
control of large private corporations, are affecting the quality of life of
rural families, compelling rural to urban migration in different areas. It is
recognized that laws and regulations to control such practices by Governments
are needed. In Asia, many national reports stressed that, due to loss of
croplands, erosion, land conversion, deforestation and other natural and
man-made environmental calamities, millions of families suffer, and women, in
particular, pay the social cost of displacement and increasing out-migration.
They also expressed the need for laws dealing with environmental protection,
training about environmental protection; bio-gas and solar energy; campaigns
for planting trees, grass and flowers; investments on energy conservation and
environmentally friendly technology; and programmes to deal with population
pressure on the land. Poverty and consumerism are extreme processes
highlighted as basic causes of environmental degradation. Some Governments
also stressed the need for a new paradigm of development.
23. Women as conservers of the natural environment, especially indigenous
women in the Latin American and Caribbean region, are praised for their
environmentally sound technical knowledge. The need to stimulate and use such
knowledge by formal researchers is recognized.
24. In many African countries, where more than 70 per cent of the population
live in rural areas, the rural population is characterized by a high level of
male absenteeism which leads to increased women's responsibilities for
livestock and crop cultivation, including the work traditionally done by women
as mothers, food providers, home makers, traders, health-care givers and water
and fuel suppliers.
25. In urban areas, the major specific environmental problem referred in
many national reports is linked to poor or non-existent sanitation systems.
These services, to the extent that they exist, are actually provided by women,
supplying water and fuel.
26. Despite women's active role in the management and creation of the urban
and rural environment, women do not have the authority to decide on land use
in order to create alternative means of livelihood and contribute to
environmental development. They are still discriminated against with respect
to their access to and control over land and property in general, despite
fundamental changes in the law. In many countries, land is not accessible to
female heads of household or to single women. In some countries land is
routinely allocated to the male of the household. In some African countries,
in the case of a female head of household, the closest senior male relative is
requested to make the application on behalf, not of the woman, but of the male
27. In some reports, food security is also a basic part of the debate on the
environment. Women are recognized to be the basic producers of food for local
consumption, but they haven't the power to decide on the use of the land or
the means to improve its productivity. The majority of Governments recognized
that, in addition to de jure restrictions in land ownership by women, de facto
obstacles existed and poverty associated with legal illiteracy on rights and
traditional values were mentioned as two such obstacles. One country
mentioned that just 15 per cent of rural women owned the land they worked.
Studies presented in several national reports found that the agrarian reforms
adopted by some countries did not benefit women, since special national
machinery and instruments to deal with inequalities were not adopted. In one
developing country women had an opportunity to gain access to and ownership of
land through agrarian reform programmes, but, 90.2 per cent of the land was
still controlled by men.
28. Along with the lack of access to property, the lack of access to credit
is considered one of the basic obstacles to the economic advancement of women
in rural areas in most developing countries. The reasons suggested were the
absence of financial institutions in rural areas, lack of collateral, lack of
information about credit sources and cultural inhibition and prejudice. It is
estimated by one African country that rural women represented no more than
10 per cent of all borrowers. Even in the case of special programmes to
provide credit to women, the number of women producers with access to credit
is very small in the rural areas. Many developing countries commented that
local village usurers have been the main leading source for people in dire
need of money. Women and men who have to use such credit sources are facing
the burden of high interest rates.
29. It is observed that a sexual division in relation to natural resources
is the norm, and that women are more likely to be relegated to less productive
areas, more hurt by environmental hardship. The division of power between men
and women is reflected in the unequal distribution of land. Women tend to
work the most endangered and unproductive land. According to one national
report, when an agrarian reform was introduced at the end of the 1980s, men
obtained 73 per cent of the dry land and 83 per cent of the irrigated land.
30. According to several Governments, environmentally sound technical
knowledge depended on credit facilities not at the disposal of rural women.
One Government from the Latin American and Caribbean region mentioned, in
regard to this obstacle, its efforts to design credit programmes related to
technology for women. The results were said to be poor, and less than 15 per
cent of women benefited from the programme.
31. In Asia, developmental strategies for agricultural improvement are
slowly beginning to have some effect on the traditional divisions of gender
roles in rural areas. Farm manure, which was traditionally carried by women
or transported by ponies, is now beginning to be delivered by machine power.
Weeding tools have greatly reduced the drudgery of weeding in water-logged
paddies, which is mostly a woman's task. For some countries modernization has
tended to reduce women's paid employment in rural areas while increasing their
unpaid labour on family farms. For example, one Government wrote that current
agricultural practices, especially the increasing use of herbicides, are
displacing large numbers of women and reducing labour per hectare.
32. Women's participation in agricultural activities still lacks visibility
in official statistics. Several Governments, while recognizing the important
role of women in rural areas for family survival, did not recognize their
economic contribution to the national economy. This was attributed to the
lack of gender sensitivity in formal economic indicators.
33. Agricultural extension services usually target men who are in cash-crop
production. In many countries few women obtain access to extension services,
even though they grow much of the food consumed in the household. In some
countries extension education is oriented to home economics tasks, with no
emphasis to production or trade skills. Programmes seem to assume that women
are not involved in agricultural production and do not require technical
information. The majority of extension workers are men. Cultural constraints
limit the extent to which extension agents can work with women farmers.
Literacy training for women has concentrated on issues such as home economics,
nutrition, and food-preparation. In rural extension work, a common assumption
is that women are primarily housemakers who do not need training and
information about agricultural work. Training institutes related to
agricultural activities have a very limited number of women agents trained in
34. Many reports noted that at the beginning of the 1990s more women were
found in decision-making positions in departments related to the environment
and/or agriculture or in ministries of community development or agriculture.
Nevertheless, in many countries ministries such as those responsible for
sanitation, water and energy do not have a mechanism for specifically
addressing women's roles in those areas. Similarly the housing ministry in
several countries cannot easily address the shelter needs of female-headed
households, given women's legal disadvantages in land ownership and their
limited incomes. Most Governments recognized that, despite the traditional
responsibilities shouldered by women in rural and urban poor areas and their
knowledge of environmental issues, women lack representation in decision-
making positions in the national machinery. They also recognized the low
awareness of the role women play in caring for the habitat in urban and rural
settlements. The importance of women's knowledge of food security is not yet
integrated into development planning or project implementation.
35. The existence of a women's office in the Ministry of Agriculture is not
uncommon. In Africa, in countries where women's organizations are strong at
the national level, the national machinery on women included a focal point in
the Ministry of Agriculture.
36. A large gap between women and men in the choice of careers has also been
noted. A relatively low proportion of college students enrolled in
agriculture were women. However, one African Government reported that at the
university level, in medicine and food sciences, women's enrolment had grown
from 20 per cent and 13 per cent in 1988 to 28 per cent and 40 per cent in
1991, respectively. In most developing countries women's educational levels
have improved over the decade. Still, women are underrepresented in the
sciences related to the environment, such as agronomy, veterinary medicine,
biology, ecology and health.
37. Many international and national non-governmental organizations and
women's associations direct their efforts towards environmental issues. In
many countries they cooperate directly with the Government. Non-governmental
organizations are engaged in environmental protection, raising awareness of
the environment, and developing and informing the public on energy-saving
devices, water and sanitation systems and tree-planting. One obstacle to the
effectiveness of non-governmental organization work in Africa is that the
organizations can offer services only so long as they have resources.
38. Forests are basic survival resources for many women in developing
countries. Although women obtain food, fruits and leaves from forests for
consumption and commercialization, they are usually underrepresented in
projects of forestry conservation. An increasing awareness of women's role in
soil forestry management and alternative energy is remarked upon by some
Governments. Women's roles in the management of forestry resources,
especially in dealing with edible and medicinal herbs, is emphasized by some
Governments, and traditional women's knowledge in this field, especially that
of indigenous people, is considered an area that deserves more attention in
national development programmes.
(b) Developed countries
39. Few developed countries reported on the issue of the environment per se.
However, some related areas were mentioned under other concerns, and the
majority of the reports mentioned some degree of concern on the issue of
40. In the developed countries of Europe and North America, an increase in
the educational level of women is highlighted as an improvement of the past
decade. However, educational involvement in some areas that are strategic to
the environment, such as technology and the sciences, is still commonly lower
among women than men. A strategy to encourage greater participation of girls
and women in mathematics, the sciences and technology is cited as a positive
action just beginning to be taken by Governments.
41. Unequal power relations are found when governmental departments related
to the environment are studied, although important steps towards women's
representation at decision-making levels have been taken recently. A few
countries said that women were found in strategic environmental
decision-making positions, such as in the ministry of agriculture and
fisheries, and positive results from these appointments were mentioned.
Illustrative is the example of a country that appointed a woman to a high
position in a related ministry related to the environment. It subsequently
launched campaigns, projects and financial support schemes, such as grants for
establishing new agricultural enterprises and training programmes, which have
proved very effective in recruiting young women to the agricultural sector.
However, a disappointing picture still prevails regarding the access of women
to top decision-making in the field of the environment.
42. In the economies in transition, the same concern is expressed - i.e.,
that women are not fairly participating in the new decision-making processes.
In some countries, in areas related to agriculture and the environment, high-
ranking women can be found. They include a minister of health, a minister of
environment and urban planning, and officers in charge of environmental issues
and in the ministry of science and technology. Women's factions and women's
groups within political parties are mentioned as dealing with environmental
43. Governments of the region recognized the specific problems of rural
women and mentioned that they were addressing their concerns. One country
indicated that, besides services, such as day care centres and transport,
steps were being taken to enable women from rural areas to take advantage of
the opportunities offered by the introduction of new technology - for example,
in homeworking. Nevertheless, it was recognized, by different countries, that
more had to be done to meet women's needs in rural settlements.
44. The food sector plays a significant role in many economies in
transition. In one country, about two thirds of workers in the state
agricultural sector are women. Some countries indicated that in the 1990s
there was a growth of women's emigration from the rural areas, accelerating
the ageing of the rural population. It is also stated that women managing
farms were in general less educated than men and that older women were more
dependent on the rural infrastructure. Moreover, equipment was out of date,
and the work was physically difficult. They also noticed that female-headed
farms were smaller than those run by men.
45. Inadequately developed rural trade networks, in spite of favourable
changes which have taken place since 1989, coupled with inadequate health
care, educational and cultural deprivations, and poor public transportation,
telephone and energy services are basic reasons for the hardship of rural life
cited by women in economies in transition.
46. However, women are said to have equal access to credit in the economies
in transition, and in one of them, unmarried mothers are being given credit
under favourable conditions. However, despite the fact that there are no
legal obstacles to the ownership of land, capital or other means of production
by women, it is recognized that the de facto situation may be different.
Disaggregated data on the ownership of land, real estate and other means of
production are not available.
47. Food production is still a basic source of living for many women in some
developed countries; however, as mentioned in the report of one country, the
majority of women in the agricultural sector are unpaid family workers.
48. In the developed countries, women and men usually have equal rights to
inheritance. However, according to one country report, there is
discrimination against women in agricultural enterprises. The agricultural
property of the deceased is first allocated to the sons. Although this
provision has been included in the law in order to prevent the fragmentation
of agricultural land, it contradicts other legal provisions, as was noted by
women's groups that participated in the elaboration of the national report of
that country. In the same country it is said that women workers in the
agricultural sector have been neglected. The social security law provides a
voluntary social security system for independent and self-employed
agricultural workers, but it excludes from social security benefits women
agricultural workers who are not heads of households and those who usually
work as unpaid family labourers.
49. In terms of urbanization and environmental security, services that have
an impact on the quality of life in the use of the urban public space, such
as those related to air pollution, drinking water, sanitation, transport,
crime control, space and public vehicle design, the needs of disabled persons
and those with toddlers or infants, and women's safety, health and workloads
are addressed in some of the reports from the developed European and North
50. Some national reports focused on housing conditions. One country
reported that single parents had worse housing than the population as a whole
and were less likely to own their own dwelling. They often lived in cramped
and/or poor houses despite the recognition of improvements in the housing
conditions of the population in the decade. It was noted in one report that,
in general, governmental housing policies did not treat women and men
differently; where women had particular needs, they were taken into account at
the national and local levels. Women heads of household were typically better
represented in local authorities or housing associations in metropolitan
51. Water quality standards and the need for safe drinking water are
commonly referred to in reports that deal with environmental issues. Poor
women in both urban areas and rural areas were pointed out as the groups most
52. One coastal European country indicated a concern with the absence of
research, institutional measures or programmes for women in the fishery
53. In some countries women's presence in the national machinery dealing
directly with environmental issues was said to have increased during the past
three years. However, in others, the usual inequality of power existed -
i.e., the pyramidal structure, with women underrepresented in the top
managerial positions, despite the constant rhetoric praising women as natural
conservationists, more connected than men to an ethics of caring for the earth
and more affected by unfriendly environmental actions.
3. Actions taken
(a) Developing countries
54. National reports listed a variety of projects that were considered
successful in the regions of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America
and the Caribbean. Generally, Governments stated their recognition of the
importance of international cooperation and environmentally sound projects for
55. Three types of models have been set up in different countries to deal
with women and the environment: integrated programmes and projects, taking
into consideration women and men as beneficiaries; women's components in
development programmes and projects; and projects for women only.
56. Some countries mentioned plans on environment and sustainable
development with specific reference to women. Commonly, agriculture, water,
energy, natural disasters and food security are the basic areas of concern of
these plans. More and more projects, especially in relation to food
production, fisheries and alternative energy supply, and drinking water
facilities, mentioned women as beneficiaries or partners.
57. It is recognized by many African countries that the current
institutional involvement of women in water and sanitation services is still
low at the community level. In a recently adopted national water policy, one
African Government stipulated that all village water committees should be made
up of six people, half of whom should be women.
58. Some national reports stated that in the 1980s international cooperation
followed a pattern by which women were considered more as the beneficiaries of
development than as partners in it. Others reported that in some cases women
were considered only in their role as mothers and caretakers. It is observed
that in the 1990s a change had been registered in that pattern and that a new
perspective was introduced in programmes and projects. Donor agencies were
incorporating gender and environmental concerns into project formulation and
implementation and were providing technical assistance for the development of
gender sensitivity in macroeconomic policies at the national level. But, on
the other hand, some reports also stated that a clear definition of what is
understood by gender and how gender should be dealt with in development plans,
specifically environmental plans, is still missing.
59. In Africa, where the principal source of energy is wood, grass-roots
women's associations and non-governmental organizations have been engaged in
many initiatives to save wood. The 1991 energy policy of one African country,
which counted on the collaboration of women's non-governmental organizations
and cooperation from international agencies, put emphasis on the use of
renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind energy, biogas and natural
gas. However, it had little success.
60. Women's role as environmental managers, through knowledge of appropriate
and environmentally sound energy sources, such as in the selection of wood,
was seen as basic. One Government is investing in the diffusion of
alternative kitchens, reforestry programmes and organic fertilizers in order
to introduce alternative styles in the relationship between population and
natural resources. Awareness by women of soil forestry management and
alternative sources of energy is being promoted by certain African
Governments. However, programmes on the environment usually do not mention
women in relation to conservation. Programmes for improved kitchens to stem
the demand for energy have been initiated in a number of countries, with the
participation of women's non-governmental organizations and international
agencies. According to one national report, improved kitchens can save up to
50 per cent of the wood consumed. Women participated actively in the planning
and implementation of the programme, with the support of a communication
project to promote social awareness of women's role in the programme.
61. The Sahel was a target area for action in the Nairobi Forward-looking
Strategies. The region continued to deserve special attention at the national
and international levels.
62. Several African countries mentioned the establishment of rural child-
care services, run by women's grass-roots organizations, with the support of
the Government and international agencies. They were, however, few in number
and in great need of continued support.
63. Several Governments mentioned that, in rural areas, non-governmental
organizations ran successful programmes to provide water for productive
activities. Others provided easily accessible sources of potable water for
rural and urban areas. According to one Government, thanks to its water
programme, 45 per cent of the rural population and 75 per cent of the urban
population would have benefited by the end of the decade.
64. A self-help programme for home improvement to teach women basic skills,
with emphasis on environmental issues, was mentioned as a success story in one
national report. The popular programme reached 2,000 women, who then formed
groups of their own to sustain their activities, by, for example, establishing
community gardens. Household food security programmes, set up with the
assistance of an international agency, were mentioned by different African
Governments as very beneficial to rural women.
65. Several projects were mentioned in the national reports as important
contributions to the advancement of women's status. Many of them are oriented
towards the creation of alternative means of livelihood, such as income
generation and survival strategies, taking into consideration poverty and the
extreme needs of certain groups of women, while others are oriented
specifically towards environment conservation. They are complemented by
education and training. The majority of the projects counted on international
66. In some countries, projects launched at the end of the 1980s included
self-sufficient fish-breeding units run by men and women and designed to
regenerate hydrographic basins; credit and land legalization with special
attention to women in agricultural activities; and skills-training courses on
crafts and food preservation.
67. Some Governments are implementing, with international cooperation,
national programmes and policies related to sustainable development, with
special emphasis on organic agriculture, and community health, with popular
participation and a gender perspective. One programme is designed for the
integrated development of a mountain region, with special concern for coffee
production and the exploitation of forests. It hopes to discourage migration.
It is said to have benefited women by providing water services and electricity
and access to social services. Another country has a national environmental
policy for rural women, and another one mentioned that women are integrated
into the national programme for water and sanitation services. Research on
environmental issues and on gender in agricultural activities is being
conducted by several countries. One country referred to a programme of
research on the working and living conditions of women in the flower industry,
with special attention to health effects and the problems of indigenous women.
68. Indigenous women's knowledge of herbs, forestry and environment
protection is mentioned by some Governments as a traditional source that is
coming to be recognized and supported by specific development projects. On
the other hand, it is recognized that much is to be done in this field.
69. One African island country mentioned the importance of a fishery
production project run by women, with the support of an international agency.
An African regional network of women in agriculture, with the support of a
European country, has been working on several local projects, such as the
construction of collective and individual sanitation services. Forestry
programmes, with women tending nurseries and planting trees, have been
implemented by many Governments.
70. The importance of international cooperation and environmentally sound
projects for advancement of women was highlighted in many national reports.
However, caution was expressed that, in the area of environment, most of the
donor support to women has been directed to microprojects in the form of
supply, training and credit facilities. Some countries mentioned that much of
the international support for programmes for the advancement of women came in
the form of initial fund, or seed, money. After the money is spent, these
programmes have great difficulty surviving or spreading into other areas of
71. Certain African national reports highlighted programmes of development
to mitigate the social costs of structural adjustment policies, giving
responsibility to the rural population, chiefly women, in the management of
72. One African Government stated that, in its development plan, priority is
given to educating and demonstrating to farmers how to expand their farm
yields and how to construct simple on-farm storage facilities. Specific
attention is to be given to women small-holder farmers.
73. Some national reports mentioned the participation of grass-roots groups
in projects about forestry, energy, water management, and pollution control in
74. One national report mentioned a project on alternative technologies to
encourage village women to improve the environmental health in their villages
by improving local water and sanitation and making smoke-free fuel-efficient
75. Another national report mentioned the organization of a cooperative
production system to develop an alternative cultivation process which protects
the soil from erosion and nutrient depletion.
76. Another Government mentioned a project that provided assistance to
small-holder and marginal farmers to increase their productivity. The project
also included an alleviation programme and provided agricultural credit,
especially to women.
77. In another country, an environmental impact management agency was
created to assist in the formulation of policies on environment pollution
control, implement hazardous waste management, and monitor and control
activities that have an important environmental impact.
78. In another, there is an ongoing project oriented towards tree-planting,
terracing and the rehabilitation of degradated land. One project, involving
women farmers, converted an arid area to available land by processing human
waste into fertilizer.
79. Among other development projects to benefit women and the environment in
the near future, some Governments mentioned the production and marketing of
green charcoal as an alternative source of energy, organic fertilizers, and
bio-pesticides; the promotion of recycling; the inclusion of gender-sensitive
advocacy on the environment in the curricula at all levels of education;
housing for the rural poor, with special emphasis on female heads of
households, women in urban areas, and migrant working women; and the
construction of adequate shelter, with clean drinking water, meeting the needs
for culturally appropriate and practical space for cooking and child care.
80. Some Governments had decided to use a gamut of strategies, including
training and gender-sensitization, in formal and informal educational systems,
through community groups and non-governmental organizations.
81. Other actions were mentioned, such as the promulgation of a series of
laws to promote environmental protection and prevent air pollution. Efforts
were being made to train people in colleges and universities about
environmental protection; half of the trainees were women. One Government
mentioned that it supported different types of research institutes with a full
range of subjects on environmental science and technology. Women were
mentioned as the natural beneficiaries of the country's environmental
protection efforts. In one country, in order to reduce the pollution by toxic
gas and cinders resulting from burning coal - so important for household use -
women had started to use coal briquettes and new stoves. Biogas and solar
energy systems had been used to reduce air pollution and reduce the intensity
of women's labour.
(b) Developed countries
82. Regarding housing policies, the national reports from the developed
countries mentioned the rule of considering the particular needs of
disadvantaged groups of women. In housing legislation, a safety net for
pregnant women and families was devised. The institution specifically
concerned with women's rights in one national machinery had been demanding
that the public and private providers of housing recognize the needs of young
women leaving care, low-income women, older women, single parents, ex-service
wives and others.
83. In the legal realm, one country referred to a "right to manage",
recognizing the strong role of women in tenant management organizations. Air
pollution, air quality and clean water are also subject to regulation in
developed countries. A national report on the situation of women in a North
American country observed that guidelines were recently released to help
health agencies develop fish consumption limits, designed specifically to
protect women, especially those of child-bearing age, and children against
exposure to chemical contaminants in non-commercial freshwater and estuarine
fish and shellfish.
84. Some Governments had incorporated into policies the proposals of women's
groups for improving the quality of life, the habitat and the environment in
urban settlements. Women's knowledge is mainstreamed into governmental
planning in a few cases. One European Government mentioned as a successful
experience the adoption of "a women's perspective" in public planning since
1985. Such a perspective aims at providing a basis for decisions concerning
the use and protection of resources and seeks the participation of all
affected parties. A municipal master plan was developed to go beyond
traditional physical and economic planning, to encompass culture, school and
the environment, taking into consideration issues that affect women's daily
lives. Different types of municipal plans, with similar participatory
methodology, were adopted in the fishery and agricultural sectors. According
to one report, a shift towards more "feminine" values was achieved: a more
caring and integrated approach, with more concern for environmental protection
and ecology, and the practicalities of everyday life and diversity of ideas.
The women's perspective began to be integrated into new businesses. Despite
the recognized success of that type of participatory planning, sensitive to
gender and the environment, such experience was limited to specific small
municipalities, benefiting a small number of persons.
85. Another country reported on the implementation of a scheme, launched in
1993, which consists of the identification of those products that do the least
harm to the environment in order to help women as consumers make informed
decisions. The Government is also working with regional electrical companies
to produce a voluntary scheme of information on energy efficiency for domestic
appliances. Another country mentioned legislation on pesticides and food
safety, recognizing that, although federal legislation is not targeted towards
women, several rules have a significant impact on women and children, due to
persistent sexual divisions of labour and power, with women in charge of food
shopping, preparation, and in the rural areas, production too.
86. Only one Government noted that information is made available on the
environmental safety aspects of biotechnology and on genetically modified
organisms. Besides campaigns, projects and programmes run by women's
non-governmental organizations, some Governments reported on the following
activities of the women's movement: the organization of a "green" university,
research and dissemination of knowledge on the environment, and the
organization of a year of the environment in Europe.
87. Women's organizations are thought to have played an active role in a
national referendum in which the nuclear option of one country was abolished.
The scope of the women's movement against environmental disasters was
broadened to protest and prevent such disasters as they relate to economic
power: the use by corporations and Governments of toxic chemicals and
hazardous waste, for example. One referendum closed down a factory that
manufactured pesticides. The success of similar campaigns was listed by a few
1/ Report of the World Conference to Review and Appraise the
Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development
and Peace, Nairobi, 15-26 July 1985 (United Nations publication, Sales No.
E.85.IV.10), chap. I, sect. A.
2/ Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development, Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992 (A/CONF.151/26/Rev.1 (Vol. I,
Vol. I/Corr.1, Vol. II, Vol. III and Vol. III/Corr.1) (United Nations
publication, Sales No. E.93.I.8 and corrigenda), Vol. I: Resolutions adopted
by the Conference.
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