Eyes on the GGCA at CSW59: EGI & Measuring Success Toward an Equitable Future

Our own Vicky Markham, GGCA Network Development Officer, covered GGCA Member's participation at UN CSW 59th session side-events, New York, NY, March 2015. This is the second in a series of blogs about the events, their highlights, speakers, discussions and GGCA member involvement.

African Girls School
Photo: Mark Read/CAMFED

The Power of Evidence on Gender and the Environment

The first GGCA CSW59 side-event I attended was held opening day on Monday, March 9, 2015, titled "The Environment and Gender Index (EGI): Measuring Success Toward an Equitable Future". This high-level session organized by GGCA members IUCN with UN Women, and the governments of Finland, Liberia and Peru, set a high bar for the rest of the CSW side-events and advocates.

To set the scene, its focus was on the transformative power of data for measuring success, informing policymakers, and boosting policies and advocacy work on gender and climate change issues worldwide. The event featured the IUCN's unique and groundbreaking EGI - brainchild of GGCA Steering Committee member Lorena Aguilar - a first-of-its-kind global dataset on women's participation in environmental decision making for use by government and non-government policymakers, advocates, the media and educators. In this context it is used to assist policy makers and practitioners in addressing gender equality and empowerment of women in the Beijing+20 and the UN's Post 2015 development agenda process.

Ms. Aguilar noted how the EGI's first phase showed that less than a third of decision makers in environmental sectors are women, despite evidence that having women's leadership, representation, knowledge and experience significantly benefits environmental and sustainable development outcomes. She noted that the next the EGI, undertaken with UN Women, aims to include all countries with a new dataset that considers gender in national policies for environmental sectors, including climate change, and inclusion of gender in national programs.

Support for the IUCN's EGI and its unique approach was registered by the other panel members representing the governments of Finland, Peru and Liberia, as well as fellow GGCA Member Bridget Burns of WEDO.

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The government representatives agreed that "gender equality was high on their national and global development agendas, but more could be done to make this a reality." Liberia's Minister of Gender and Development HE Julia Duncan Cassell said, "While sustainable livelihoods that encompass climate change impacts, agriculture, food security, water, sanitation, ecosystems and poverty reduction were all recognized as key, they all still needed much work, much left to be done, especially where gender links come in."

The UN Peruvian Mission's Augusto Thornberry, representing HE Marcela Huaita, Minister of Women and Vulnerable Populations, recognized that …"gender is a prime development indicator, especially in the context of the UN SDGs and Post 2015 development agenda, and the link between development, gender, and women's rights is critical."

They all explained that they are working with the government of Finland and France on the COP21, with a nod to the EGI's important role, "We must be able to measure the impact of gender on climate change policies, and as part of that, we need to take into account women's knowledge and experience on the linkages."

Speakers confirmed that there is no country on the planet where there is 50/50 female/male equality, a sad reality - but a new specific goal some are beginning to articulate more. For example, UN Women's Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka recently called for gender parity by 2030, and the government of Germany is aiming for 50/50 representation of women/men on all corporate boards by 2020.

Central to it all is sound science, a strong evidence base and "data" to support our GCC goals, the event panel agreed. Bridget Burns of WEDO stated "There is a difference between perception and what the data shows. The EGI is important as an advocacy tool for decision and policy makers. We must take the existing mandates [of Beijing] and hold them accountable with this kind of evidence base, showing to climate negotiators the "gender differential impact".

This is also showcased by WEDO's Finnish-government backed "Women's Delegate Fund (WDF)" where 42 women have been trained and are now active in the climate change and sustainable development policy, advocacy and negotiation processes. Such initiatives make a big, measurable difference and have been instrumental in increasing the number of women delegation heads from 19% to 26%.

Here, as in the EGI, numbers and data speak volumes, and that's what is needed to create a balance in gender and climate issues as we move forward. It's an emerging theme in most gender and climate-related debates now going on locally, nationally and globally, and GGCA members are at the forefront of it all, once again!

Next, see Blog#3 featuring a GGCA CSW59 side-event with a different perspective on "Health, Livelihood, Gender, and Environmental Benefits of Access to Energy for Girls & Women".