NEW:  Women and Gender @ SAICM – joint position paper: Gender and the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020.

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Gender and Chemicals – Together for a gender-just healthy planet

There is a number of gender aspects relevant to chemicals and chemicals and waste management. However, many of them are not receiving the attention they should in order to ensure the best possible decisions in policy-making and effective implementation.

“Gender & Chemicals – Together for a gender-just healthy planet” is a project of the MSP Institute. The goal  is to increase the integration of gender in international chemicals and waste management policies and implementation. We are aiming to raise awareness of gender aspects and to increase the participation of women’s organisations and gender experts in the UN process dealing with chemicals management: SAICM Beyond 2020.

Why Gender and Chemicals? (more here)

  • Women’s and men’s bodies are affected differently by certain chemicals – exposure, risk, and impacts can be different between the sexes. 

  • Gender, as a social category, is linked to gender-specific norms of behaviour, roles in society as well as the development of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ identities, which in turn influence people’s behaviour, including their impact on the environment, their affectedness by environmental degradation, and their access to and power over resources. 

  • Gender analysis allows to ask questions that help us understand and unpack root causes of unsustainable behaviour and societies, and hence have a transformational potential. We need to tap into this potential in order to bring about sustainable development, justice and peace.

What to do about gender and chemicals in SAICM Beyond 2020?

  • Increase research and availability of sex-disaggregated data
  • Make Gender Impact Assessment tools available and ensure their application
  • Create a Gender Focal Point in SAICM and develop a Gender Action Plan
  • Ensure the full inclusion of women in decision making
  • Provide information about financing for women
  • Involve women in the transfer of environmentally sound technologies
  • Implement effective communication strategies

Integrating Gender Now

SAICM’s Overarching Policy Strategy underlines the specific importance of women as stakeholders and their still evident lack of representation in the implementation and decision-making processes for the sound management of chemicals and chemical safety. Yet, specific and widespread knowledge on differentiated and long-term effects of chemicals on women and men is still lacking, and, even more so, comprehensive gender analysis of chemicals and waste management.

With the year 2020 approaching, SAICM and its stakeholders are currently developing pathways for the international management of chemicals and waste. The coming years present a unique window of opportunity to increase attention and achieve results.


Further background: 

In 2017, we looked at issues, political processes and stakeholders relevant to gender and chemicals:

Identifying questions and issues: identifying questions of gender analysis in relation to chemicals and waste management and issues relating to women and gender – e.g. in the areas of health, work, education, risk perception, and others.

Identifying political processes and entry points: analysing on-going international and regional policy processes and their relevance to gender and chemicals issues, identifying possible entry points for strengthening the integration of gender aspects in chemicals and waste management.

Stakeholder MappingMapping SAICM and other relevant international policy processes in terms of stakeholders with interest, expertise, or potential contributions on gender – organisations, networks and gender experts in various stakeholder groups.

In 2018, we produced compact information materials on gender and chemicals with Policy Suggestions for SAICM Beyond 2020.

Advocacy work:

  • SAICM IP2: At the 2nd Intersessional Meeting (IP2) of the SAICM Beyond 2020 process, which was held in Stockholm in March, we advocated to increase attention to gender and chemicals, providing information and suggestions on how to integrate gender in a future policy framework on chemicals and waste and engaging in discussions with delegates (see our brief report about SAICM IP2 here).
  • UNFCCC SBSTA: In the summer, gender was an issue high on the agenda of the meeting of the Subsidiary Bodies of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which took place from 30th April – 10th May in Bonn, Germany. We attended and observed the negotiations, participated in the work of the Women and Gender Constituency active at the climate meetings and took away lessons learned for our work on integrating gender in SAICM Beyond 2020 (see our blog here).
  • HLPF 2018: This year’s theme of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) was ‘Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies’. SDG 12 “Responsible Consumption and Production”, dealing explicitly with the management of chemicals and waste (target 12.4), was among the SDGs under review this year. We attended HLPF2018 in July to work together with other women’s groups and feminists of the Womens Major Group (WMG) to increase attention, inter alia, to gender and chemicals issues (read our brief report here).

Blog series: While attending these conferences and talking to delegates, we have frequently noticed that while there is great interest in gender and chemicals, there is little detailed knowledge. Our blog article series is pulling together explanations of key elements of gender mainstreaming and offering practical examples and studies from the field. The brief blog articles demonstrate the necessity and the potential of integrating gender aspects in international chemical management.

Also see our glossary of terms, and the resources page.


Seeking your input and advice: We are consulting with colleagues from women’s organisations, governments, UN and other stakeholders as well as individual experts on the project activities and goals. If you’re interested in discussing gender and chemicals issues, relevant processes, research  and literature with us, please do let us know!
Contact us via info(at)msp-institute.org.