Gender and Chemicals at the 4th Meeting of the Intersessional Process Considering the Strategic Approach and the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020 (IP4)

IP4 Plenary, photo by IISD

After two and a half years of not meeting in person, delegates got together again from 27th of August until 2nd of September in Bucharest, Romania, for a workshop, technical briefings and the 4th Meeting of the Intersession Process considering the Strategic Approach and the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020 (IP4). Originally, the meeting had been scheduled to take place from 23-27 March 2020 but had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 300 delegates attended, including representatives of governments, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and industry.

During the meeting, participants discussed the following key elements of potential recommendations to ICCM5 in three thematic groups:

  • Thematic group 1: vision, scope, principles and approaches, strategic objectives, targets, and indicators
  • Thematic group 2: institutional arrangements, linkages with the future Science-Policy Panel, issues of concern, and mechanisms to support implementation
  • Thematic group 3: mechanisms to support capacity building and financial considerations

The resulting document “Co-Chairs Single Consolidated Text” was welcomed by participants in the closing plenary as “a significant achievement” (IISD 2022). Participants agreed to suspend IP4 and want to meet again early next year at IP4.2.

The MSP Institute participated in the meeting and, together with other NGOs working on women and gender issues (including, among others, CIEL, ForumUE, HejSupport, IPEN, PAN and WECF) advocated for the integration of gender in the resulting document. For this purpose, the MSP Institute coordinated an informal women and gender meeting and gave an opening statement on behalf of the group during the first plenary session. During the course of the week, the group developed joint text proposals and took an active role in thematic groups 1 and 2.

Opening statement by the MSP Institute on behalf of NGOs working on women and gender at IP4, photo by IISD

Together the group successfully advocated to include several text proposals on women and gender in the document:

  • to highlight the aim “to protect human health including that of (…) women” in the introduction, in order to ensure that gender aspects are mentioned right in the beginning;
  • to include several international agreements on gender and women’s rights into the principles and approaches of the future framework (especially with the support of Mexico), so that these international agreements are mentioned alongside others focusing on sustainable development, human rights, and others; and
  • to include a text proposal to “Ensure gender equality, the recognition of women as agents of change and the inclusion of gender considerations in all relevant aspects of [the new instrument] through inter alia the development and implementation of a gender action plan“, in order to ensure that there are practical steps included in the work of SAICM and SAICM stakeholders after ICCM5.

As Ruth Spencer said on behalf of the group during the closing plenary, it was “good to see so many women as agents of change [at the conference] and to hear gender mentioned in many discussions. Nevertheless, women and non-binary people are still underrepresented in decision making positions in different fields. But recognizing their capacities and knowledge is urgently needed for meeting the 2030 sustainable development goals and to ensure that no one is left behind. Therefore, we need gender equality and gender mainstreaming instruments in the new framework (…) – otherwise, it remains outdated and stays behind all chemicals and waste conventions. The new framework / instrument could be a frontrunner in terms of gender equality by developing a gender action plan.”

Therefore, the text proposals on women and gender need to be discussed and gender considerations need to be integrated in the targets and indicators at IP4.2 and other possible activities between now and ICCM5, and agreed at ICCM5.

A lot of inspiring conversations with delegates, e.g. on our gender and chemicals road map for SAICM focal points, as well as being back at the table and advocating for a gender-just SAICM Beyond 2020 together with colleagues felt really good. It has energized us to continue the work and stay engaged in the process!

Our information material at IP4, photo by IISD

A final report and analysis of the meeting by IISD can be found at:

GenChemRoadMap – concrete steps towards gender mainstreaming in chemicals management

Final report of the project GenChemRoadMap and its pilot phase in Germany

(in German below)

MSP Institute implemented the “GenChemRoadMap” project in 2021 and 2022. The project aimed to help initiate and build support for the systematic integration of gender into national chemicals management with the Gender and Chemicals Road Map, a guide for SAICM National Focal Points. The road map was piloted in Germany in collaboration with the German SAICM National Focal Point, Dr Hans Christian Stolzenberg, and in consultation and collaboration with other German stakeholders. The following article presents a brief summary of the project activities as well as the first results from the pilot phase in Germany:

From April-May 2021, the Gender and Chemicals Road Map and the associated Workbook were developed. The Road Map offers an overview how to mainstream gender into chemicals management at national level and the workbook offers a step-by-step guidance for the implementation.

The kick-off event for the pilot phase in Germany was the next step. A round table meeting with stakeholders took place on July 20, 2021, organized by Dr Hans-Christian Stolzenberg, the German SAICM National Focal Point at the Federal Environment Agency, and the MSP Institute. More than 40 participants from industry, governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as professional associations and science followed the invitation and engaged in a first exchange on gender and gender equity among diverse stakeholders of chemicals management in Germany.

The event was followed by an international workshop on Gender in National Chemicals Policies for SAICM National Focal Points on Sept. 24, 2021. The aim of the workshop was to generate interest in the linkages between gender and chemicals, to present and discuss the Gender and Chemicals Road Map, and to facilitate exchange on gender aspects among SAICM National Focal Points. A total of 39 participants from government organizations, academia, civil society and industry attended the virtual workshop, including about 20 National Focal Points from different parts of the world.

An initial implementation of the steps included in the Gender and Chemicals Road Map took place from October 2021 to April 2022 as part of the pilot phase in Germany: In October, the German SAICM National Focal Point and the MSP Institute started with a core working group of interested stakeholders. The working group held several virtual meetings to take stock of the integration of gender in German chemicals management and was able to gather initial ideas for optimizing the integration of gender. This was done along five action areas based on the questions for gender analysis, step 3 of the Gender and Chemicals Road Map. To narrow the scope of the work, the team focused on the topic of chemicals in building materials. The gender analysis highlighted that while several projects and policy activities in chemicals management in Germany do address gender aspects, the lack of gender-specific data, or the advancement of women in chemicals management, a strategic overview to improve gender mainstreaming in chemicals management has been missing to date.  The team then conducted a Gender Impact Assessment, step 4 of the Gender and Chemicals Road Map, including secondary research as well as expert interviews on the gender impacts of a policy proposal currently under discussion: the introduction of a building resource passport in Germany. The assessment showed how the information needs of building owners on the topic of chemical safety can be taken into account from a gender perspective, and how the policy instrument could be designed effectively.

A summary of the results and experiences of the pilot phase in Germany can be found in the flyer, and a detailed presentation of the results and experiences can be found in the presentation.

The GenChemRoadMap project once again highlighted the relevance and potential of integrating gender aspects for sustainable chemicals management. Even though the integration of gender aspects can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, the Gender and Chemicals Road Map is a helpful step-by-step guide that can be fun to work through, particularly in a team and with other stakeholders.

Would you like to learn more about the Gender and Chemicals Road Map or the pilot phase in Germany, or would you like to optimize the integration of gender aspects into your chemicals management?

Then please do not hesitate to contact us:
Anna Holthaus,
Project Manager GenChemRoadMap,
MSP Institute: anna.holthaus[at]

GenChemRoadMap – Konkrete Schritte zur Integration von Gender in das Chemikalienmanagement

Abschlussblogartikel über das Projekt GenChemRoadMap und dessen Pilotphase in Deutschland

Im Projekt “GenChemRoadMap” (2021-2022) hat MSP Institute e.V. eine Gender- und Chemikalien-Roadmap und einen Handlungsleitfaden für SAICM National Focal Points entwickelt. Das Projekt setzte erste Impulse für die systematische Integration von Gender in das nationale Chemikalienmanagement. Die Road Map wurde zudem in Zusammenarbeit mit dem deutschen SAICM National Focal Point, Dr. Hans Christian Stolzenberg (Umweltbundesamt), und anderen relevanten deutschen Akteuren in Deutschland pilotiert. Wir möchten die Projektaktivitäten sowie die ersten Ergebnisse der Pilotphase in Deutschland hier kurz vorstellen:

Von April-Mai 2021 wurden die Gender and Chemicals Road Map und das dazugehörige Workbook entwickelt. Die Road Map bietet einen Überblick darüber, wie das Thema Geschlechtergerechtigkeit im nationalen Chemikalienmanagement berücksichtigt werden kann, und das Workbook bietet eine schrittweise Anleitung für die Umsetzung.

Anschließend fand am 20.07.2021 das Kick-off-event zur Pilotphase in Deutschland, der Runde Tisch mit verschiedenen Stakeholdern des deutschen Chemikalienmanagements, statt. Dr. Hans-Christian Stolzenberg, der deutsche SAICM National Focal Point im Umweltbundesamt, und das MSP Institute hatten gemeinsam zu dieser virtuellen Auftakt-Veranstaltung eingeladen. Mehr als 40 Teilnehmende aus Industrie, Regierungs- und Nichtregierungsorganisationen sowie Berufsverbänden und Wissenschaft tauschten sich zum Thema Geschlechtergerechtigkeit und Gender aus.

Gefolgt wurde die Veranstaltung vom einem internationalen Workshop zu Gender in der nationalen Chemikalienpolitik für SAICM National Focal Points am 24.09.2021. Ziel der virtuellen Veranstaltung war es, Interesse an den Zusammenhängen von Gender und Chemikalien zu wecken, die Gender and Chemicals Road Map vorzustellen und zu diskutieren, sowie den Austausch unter den SAICM National Focal Points zu ermöglichen. Insgesamt folgten 39 Teilnehmende aus Regierungsorganisationen, Wissenschaft, Zivilgesellschaft und Industrie der Einladung, darunter etwa 20 Nationale Focal Points aus verschiedenen Teilen der Welt.

Eine erste Umsetzung der Arbeitsschritte der Gender and Chemicals Road Map erfolgte daraufhin von Oktober 2021 bis April 2022 im Rahmen der Pilotphase in Deutschland: Im Oktober starteten der deutsche SAICM National Focal Point und das MSP Institute mit einer Kernarbeitsgruppe interessierter Stakeholder. Die Arbeitsgruppe führte in mehreren virtuellen Treffen eine Bestandsaufnahme der Integration von Gender im deutschen Chemikalienmanagement durch und konnte so erste Idee für die Optimierung der Integration von Gender sammeln. Dies geschah entlang von fünf Handlungsfeldern  anhand der Fragen zur Gender Analyse, Schritt 3 der Gender and Chemicals Road Map. Um den Umfang Pilotphase überschau zu halten, konzentrierte sich das Team auf das Thema Chemikalien in Baumaterialien. Die Genderanalyse verdeutlichte, dass in Deutschland zwar mehrere Projekte und politische Aktivitäten im Chemikalienmanagement Genderaspekte, den Mangel an geschlechtsspezifischen Daten oder die Förderung von Frauen im Chemiemanagement thematisieren, ein strategischer Überblick zur Verbesserung des Gender Mainstreaming im Chemikalienmanagement bisher jedoch fehlte.  Anschließend führte das Team mittels Literaturrecherche und Expert*innen-Interviews ein Gender Impact Assessment, Schritt 4 der Gender and Chemicals Road Map, zu den geschlechtsspezifischen Auswirkungen der zukünftig geplante Einführung  eines Gebäuderessourcenpasses in Deutschland durch. Das Assessment zeigte, wie aus Geschlechterperspektive die Informationsbedürfnisse zur Chemikaliensicherheit von Gebäudebesitzer*innen berücksichtigt und das Politikinstrument somit effektiv gestaltet werden könnte.

Zusammenfassende Informationen zu den Ergebnissen und Erfahrungen der Pilotphase in Deutschland finden Sie im Flyer, eine ausführliche Darstellung der Ergebnisse und Erfahrungen finden Sie in der Präsentation (beides auf English).       

Das Projekt GenChemRoadMap verdeutlichte nochmals die Relevanz und das Potenzial der Integration von Genderaspekten für ein nachhaltiges Chemikalienmanagement. Auch wenn dies durchaus zeitaufwendig und arbeitsintensiv sein kann, so bietet die Gender and Chemicals Road Map doch einen hilfreichen Fahrplan, dessen Ausführung im Team und mit weiteren Stakeholdern durchaus auch Freude bereiten kann.

Möchten Sie mehr über die Gender and Chemicals Road Map oder die Pilotphase in Deutschland erfahren oder selbst die Integration von Genderaspekten in ihr Chemikalienmanagement optimieren?
Dann zögern Sie bitte nicht, uns zu kontaktieren:
Anna Holthaus, Projektleiterin GenChemRoadMap,
MSP Institute e.V.: anna.holthaus[at]

Why men’s reproductive health needs more attention

#Expert-Blog Series: How to create a gender-just-healthy planet

by Pia Cimander, Student Assistant at MSP Institute

Photo by

When a heterosexual couple is planning on having a baby, it is most likely that the woman will stop taking her contraception and stop unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking alcohol. The people surrounding the woman are likely to encourage her with this and giving her lots of (sometimes unwanted) advice for a healthy (pre-)pregnancy. But when the attempts to conceive a child fail, it is usually the women who undergo examinations and tests to identify the reasons.[i] However, a 2012 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States[ii] showed that only one third of infertility cases are caused by female reproductive problems: one third of infertility cases are caused by problems on the male side, and one third by factors on both sides or reasons unknown.[iii]

Research has identified the time period around conception as being crucial for the processes mediating parental influences on the health of the next generation. Parental lifestyle can adversely influence long-term risks of offspring cardiovascular, metabolic, immune, and neurological morbidities.[iv] Smoking, drug abuse, alcohol consumption and exposure to harmful chemicals at home or at the workplace can influence pregnancy outcomes such as miscarriage, lower birth weight, birth defects and childhood illnesses.[v]This means as well, that men’s’ sperm quality suffers from such influences (e.g. endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including bisphenol A)[vi] and can reduce the number of functional sperm, which can affect the unborn children’s health.[vii] With better general education on men’s health, the likelihood of health risks in the important phase before conception could be reduced – which, of course, would be very much in the interest of parents-to-be. But these issues seem to be quite taboo. Why? What is it about male reproductive health that there is almost no public awareness or discourse?

Men’s health is often associated with fitness, an athletic body shape, and a certain body type. Thus, health is associated with specific physical characteristics rather than holistic health. This is also reflected in the widespread disregard of health complaints and the infrequent seeking of medical advice among men.[viii]

A 2019 study by the American Mens Healh Journal explored the lack of using health care in a group of married and heterosexual men. Large disparities  were associated with men having a higher risk for mortality and morbidity. One of the reasons is that men use less preventive health care services than women and don’t seek immediate treatment for many health problems. This is often due to traditional gender roles and also influenced by structural inequalities like social class, race or age in an intersectional way.[ix]

In a 2019 survey in the US, 14,9% of men aged over 18 were found to be in fair or poor health.[x] The lack of health education seems to be one of the main reasons for this.[xi] Medical research and the medical profession seem to have largely ignored men’s health and men’s reproductive health since the beginning of medicine as a formal profession in the 19th century and the development of medical specializations.[xii] The American Medical Association was founded in 1847 and soon after, medical doctors started specializing.[xiii] The female reproductive health was identified as seperate field of health research and medicine, but not male reproductive health.[xiv] Hence, one of the reasons for the widespread lack of male health education is inadequate research. Closing the knowledge and education gaps and focusing on men’s health to the same extent as women’s would not only help to reduce prejudice and facilitate access to male-specific medical help, but also identify and anticipate potential factors that cause reduced fertility.

In addition to the lack of knowledge among citizens, cultural concepts and structural inequalities also lead to health problems among men. There is a global increase in male sexual disorders[xv], including penile disorders, erectile dysfunction, balanitis, prostate cancer, genital urethral discharge and sexually transmitted infections. These conditions might not be life-threatening, but they are rarely reported and associated with social stigma, especially where open communication about sexual health are uncommon. Couples facing infertility may experience shame, especially in traditional societies where the importance of masculinity and patriarchy remain strong and childlessness is greatly stigmatized.[xvi]  In a report about the US Military Health System that examined male infertility in active US armed forces between 2013 und 2017, non-Hispanic black men aged 30-34 had the highest infertility rates.[xvii] The reasons why men from non-white and non-Western backgrounds tend to have a higher risks of infertility may be multiple and include, for example, health education and health care, lack of awareness and traditional taboos. In a webinar of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment held in May 2021[xviii] , additional reasons were highlighted, among them being a lack of trust in the U.S. medical health care system among black populations which can results in less frequent participation in studies. Reproductive research often focuses on with comparatively wealthy, white individuals who can afford specialized diagnostic and treatment. Reports such as the one by Nathan McCray, Heather Young and Michael Irwig from 2020 on the association of race, obesity, and sperm quality among men are still rare – more (intersectional) data and research on men’s reproductive health is urgently needed .[xix]


When focusing the attention on reproductive health, we should not only see it as a women’s issue. Especially when it is about reproductive health, awareness-raising on how men’s health can affect fertility and children’s health could make a big difference. There is a need to promote male health. Medical research and development needs to improve so that men have easy access to information and care from the beginning, including through sex education. Men’s (health) participation in the period before child conception is essential. For example, health apps and fertility trackers could also be tailored to men. On a societal level, structural investments need to ensure everybody’s access to high quality and affordable health care. As societies, we need to overcome stigmatization and stop seeing men only as strong and unbreakable whose health is solely linked to physical fitness. It won’t be possible to reduce reproductive risks to zero. But paying more attention to men’s reproductive health has the potential to improve many lives in this generation and for generations to come. 

Of course, there are many more aspects and things to know about male reproductive health. Below are some useful links and references to help you dive deeper into the topic:

Dr. Shanna Swan, Stacey Colino (2021): Count Down How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female ReproductiveDevelopment, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race:

IPPF-International Planned Parenthood Federation: Launch of first global sexual and reproductive health service package for men and adolescent boys:

Male childlessness: “You think, If I’m not reproducing – then what am I?” The Guardian, 17.11.2018,

Male Reproductive Health Crisis: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and Racial Inequities: (Last accessed: date)

MEMAH – Men Educating  Men About Health:

RW Fisher, Jane; Hamarberg, Karin: Psychological and social aspects of infertility in men: (last accessed: 15.12.2021)

Richard G. Bribiescas (2017): How Men Age. What Evolution Reveals about Male Health and Mortality:

Campbell, Leah: Why Aren’t More men Aware of Their Fertility Status?: (last accessed: 15.12.2021)


Amoo, Emmanuel; Omideyi, Adekunbi; Fadayomi, Theophilus et al. (2017): Male reproductive health challenges: appraisal of wives coping strategies, Reproductive Health 14, 90. DOI:

Ariba, AJ; Oladapo, OT; Iyaniwuar, CA et al. (2007): Management of erectile dysfunction: perceptions and practices of Nigerian primary care clinicians. South African Family Practice, 49:9, 16-16d, DOI:10.1080/20786204.2007.10873632.

Collaborative on Health and the Environment (2021): Male Reproductive Health Crisis: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and Racial Inequities,, last seen: 08.11.2021.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2016): URL,, last seen: 28.10.2021.

Fleming, Tom; Watkins, Adam; Velazquez, Miguel et al. (2018): Origins of lifetime health around the lifetime of conception: causes and consequences, DOI:

Howard, Jacqueline (2018): How dad’s pre-conception health can affect the baby, too. URL:, last seen: 04.11.1021.

McCray, Nathan; Young, Heather, Irwig, Michael (2020): The Association Between Race, Obesity, and Sperm Quality Among Men Attending a University Physician Practice in Washington, DC, American Journal of Men’s Health, 14/3, DOI:

Mitchell, Kirstin; King, Micheal; Nazareth, Irwin et al. (2011): Managing Sexual Difficulties: A Qualitative Investigation of Coping Strategies, The Journal of Sex Research, 45:4, 325-333, DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2010.494332.

National Center for Health Statistics (2021). URL:, last seen: 04.11.2021.

Noone, Jack H.; Stephens, Christine (2008): Men, masculine identities, and health care utilization, URL:, last seen: 28.10.2021.

Novak, Josh R.; Peak, Terry; Gast, Julie, Arnell, Melinda (2019): Associations Between Masculine Norms and Health-Care Utilization in Highly Religious, Heterosexual Men, In: American Journal of Men’s Health, 2019 May-Jun; 13 (3), URL:, last seen: 02.11.2021.

Resolve: Male Factor, URL:, last seen 05.11.2021.

Ross, C. E., Masters, R. K., & Hummer, R. A. (2012). Education and the gender gaps in health and mortality. Demography, 49(4), 1157–1183.

Shannon, Jette (2011): Exercising caution: the production of medical knowledge about physical exertion during pregnancy, DOI: 10.3138/cbmh.28.2.293.

Sharma, A., Mollier, J., Brocklesby, R., Caves, C., Jayasena, C. N., & Minhas, S. (2020). Endocrine-disrupting chemicals and male reproductive health. Reproductive medicine and biology, 19(3), 243–253.

Stephenson, Judith; Heslehurst, Nicola, Hall, Jennifer et al. (2018): Before the beginning: nutrition and lifestyle in the preconception period and its importance for future health, DOI:

UN Environment Programme (2021): Human right to a healthy environment:

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021): URL:, last seen: 28.10.2021.

Williams, Valerie; Atta, Irene; Stahlman, Shauna (2019): Brief Report: Male Infertility, Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2013-2017, URL:, last seen: 04.11.2021.

YaleNews (2020): ‘GUYnecology’: Why men’s reproductive health matters, URL:, last seen: 04.11.2021.

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[i] Resolve: Male Factor, URL:, last seen 05.11.2021.

[ii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021): URL:, last seen: 28.10.2021.

[iii] Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2016): URL,, last seen: 28.10.2021.

[iv] Fleming, Tom; Watkins, Adam; Velazquez, Miguel et al. (2018): Origins of lifetime health around the lifetime of conception: causes and consequences, DOI:

[v] Howard, Jacqueline (2018): How dad’s pre-conception health can affect the baby, too. URL:, last seen: 04.11.1021.

[vi] Sharma, A., Mollier, J., Brocklesby, R., Caves, C., Jayasena, C. N., & Minhas, S. (2020). Endocrine-disrupting chemicals and male reproductive health. Reproductive medicine and biology, 19(3), 243–253.

[vii] Stephenson, Judith; Heslehurst, Nicola, Hall, Jennifer et al. (2018): Before the beginning: nutrition and lifestyle in the preconception period and its importance for future health, DOI:

[viii] Noone, Jack H.; Stephens, Christine (2008): Men, masculine identities, and health care utilization, URL:, last seen: 28.10.2021.

[ix] American Journal of Men’s Health (2019): Associations Between Masculine Norms and Health-Care Utilization in Highly Religious, Heterosexual Men, URL:, last seen: 02.11.2021.

[x] National Center for Health Statistics (2021). URL:, last seen: 04.11.2021.

[xi] Ross, C. E., Masters, R. K., & Hummer, R. A. (2012). Education and the gender gaps in health and mortality. Demography, 49(4), 1157–1183.

[xii] YaleNews (2020): ‘GUYnecology’: Why men’s reproductive health matters, URL:, last seen: 04.11.2021.

[xiv] Shannon, Jette (2011): Exercising caution: the production of medical knowledge about physical exertion during pregnancy, DOI: 10.3138/cbmh.28.2.293.

[xv] Mitchell, Kirstin; King, Micheal; Nazareth, Irwin et al. (2011): Managing Sexual Difficulties: A Qualitative Investigation of Coping Strategies, The Journal of Sex Research, 45:4, 325-333, DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2010.494332.

[xvi] Amoo, Emmanuel; Omideyi, Adekunbi; Fadayomi, Theophilus et al. (2017): Male reproductive health challenges: appraisal of wives coping strategies, Reproductive Health 14, 90. DOI:

[xvii] Williams, Valerie; Atta, Irene; Stahlman, Shauna (2019): Brief Report: Male Infertility, Active Component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2013-2017, URL:, last seen: 04.11.2021.

Collaborative on Health and the Environment (2021): Male Reproductive Health Crisis: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and Racial Inequities,, last seen: 08.11.2021.

[xix] McCray, Nathan; Young, Heather, Irwig, Michael (2020): The Association Between Race, Obesity, and Sperm Quality Among Men Attending a University Physician Practice in Washington, DC, American Journal of Men’s Health, 14/3, DOI:

Research Results: Gender Equality and International Environmental Agreements

#Expert-Blog Series: How to create a gender-just-healthy planet

by Megan Kalsman

Chemicals can have a disproportionately high impact on women’s health and wellness.

I observed this firsthand while employed by the City of San Francisco Department of the Environment in California, US. One of my responsibilities as a Commercial Toxics Reduction Assistant Coordinator included working with local governments to certify nail salons to encourage using fewer toxic chemicals and increasing the use of personal protective equipment, e.g., masks and gloves. I met with salon owners and nail technicians who had miscarriages, skin problems, and other health issues from exposure to the many chemicals used in nail salons, such as polish removers, thinners, acrylics, etc. The nail salon community in California employs a high proportion of women whose primary language is not English. Communicating the health risks to this population proved especially challenging but was ultimately very rewarding. The California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative is just one example of environmental and gender justice which ultimately inspired me to continue my research on gender and chemicals. 

As part of my master’s degree program at Lund University in Sweden, I completed a research project focused on gender equality and Multilateral Environmental Agreements (“MEAs”). I was intrigued by the ongoing work surrounding gender and chemicals on an international level and found that various MEAs have been incorporating gender equality into their processes. The research aim of this project was to gain an exploratory perspective on gender equality aspects in MEAs and how advancing gender equality goals can be mainstreamed in the United Nations (UN) political and administrative system. The thesis focused on international policies in recognition of the large impact that global environmental agreements have on national governments and the significant potential for positive change.

This led me to my three primary research aims:

(1) Investigating the terminology used in MEA treaty texts and how word choices can lead to various interpretations. 

(2) Looking at the major activities and themes from those which had MEA gender action plans. 

(3) Uncovering the challenges and barriers faced by the MEA Secretariats (the UN bodies which assists in the planning and implementation of the agreement [1]) and recommending opportunities for gender mainstreaming going forward. 

The study analyzed nine different MEAs with a focus on chemicals and waste related agreements. For a comparison aspect, two ozone depletion agreements, one biodiversity convention, and one climate change convention which have had some inclusion of gender equality aspects in their work were also analyzed. Although this research focused on chemicals and waste agreements, I learned from various practitioners that other environmental areas such as climate change and water management issues had been somewhat explored and documented, whereas chemicals and gender interlinkages was a newer area of focus [2]. I interviewed MEA secretariats who had worked on or around gender aspects in efforts to gain a detailed perspective on their challenges, barriers, and potential opportunities to increase gender mainstreaming.

Research results:

When examining the language and terminology used in MEAs around gender, I found that women were referenced in the treaty texts sparingly. Women were often mentioned as part of a list – mostly included in vulnerable populations amongst workers, children, the elderly, etc. This portrayed women as part of a community that needs protection, rather than as agents of change. However, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) global policy framework turned out to be an outlier in the MEA comparison. This framework included a significantly higher number of mentions around gender and women in the SAICM texts (Dubai Declaration on International Chemicals Management, Overarching Policy Strategy, Global Plan of Action, Annexes and Resolutions by the International Conference on Chemicals Management) compared to the other more traditional style MEAs. SAICM is a non-binding framework [3] which makes it unique from the other eight agreements reviewed. 

At the time this research was conducted (Spring 2021), there were four different MEA gender action plans found among the nine selected agreements. One of which was still in the review process and not yet finalized. Two chemicals and waste MEAs, one biodiversity, and one climate change agreement gender action plans were assessed. The top five most referenced activities were communication and awareness, stakeholder collaboration, baseline and reporting progress, implementation, and linkages to social and environmental issues amongst many other action items. 

From speaking with the MEA secretariats, ​​major takeaways were that the work to include a gender perspective is occurring, but the lack of funding and resources remains a persistent challenge. Despite this, gender action plans and action plan updates are still progressing, and data collection continues. Areas of opportunity that came up during these discussions were the importance of stakeholder collaboration and the benefits of working with other actors in the women and environment nexus and others such as the medical field. 

Research recommendations:

  • Gender and women considerations should be included in the SAICM Beyond 2020 texts. This can set a precedent for future gender mainstreaming work to be completed. If it’s not in the treaty text, the work might not get done.
  • SAICM should develop a gender action plan with particular attention to accountability measures, specifying targets and intended results, reporting on effectiveness of the plan, and a focus on communication and awareness with stakeholders and the public. 
  • Prioritizing funding for gender mainstreaming work within the UN system is crucial. For example, obtaining funding for pilot projects may demonstrate the viability of the work that parties are doing around gender equality — see for example the 2017 BRS Gender Heroes pilot projects [4]. Continuing collaboration with stakeholder groups and MEA secretariats is key to push the gender mainstreaming work forward. 

Conclusions and major takeaways:

Gender mainstreaming work is ramping up within the chemicals and waste-related international environmental agreements. However, with the SAICM intersessional meetings postponed until further notice, this work must continue or risk losing momentum. I strongly believe in the importance of sustaining and growing an intersectional perspective in this work. Key stakeholders from different backgrounds need to be heard and “in the room” when decisions are being made. Integrating a gender lens within environmental agreements and this important work will promote moving the needle towards a more sustainable and just future for all.

To read this thesis in its entirety, visit here.


[2] WECF & UNEP. (2016). Women and Chemicals: The impact of hazardous chemicals on women A thought starter based on an experts‘ workshop. 66.



Interested in the research results? Contact Megan Kalsman here.

Event Report: International Webinar “The Gender and Chemicals Road Map”/ Veranstaltungsbericht: Internationales Webinar zur “Gender and Chemicals Road Map”

Brief report on the webinar: “The Gender and Chemicals Road Map” 09/24/2021 via Zoom

(in german below)

On the 24th of September, the MSP Institute invited SAICM National Focal Points and other interested stakeholders to the international webinar “The Gender and Chemicals Road Map”, focusing on the integration of gender into national chemical policies. The objective of the workshop was to raise awareness of linkages between gender and chemicals, to present and discuss the Gender and Chemicals Road Map, and to promote international exchange on gender aspects among SAICM National Focal Points.

A total of 39 participants from governmental organizations, academia, civil society and industry attended the virtual workshop, including about 20 National Focal Points from different parts of the world.

The workshop started with a welcome by Dr. Minu Hemmati, associate at the MSP Institute, who facilitated the workshop. This was followed by the presentation of the Gender and Chemicals Road Map and the accompanying workbook by project manager Anna Holthaus, and a short Q&A. During the following “roundtable” discussion on “Potentials, initial experiences and barriers with regard to integrating gender in chemicals policy”, Jose de Mesa Alcalde from the SAICM Secretariat reported on the gender activities in the SAICM process so far, Susan Wingfield from the BRS Secretariat and Gender Focal Point spoke about the experiences of the BRS Conventions in integrating gender in national policy, and Dr. Hans-Christian Stolzenberg from the German Environment Agency and the German SAICM Focal Point commented on opportunities and challenges in the upcoming implementation of the Roadmap in Germany.

Participants were then invited to join the exchange on gender in national chemicals policy using a virtual ‘Mural’ board. The following questions were discussed:

  • Are there activities on gender and environment in your country?
  • What are the main challenges in integrating gender into national chemicals management?
  • What needs to be improved or added to the roadmap on gender and chemicals?
  • Which other tools or support would you need to (further) integrate gender into your work?
Virtual flipchart – exchange with participants on gender in national chemicals policy

Finally, Anna Holthaus invited the participants to use the roadmap and share their experiences and, together with Minu Hemmati, thanked them for their participation. Afterwards, participants were invited to an informal networking session, where some more exchange among participants took place.

The presentation on the webinar can be found here:

A recording of the webinar can be found here.

Blogartikel Kurzbericht Internationales Webinar „The Gender and Chemicals Road Map“, 24.09.2021 via Zoom

Am 24.09.2021 lud das MSP Institute alle SAICM National Focal Points und weitere interessierte Stakeholder zum internationalen Webinar „The Gender and Chemicals Road Map“ein. Thema war die Integration von Gender in nationale Chemikalienpolitik. Ziel des Workshops war es, Interesse an den Zusammenhängen von Gender und Chemikalien zu wecken, die Gender and Chemicals Road Map vorzustellen und zu diskutieren, sowie den internationalen Austausch zu Gender-Aspekten unter den SAICM National Focal Points zu ermöglichen.

Insgesamt nahmen 39 Teilnehmende aus Regierungsorganisationen, Wissenschaft, Zivilgesellschaft und Industrie am virtuell stattfindenden Workshop teil, darunter etwa 20 Nationale Focal Points aus verschiedenen Teilen der Welt.

Begonnen wurde mit einer Begrüßung und der Vorstellung der Agenda durch Dr. Minu Hemmati vom MSP Institute, die den Workshop moderierte. Darauf folgte die Vorstellung und Einführung der Gender and Chemicals Road Map und dem dazugehörigen Workbook durch Projektmanagerin Anna Holthaus, und ein kurzes Q&A, um Fragen zum Vortrag zu beantworten. Anschließend folgte ein „Runder Tisch“ zum Thema „Potentiale, erste Erfahrungen und Barrieren in Hinblick auf die Integration von Gender in der Chemikalienpolitik“. Jose de Mesa Alcalde vom SAICM Sekretariat berichtete über die bisherigen Gender-Aktivitäten im SAICM Prozess, Susan Wingfield vom BRS Sekretariat und Gender Focal Point sprach von den Erfahrungen der BRS Konventionen bei der Integration von Gender in nationaler Politik und Dr. Hans-Christian Stolzenberg vom Umweltbundesamt und Deutscher SAICM Focal Point äußerte sich zu möglichen Potentialen und Schwierigkeiten bei der kommenden Implementierung in Deutschland.

Danach wurde zum gemeinsamen Austausch zu Gender in nationaler Chemikalienpolitik auf dem virtuellen ‚Mural‘-Board eingeladen. Dort wurden folgende Fragen diskutiert:

  • Gibt es in Ihrem Land Aktivitäten zu den Themen Gender und Umwelt?
  • Was sind die größten Herausforderungen bei der Integration von Gender in das nationale Chemikalienmanagement?
  • Inwiefern muss die Roadmap zum Thema Gender und Chemikalien verbessert oder ergänzt werden?
  • Welche anderen Instrumente oder Unterstützung würden Sie benötigen, um die Gleichstellung der Geschlechter (weiter) in Ihre Arbeit zu integrieren?
Virtuelle Flipchart – Austausch über Gender im nationalen Chemikalienmanagement (auf Englisch)

Zum Abschluss lud Anna Holthaus die Teilnehmenden zur Nutzung der Roadmap und dem Teilen von Erfahrungen ein und bedankte sich gemeinsam mit Minu Hemmati für die Teilnahme. Im Anschluss wurde zu einem informalen Networking eingeladen, bei dem sich die Teilnehmenden noch ein wenig austauschten.

Die Präsentation zum Webinar finden Sie hier:

Eine Aufnahme des Webinars finden Sie hier.

Event report: Round table with Stakeholders/ Veranstaltungsbericht: Runder Tisch mit Stakeholdern

Brief report on the kick-off event: Roundtable with stakeholders – Shaping chemicals management together in a gender-responsive way.

(in German below)

Together with Dr Hans-Christian Stolzenberg, the German SAICM National Focal Point at the German Federal Environment Agency, the MSP Institute invited to a round table on the 20th of July 2021. The aim of the kick-off event in the new project GenChemRoadMap was to initiate the first exchange between different stakeholders of the German national chemicals management on gender equality and gender. 

More than 40 participants from industry, governmental and non-governmental organisations, as well as professional associations and the scientific community, followed the invitation to the virtual exchange. 

After a short overview of the agenda by Dr Minu Hemmati from the MSP Institute and the introduction of the German SAICM National Focal Point, Dr Jutta Emig, Head of the Division “International Chemical Safety, Sustainable Chemistry” at the German Federal Ministry of Environment, introduced the topic with her keynote on gender dimensions of chemicals management. Dr Emig shared her experiences in developing the Gender Impact Assessment for BMU in 2004-2005, and how she realised that “if you want to design chemical safety properly and safely, the gender issue [is] an integral part of it”.

Anna Holthaus, project manager at the MSP Institute, gave a presentation on the new project, the Gender and Chemicals Road Map, and the planned pilot implementation in Germany (see presentation below). 

Dr Minu Hemmati then invited the German Federal Ministry of Environment and the German Environment Agency to a brief interview on the issue of “Gender in national chemicals management. How can and must we think this together in Germany?”. Dr Jutta Emig and Astrid Thyssen (Division “Gender aspect in environment policy, social administration issues”, BMU) described previous activities on integrating gender aspects in different areas of environmental policy and the development of a gender strategy in the Ministry. Dr Hans-Christian Stolzenberg explained his ideas and vision regarding sustainable and gender-responsive chemicals management in Germany. Speakers agreed that more research and data collection, more awareness-raising and more tools for practical application are needed on the way to more gender-responsive chemicals management. 

Participants were then invited to brainstorm and exchange ideas using a virtual pinboard. For 30 minutes, they discussed which gender aspects in different chemical sectors are of particular relevance in Germany (the results can be found below). 

Dr Hans-Christian Stolzenberg and Anna Holthaus invited stakeholders to support the Gender and Chemicals Road Map and its implementation in Germany. Participants responded online how much they would like to be involved in the future. 

In a short reflection round towards the end, several stakeholders shared their impressions of the meeting: Prof Dr Klaus Kümmerer from the Leuphana University of Lüneburg emphasised that the entire life cycle of chemicals needs to be considered instead of individual chemicals and their occupational safety measures. Anna Geuchen from the Deutscher Naturschutzring explained that cross-cutting issues such as chemicals management and gender are finally receiving increasing attention at environmental organisations. Janine Richter from the Jungchemiker*innenforum (Young chemist forum) emphasised that, in particular, the younger generation is in favour of transformation towards sustainable chemistry, but that young women continue to suffer from inequalities. All three were pleased with the first exchange on gender and chemistry in Germany and welcomed further plans in the project. 

Dr Minu Hemmati thanked speakers and participants for the candid, successful exchange and for sharing their ideas for making chemicals management more gender-responsive. 

We are grateful for the support from various stakeholders for our project!
If you are interested in participating in our project, don’t hesitate to contact us via email: anna.holthaus[at]

Kurzbericht zur Auftakt-Veranstaltung: Runden Tisch mit Stakeholdern – Chemikalienmanagement gemeinsam geschlechtergerecht gestalten.

Zusammen mit Dr. Hans-Christian Stolzenberg, dem deutschen SAICM National Focal Point im Umweltbundesamt, lud das MSP Institute zum Runden Tisch am 20. Juli im neuen Projekt GenChemRoadMap ein. Ziel der Auftakt-Veranstaltung war ein erster Austausch verschiedener Stakeholder des deutschen nationalen Chemikalienmanagements zum Thema Geschlechtergerechtigkeit und Gender.

Mehr als 40 Teilnehmende aus Industrie, Regierungs- und Nichtregierungsorganisationen sowie Berufsverbänden und Wissenschaft folgten der Einladung zum virtuellen Austausch.

Nach einer kurzen Vorstellung der Agenda durch Dr. Minu Hemmati vom MSP Institute sowie der Vorstellung des deutschen SAICM National Focal Point führte Dr. Jutta Emig, Leiterin des Referats „Internationale Chemikaliensicherheit, Nachhaltige Chemie“ im BMU mit ihrer Keynote zu Gender-Dimensionen im Chemikalienmanagement ins Thema ein. Dr. Jutta Emig berichtete von früheren Erfahrungen bei der Entwicklung des Gender Impact Assessment und ihrer daraus gewonnenen Erkenntnis, dass, „wenn man Chemikaliensicherheit richtig und sicher gestalten möchte, die Genderfrage einfach dazu [gehört].“

Anschließend stellte Anna Holthaus, Projektmanagerin im MSP Institute, das Projekt, die Inhalte der Gender and Chemicals Road Map und die geplante Pilot-Umsetzung in Deutschland vor (siehe Präsentation unten).

Daraufhin lud Dr. Minu Hemmati zur kurzen Interviewrunde mit BMU und UBA zum Thema „Gender im nationalen Chemikalienmanagement. Wie können und müssen wir dies in Deutschland zusammendenken?“ Dr. Jutta Emig und Astrid Thyssen (Referat „Genderaspekte in der Umweltpolitik, soziale Verwaltungsangelegenheiten“, BMU) berichteten über die bisherigen Aktivitäten, unterschiedliche Sachlagen bei der Integration von Genderaspekten in verschiedenen Umweltpolitikbereiche und die Entwicklung einer Gender-Strategie im BMU. Dr. Hans-Christian Stolzenberg erläuterte seine Vorstellungen bezüglich eines nachhaltigen und geschlechter-gerechten Chemikalienmanagements in Deutschland. Auf dem Weg dorthin sind laut BMU und UBA mehr Forschung und Datenerhebung, eine stärkere Bewusstseinsbildung und weitere Instrumente für die praktische Anwendung notwendig und hilfreich.

Danach wurden die Teilnehmenden zum gemeinsamen Austausch an einer virtuellen Pinnwand eingeladen. Es gab ein Brainstorming und Diskussion darüber , welche Genderaspekte in verschiedenen Chemiesektoren von besonderer Relevanz in Deutschland sind (die Ergebnisse finden Sie unten).

Anschließend luden Hans-Christan Stolzenberg und Anna Holthaus zur weiteren Unterstützung und Mitwirkung an der Gender and Chemicals Road Map und deren Umsetzung in Deutschland ein. Die Teilnehmenden trugen hierzu auf der Pinnwand ein, in welcher Weise sie in Zukunft eingebunden werden möchten.

In einer kurzen Reflexionsrunde zum Abschluss äußerten verschiedene Stakeholder ihre gewonnen Eindrücke: Prof. Dr. Klaus Kümmerer von der Leuphana Universität Lüneburg betonte, dass – anstatt einzelner Arbeitsschutzmaßnahmen – der gesamte Lebenszyklus von Chemikalien betrachtet werden müsse. Anna Geuchen vom Deutschen Naturschutzring erläuterte, dass themenübergreifende Querschnittsaufgaben wie das Chemikalienmanagement und Gender zunehmende Beachtung in den Umweltverbänden fänden. Janine Richter vom Jungchemiker*innenforum betonte, dass sich gerade die jüngere Generation für einen Wandel zur Nachhaltigen Chemie ausspricht, aber junge Frauen weiterhin unter Chancenungerechtigkeiten leiden. Alle drei zeigten sich von dem erstmaligen Austausch zum Thema Gender in Deutschland erfreut und begrüßten die weiteren Vorhaben im Projekt.

Abschließend dankte Dr. Minu Hemmati den Teilnehmenden sowie den Referierenden für den gelungenen Austausch und die vielen Ideen und Denkanstöße zur geschlechtergerechten Gestaltung des Chemikalienmanagements.

Wir freuen uns über die Unterstützung verschiedenster Stakeholder für unser Vorhaben!

Wenn auch Sie Interesse an der Mitwirkung in unserem Projekt haben, melden Sie sich gerne bei uns: anna.holthaus[at]

Den ausführlichen Bericht zur Veranstaltung finden Sie hier:

Die Präsentation zu Veranstaltung finden Sie hier:

Die Ergebnisse des Stakeholder-Austausches finden Sie hier:

Why gender must be considered in national chemicals management and how we will try to take first steps in Germany


Illustration Gender Road Map bei miratrick

German Version below

Introducing our new project GenChemRoadMap

Gender Mainstreaming is “the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. […]” (ECOSOC 1997). In terms of chemicals management, this means that gender aspects must be considered at all levels of chemicals policy. At the international policy level, there are increasing efforts and discussions on how gender should be included in the international chemicals and waste management beyond 2020 (the SAICM Beyond 2020-Process). In the negotiations, we and our colleagues from other (women’s) organisations have been advocating on gender and women’s issues for several years and expect a clear and strong commitment to gender equality at the SAICM ICCM5 conference and in the outcome documents!

Even though such a commitment is urgently needed, the real implementation must take place at the national and local level! However, gender mainstreaming concepts for national chemicals policy or gendered legislation hardly exists.

A brief research reveals two publications: 

–  an overview study of gender and chemicals management in Tanzania (2016); and

–  a scientific paper on sex and gender in Canada’s chemicals management (2014),

yet there seem to be no official strategy documents or information about activities by governments. 

This is not really surprising as we are unfortunately still in the early stages of integrating gender into environmental and sustainability policy. However, change is underway: in the policy fields of climate change or biodiversity conservation, governments have agreed that gender aspects must be considered in the respective national strategies and action plans, and since 2019, several countries have a national gender and climate change focal point.  The chemicals community can and should build on these experiences!

During an online discussion of the Chemicals and SDGs Community of Practice in September 2020, participants discussed the implementation of gender mainstreaming into national policies: 

– 87,5% of the participants thought gender inequalities related to the management of chemicals and waste exist in their countries.

– To change this, most participants thought that the development of a gender action plan and additional research on chemicals and gender would be significant. 

– But in more than 50% of the countries, gender mainstreaming is not considered in environmental and health policies yet, and no gender experts or women’s organizations are involved in chemicals management at the national level.

(see the summary of the discussion: SAICM Secretariat/ University of Cape Town: 2020).

This urgently needs to change – otherwise, gender inequalities will remain one cause for ineffective and unjust chemicals management. That’s why we developed a “Gender Road Map”, a short guidance for a gender-responsive national chemicals policy for SAICM National Focal Points, and discussed it with the Community of Practice last year. The response was positive, and all participants indicated that such a road map might encourage SAICM focal points to integrate gender in their national chemicals management.

This year, we want to take it one step further: in our new project “GenChemRoadMap”, supported by the German Environment Agency. We want to create a training workshop and training materials based on this Gender Road Map, and we will advise the German SAICM Focal Point when taking its first steps towards implementing it. Experiences, challenges and successful elements of this pilot project will be discussed at the international level to enable mutual learning and encourage implementation activities in other countries. 

We are looking forward to the new project and believe that gender-responsive national chemicals management is urgently needed, and gender mainstreaming should be an essential task of all National SAICM Focal Point in the future!

If you are interested in our new project GenChemRoadMap, or you want to share and discuss questions, experiences and ideas, feel free to contact us: anna.holthaus[at]

If you want to stay informed about the project, its activities, events and results, please sign up for our newsletter: 

Warum Gender im nationalen Chemikalienmanagement berücksichtigt werden muss – und wie wir in Deutschland versuchen wollen, erste Schritte zu gehen

– unser neues Projekt GenChemRoadMap  –

Gender Mainstreaming ist “der Prozess, bei dem die Auswirkungen jeder geplanten Maßnahme, einschließlich Gesetzgebung, Politik oder Programme, in allen Bereichen und auf allen Ebenen auf Frauen und Männer geprüft werden“. Auf das Chemikalienmanagement bezogen bedeutet dies, dass auf allen Ebenen der Chemikalienpolitik Genderaspekte Beachtung finden müssen. Auf der internationalen Politikebene gibt es diesbezüglich verstärkt Bemühungen und Diskussionen, wie Gender im internationale Chemikalien- und Abfallmanagement nach 2020 (der SAICM Beyond 2020– Prozess) einbezogen werden soll. In den Verhandlungen sind wir gemeinsam mit unseren Kolleg*innen anderer (Frauen-)Organisationen seit mehreren Jahren aktiv beteiligt und erwarten ein klares und starkes Bekenntnis zu Geschlechtergerechtigkeit auf der SAICM ICCM5-Konferenz und in den Ergebnisdokumenten!

Aber auch wenn ein solches Bekenntnis dringend notwendig ist, muss die eigentliche Umsetzung auf der nationalen und lokalen Ebene erfolgen. Konzepte für die Integration von Gender Mainstreaming in die nationale Chemikalienpolitik oder eine geschlechtergerechte Gesetzgebung gibt es bisher jedoch kaum.

Bei einer kurzen Recherche findet man zwei Publikationen:

– Eine Übersichtsstudie zu Gender und Chemikalienmanagement in Tansania,

– und ein wissenschaftliches Papier zu Gender im kanadischen Chemikalienmanagement,

aber keine offiziellen Strategiedokumente oder Informationen über Aktivitäten von Regierungen. Dies sollte nicht überraschen, da wir uns leider noch immer in der Anfangsphase der Integration von Gender in Umwelt- und Nachhaltigkeitspolitik befinden. Aber es tut sich etwas: In den Politikfeldern Klimawandel oder Biodiversität müssen Genderaspekte in den jeweiligen nationalen Strategien und Aktionsplänen berücksichtigt werden und seit 2019 haben mehrere Länder eine nationale Gender- und Klimaschutzbeauftragte. Die Chemie-Community kann und sollte auf diesen Erfahrungen aufbauen!

Während einer Online-Diskussion der Chemicals and SDGs Community of Practice im September 2020 diskutierten die Teilnehmenden die Umsetzung von Gender Mainstreaming in nationalen Strategien:

– 87,5% der Teilnehmenden waren der Meinung, dass in ihren Ländern geschlechtsspezifische Ungleichheiten im Zusammenhang mit dem Umgang mit Chemikalien und Abfällen bestehen.

– Um dies zu ändern, hielt eine Mehrheit der Teilnehmenden die Entwicklung eines Gender-Aktionsplans und zusätzliche Forschung zu Chemikalien und Gender für besonders wichtig.

– Aber in mehr als 50% der Ländern der Teilnehmenden wird Gender Mainstreaming in der Umwelt- und Gesundheitspolitik noch nicht berücksichtigt; und auf nationaler Ebene sind keine Gender-Experten oder Frauenorganisationen in das Chemikalienmanagement eingebunden (siehe die Zusammenfassung der Diskussion: SAICM-Sekretariat/ Universität Kapstadt: 2020).

Dies muss sich dringend ändern – sonst bleiben geschlechtsspezifische Ungleichheiten eine der Ursachen für ineffektives und ungerechtes Chemikalienmanagement. Deshalb haben wir eine “Gender Road Map” entwickelt, einen Entwurf einer Kurzanleitung für eine geschlechtergerechte nationale Chemikalienpolitik für SAICM National Focal Points. Als wir den Entwurf im letzten Jahr mit der Community of Practice diskutierten, war die Resonanz positiv und die Teilnehmenden meinten, dass eine solche Roadmap nationale SAICM Focal Points ermutigen könnte, Gender in das nationale Chemikalienmanagement zu integrieren.

In diesem Jahr wollen wir einen Schritt weiter gehen: in unserem neuen Projekt “GenChemRoadMap”, das vom deutschen Umweltbundesamt unterstützt wird, wollen wir einen Trainingsworkshop und Trainingsmaterial basierend auf dieser Gender Road Map erstellen und den deutschen SAICM Focal Point bei seinen ersten Schritten und Aktivitäten zur Umsetzung unterstützen. Erfahrungen, Herausforderungen und Erfolge dieses Pilot-Projektes sollen daraufhin auf internationaler Ebene vorgestellt werden, um gegenseitiges Lernen zu ermöglichen und Umsetzungsaktivitäten in anderen Ländern zu fördern.

Wir freuen uns auf das neue Projekt und sind der Überzeugung, dass ein geschlechtergerechtes nationales Chemikalienmanagement dringend benötigt wird und Gender Mainstreaming in Zukunft eine wichtige Aufgabe aller nationalen SAICM Focal Points sein sollte!

Wenn Sie sich für unser neues Projekt GenChemRoadMap interessieren oder Fragen, Erfahrungen und Ideen austauschen und mit uns diskutieren möchten, können Sie uns gerne kontaktieren: anna.holthaus[at]

Wenn Sie über das Projekt, die geplanten Aktivitäten, Veranstaltungen und Ergebnisse auf dem Laufenden bleiben möchten, tragen Sie sich hier in unseren Newsletter ein:

A new generation of equality in the world of chemistry

#Youth voices: How to create a gender-just healthy planet

Interview with Elisabeth Keuten, Member of the Generation Equality Youth Task Force

MSP Institute: Hi Elisabeth, you are one of the thirty-nine international members of the Generation Equality Youth Task Force in the Beijing+25 process. You address a broad range of gender inequalities and their impact on the young generation in that work. Where do you see the connection between gender and chemistry? And can you think of any examples from your everyday life how this connection affects young people?

Elisabeth Keuten: When I think about chemistry, the image of a white man in a white coat comes to my mind. Chemistry is a male-dominated discipline with women[i] playing only a minor role. How come?
As a young feminist, I would like to take a moment and reflect on the causes of this gender gap in chemistry and other so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) disciplines: Chemistry is part of STEM and mainly considered of interest to boys and men, for example, here in Germany. Although girls are also often fascinated by STEM topics, most of them do not pursue their interests further at school, and that is a trend that continues into college education.
In fact, here in Germany, only 37% of undergraduate students, 35% of postgraduate students and 34% of chemistry PhD students are women, which is a stark underrepresentation (Lüttmann 2019).
I am not a student of chemistry, but I can imagine that young women in STEM disciplines have to deal with various challenges. Not only are young students often overwhelmed by the difficult contents of their studies, but gender roles hinder them even more – my impression is that young women are often feeling insecure when it comes to active participation in academic courses, especially in male-dominated disciplines. As a consequence, their self-esteem may suffer during their studies and that may also affect their academic performance.
On top of all this, women are structurally discriminated by the university system itself – and also by our overall patriarchal society![ii]

MSP Institute: That sounds pretty challenging! What are you as the Youth Task Force trying to do about it?

Elisabeth Keuten: Yes, indeed, that is the harsh reality: not one single country has reached gender equality! Therefore, the Generation Equality Forum (GEF), being an international movement focusing on gender equality, is dealing with the lack of gender equality and representation. Within this forum, six working groups, so-called Action Coalitions of different actors – UN Member States, international organisations, UN agencies, philanthropies, civil society organisations, youth organisations – focus on different thematic areas.
The Action Coalition “Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality” addresses the above-mentioned difficulties in an action-oriented manner. Actors engaged in this group, including UN Member States Armenia, Finland and Tunisia, will work together for the next five years to advocate, finance and support gender equality in technology and innovation – and thus also in STEM.
Challenges for women in STEM have often been overlooked, attracting attention much later than issues on gender-based violence or bodily autonomy, for example. As reflected in the youth report[iii] of the Generation Equality Youth Task Force, STEM is receiving more attention now, but this needs to further increase over the coming years.

MSP Institute: What would be your suggestions for the future?

Elisabeth Keuten: The question to be asked is how to overcome these problems of inequality? I propose to continue making small but steady steps and working on concrete issues.
For example, more women’s working groups in chemistry could create “safe spaces” of mutual support and opportunities of empowerment. In my experience, such groups can create an appreciative and safe atmosphere, where one can freely discuss all kinds of questions. While empowerment of women should take place in dialogue with men, I believe it is vital to establish safe spaces for exchange.
In order to avoid a widening gender gap in chemistry, girls should be actively encouraged to explore scientific subjects at school and in extra-curricular activities. Teachers and parents who are supportive can create a learning atmosphere that helps to increase girls’ interest and performance.
Additionally, career fairs and campaign days may raise awareness of possible future careers in chemistry. Increasing scholarships for women in STEM should also be considered; some do exist but they need to be publicized further in order to increase uptake.
External contributions like scholarship programs not only provide financial resources but also create extra-curricular workshops and seminars as well as networking opportunities with other women in STEM. Such training and networks can help facilitate early career steps.
Lastly, the impact of role models is often underestimated, yet they can also help to encourage pupils and students. Eminent figures of female chemists can open new dimensions to those who are considering chemistry for their future careers. Not only can professionals offer their perspective on the male-dominated discipline, but encourage and share knowledge as well as coping strategies.
Policy-makers, as well as media, should support these small steps within programs, project publications and funding opportunities. And together with international high-level cooperation, as in the Generation Equality Task Force, I believe that global changes towards more gender equality in chemistry are indeed possible! Chemistry as a discipline and career will certainly be an example of changes towards gender equality in the coming years and decades.

MSP Institute: We strongly believe that too! Let’s join forces for a new generation of equality in the world of chemistry. Thank you very much, Elisabeth, for sharing your insights and views!

[i] Please note that we include trans*, non-binary and those identifying as women when saying “women”, “girl” or “female”.

[ii] Further information on the impact of structural disadvantages of women in the academic field, see Royal Society of Chemistry (2018) and UNESCO (2010).

[iii] The Youth Report reflects the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted in 1995 and points out missing areas of concern.

We spoke with Elisabeth Keuten

Member of the Generation Equality Youth Task Force

Twitter: @EKeuten

References and further information

Lüttmann, Christian (2019): Dauer, Abschlüsse, Frauenquote – Das Chemiestudium in Zahlen. Online at:

Generation Equality Forum (2020): Accelerating Progress for Gender Equality by 2030.Online at:

Generation Equality Forum (2020): Action Coalitions.Online at:

Generation Equality Youth Task Force (2020): 25 Years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: A Youth Report. Online at:

Royal Society of Chemistry (2018): Breaking the Barriers: Women’s Retention and Progression in the Chemical Sciences. Online at:

UNESCO (2010): Gender Issues in Higher Education: Advocacy Brief. Online at:

Photos by: Bree Evans and by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

Grooming, bleaching & Co: How gender, chemicals and cosmetics are linked and what that means for our health

#Expert-Blog Series: How to create a gender-just-healthy planet

by Pia Cimander, Intern at MSP Institute

Dieses Bild hat ein leeres Alt-Attribut. Der Dateiname ist gemma-chua-tran-Z-O5kbDjXFM-unsplash-1024x683.jpg
Source: Photo by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash

Soooo many cosmetics…

Walking through the aisles of a German drugstore, you’d notice the vast amount of cosmetics and care products piled up around you. Prices vary from cheap (bottom) to expensive (top), and products shine in all colors of the rainbow. For every part of the body, for every part of the face, and for every age. Products “for men” are strictly separated, from all the rest. i.e. the ones probably intended for women. The compartment with products for men is much smaller, there are fewer products and the packaging is also less conspicuous.
Whether distinguishing cosmetic products “for men” and “for women” is necessary is open to question, but the fact that the product range for women is so much larger should be examined and the reasons for this scrutinized.
Whatever the reasons, however, there are enough customers buying these products – despite the fact that ingredients are often poorly researched and components poorly declared.

The market is booming, but at what price?

In 2019, sales in the market for cosmetics and toiletries in Germany alonge were around € 15 billion [1]. Worldwide, annual sales amount to around € 220 billion, with an upward trend [2]. Women are the largest consumer group of cosmetics and personal care products. They use an average of 15 different such products every day. These contain up to 100 chemicals, many of them toxic or potentially toxic [3]. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) [4] and the Endocrine Society [5], EDCs (endocrine disrupting chemicals) in cosmetic products increase the likelihood of serious and even potentially fatal diseases and health disorders.

There are many reasons why women around the globe buy so many cosmetic products, including: the market and marketing suggests that women need all kinds of cosmetics and care products. Shampoo, for example, should simply clean hair of residues, grease and dead skin flakes. Instead, there is a suitable shampoo for every hair type, every taste and every feel. In addition, there are always new trends, also reflected in cosmetics. For example, As society is increasingly concerned with a “healthy” lifestyle, a clean and vegan diet and minimalistic styling, this is also reflected on the shelves of drugstores. In addition, so-called influencers increasingly impact purchasing and consumption behavior. When a certain product is advertised and shown frequently, the consumers’ interest increases and sales rise as well [6]. In addition, a well-groomed appearance is demanded by society, especially of women, and employers, for example, also usually attach great importance to this[10],[11].

Bleaching for beauty and jobs?

A particularly unsettling example of risky cosmetics in order to meet societal ideas of beauty and status is the increasing use of skin-lightening products, cures and creams, which are becoming more and more popular, especially in Asian and African countries. With an expected turnover of US$ 31.2 billion by 2024, they represent the fastest growing sector in the beauty industry [9], with the largest markets in Asia, particularly in the Philippines. However, they pose an enormous risk for their mostly female consumers [7]. So if potential employers mention a “well-groomed appearance” in their job applications, it can be assumed that, among other things, this also refers to the lightest possible skin [10],[11],[7]. Creams, cosmetic treatments and even intravenous cures are offered at almost all price ranges. One example is the so-called “Cinderella drip”, an intravenous treatment that destroys the skin’s natural melanin through the antioxidant glutathione and thus lightens the skin. Glutathione and its long-term effects on the human body have been poorly researched; they are not recommended by the FDA for medical use [8], for example. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns against such creams, especially against the mercury salts they may contain, which have been found several times in skin-lightening products, as mercury inhibits the formation of melanin and thus leads to a brighter skin tone. The Minamata Convention on mercury sets a limit of 1 mg/kg (1 ppm) for skin-lightening products, but many cosmetic products contain mercury in higher concentrations than this to enhance the whitening effect [9]. Many skin-lightening products are available via a ‘black market’ precisely because of these health hazards.

Major problems with the (illegal) trade of skin bleaches and side effects caused by their use can also be found in African countries. Such products are advertised on large street adverts as well as on television, and on the Internet. Many influencers report (mostly on YouTube and Instagram) talk about their successes with skin-lightening creams, tinctures and capsules, some of which they distribute themselves.

Lightened skin can help less privileged women as a “stepping stone” into a profession, because light skin stands for social advancement and is considered attractive by society [7]. However, the use of cheap creams and duplicates is highly dangerous and can lead to extreme damage such as possible mercury poisoning.


Reasons for wanting to lighten the skin are firmly anchored in colonial history, and the racist structures of our globalized world [12],[13]. Questioning the resulting ideals of beauty and overcoming discrimination is the task of society and politics.
Changing our ideas of beauty, however, will take time. Meanwhile, transparency and control of ingredients of bleaching products as well as of cosmetics of any kind needs to increase significantly, and people need to become aware of risks and side effects. Otherwise, the price people are paying for looking “beautiful” or “successful” is way too high.

SAICM Issues of Concern

In the SAICM process, chemicals in cosmetics are considered in the discussions on “Issues of Concern”, and the Emerging Policy Issues “chemicals in products” and “endocrine-disrupting chemicals” are of particular relevance to cosmetics and care products. This is an important stepping stone for getting things right. A comprehensive, ambitious and gender-responsive SAICM Beyond 2020 is very much needed.

Sources and further information:




[4] WHO/UNEP, “WHO | State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012,” WHO (World Health Organization, 2013),

[5] Endocrine Scientific Statement (review), 2015:









Chemical safety at work: What’s gender got to do with it?

Expert – Blog Series: How to create a gender-just healthy planet

by Halshka Graczyk – International Labour Organization (ILO)

Women working with chemicals; Source: ILO

Recognising diversity, including gender differences at the workplace, is critical for protecting the health and safety of workers, particularly when it comes to hazardous exposures from chemical substances. A number of social as well as biological factors impact the effect that chemicals have on worker health and safety. Not only may exposure scenarios be different depending on factors related to gender, the impact of exposure may be different dependent on biological sex characteristics.  

In regards to exposures, owing to differences in social and occupational roles, and prevailing harmful stereotypes, women, men and persons with diverse gender identities[1] face different exposure scenarios in regards to the chemicals encountered and the magnitude and duration of exposure. Recent ILO estimates reveal that female workers constitute the majority of the workforce in specific occupations, ones that may face increased exposures to chemicals, such health professionals; cleaners; and food processing, wood working, garment and craft workers (Figure 1). Female workers in the garment sector for example are disproportionately exposed to a number of hazardous dyes and solvents, some of which are proven carcinogens, as well as endocrine disrupting chemicals.

Figure 1. Sectors with prevalent female workforce; Source: ILOSTAT 2020)

Unfortunately, work predominantly undertaken by women is often presumed to be less hazardous than that undertaken by men, and may consequently receive less attention for critical workplace procedures, such as risk assessment, or worker training. In addition, work tools and personal protective equipment (PPE) have been traditionally designed for the Western male body. Tools and PPE with poor fit can lead to reduced protection and increase the risk of chemical exposure and accidents. In some cases, workers with poor fitting PPE may forgo using it at all. Female workers entering traditionally male jobs in areas like construction, laboratory work and emergency services are particularly at risk from inappropriately designed PPE.

When it comes to decision making at work, women may be less likely to be heads of operations and therefore have less decision-making power when it comes to hazardous exposures. Women are also less likely than men to be unionized and have high-level positions in workers organizations’ and less likely to participate in OSH committees.[i]

In regards to health effects, it is well evidenced that biological differences between sexes, such as physiological, chromosomal, and hormonal differences, create differing susceptibilities to the effects of toxic chemicals. Female workers are at particularly high risk during child bearing years and pregnancy, when even low-doses of chemicals might elicit dramatic and irreversible effects. This is particularly relevant for endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that are able to induce hormonal effects at extremely low dosages, affecting fertility, fecundity and fetal development.

In addition, females are more likely to have more adipose tissue and to store chemicals that bioaccumulate, such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and heavy metals like mercury. Female workers exposed to mercury in artisanal mining, in the dismantling of e-waste, or other sectors, may face severe consequences to their reproductive health, and exposure during pregnancy may result in spontaneous abortion, neurobehavioral consequences, or birth defects. The fact that mercury can bioaccumulate means that occupational exposures even years before pregnancy can still negatively affect the developing fetus.

Recent data shows that occupational cancers represent an important and growing cause for work-related deaths. While many occupational studies do not report gender disaggregated data, those that do cite an alarming trend of increased cancer rates in female workers exposed to chemicals, namely within rubber and plastics production, and in jobs involving exposures to solvents, dusts, heavy metals, and pesticides. A different cellular response to oxidative stress between men and women in cancer susceptibility has been hypothesized, raising the question of whether the classification of occupational carcinogens should be gender specific.[ii]

However it is essential to note that biological susceptibility should never be used as an excuse to discriminate against workers entering a job; instead jobs or tasks must be accommodated to protect workers’ health.

Despite evidence for gender-based differences when it comes to OSH and chemicals, it is clear that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Occupational health research for female workers has focused on limited sectors. Very few physiological or toxicological studies have been carried out on chemical exposures, and the studies for gender diverse persons are virtually non-existent. Moreover, women’s occupational illnesses are often under-diagnosed, under-reported and under-compensated compared with men’s, making it difficult to extrapolate from occupational disease registries.[iii]

ILO role and response

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) was founded on the concept of guaranteeing protection for the life and health of all workers in all occupations, including workers exposed to hazardous chemicals. As such, the ILO has adopted more than 50 legal instruments on the protection of workers from chemical hazards, including Conventions, their accompanying Recommendations, and Codes of Practice. These legal instruments refer to “all workers” ensuring that all persons are protected from chemical hazards, in the workplace as well as in the wider community.

In addition to chemical instruments, the ILO Maternity Protection Convention (No. 183) sets out that pregnant women should not be obliged to carry out work that is a significant risk to her health and safety or that of her child. It outlines the need for the elimination of any workplace risk, additional paid leave to avoid exposure if the risk cannot be eliminated, and the right to return to her job or an equivalent job as soon as it is safe for her to do so. The accompanying Recommendation (No.191) provides for specific risk assessment and management of risks concerning pregnant women, including exposure to biological, chemical or physical agents which represent a reproductive hazard.

The ILO has also developed Guidelines for Gender Mainstreaming in Occupational Safety and Health to assist policy-makers and practitioners in taking a gender-sensitive approach for the development and implementation of OSH policy and practice. In taking a gender sensitive approach, one recognizes that because of different jobs that men and women participate in, and the different societal roles, expectations and responsibilities they have, they may face unique chemical exposure scenarios, thus requiring appropriately designed control measures. This approach improves the understanding that gender-based division of labour, biological differences, employment patterns, social roles and structures all contribute to gender-specific patterns of hazardous exposures.

Chemical safety at the workplace can no longer afford to be gender-blind. Unless we begin to recognize, respect and address gender diversity at work, and develop inclusive and responsive gender-sensitive OSH policies and practice, we will never be able to fully protect workers, their families and their communities from the scourge of hazardous chemical exposures that continue to occur worldwide.

[1] Gender identity may or may not correspond with the biological sex assigned, and should rather be understood as the individual personal experience of gender. Gender identity exists on a spectrum and is not necessarily confined to completely male or completely female. While the terms “women,” “men,” “female” and “male” are used here to describe research findings, gender diversity encompasses persons of all gender identities and/or expressions.

[i] ILO (2013).–en/index.htm

[ii] Ali I, Högberg J, Hsieh JH, Auerbach S, Korhonen A, Stenius U, Silins I. Gender differences in cancer susceptibility: role of oxidative stress. Carcinogenesis. 2016;37:985–992. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgw076.

[iii] ILO (2013).–en/index.htm