Gender and Sustainable Chemistry: how women can benefit from sustainable chemistry …and sustainable chemistry from them

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

by Creta Gambillara – International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre (ISC3)

“We need chemistry to move forward the [UN] 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We need chemistry to eradicate poverty. We need chemistry to bolster health. We need chemistry to mitigate the impacts of climate change. In a word, we need chemistry for human rights and dignity, to leave no one behind. Not just any chemistry…

We need green chemistry…sustainable chemistry…chemistry that respects the boundaries of the planet…chemistry that is inclusive, that works for the benefit of all…Indeed, the modern world, as never before, needs green [and sustainable] chemistry.’

Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO, 2017[i]

These few sentences by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, depict in a nutshell what sustainable chemistry is about. The transition to sustainable chemistry requires a new approach of systems thinking which builds upon green chemistry, addresses the full lifecycle of chemical products and embraces the triple bottom line of sustainability – people, planet and prosperity. Sustainable chemistry strives not only to provide safer alternatives, but also aims at contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through innovative and viable solutions that enable a circular economy.  

But what can sustainable chemistry mean from a gender perspective?

Sustainable chemistry (SC) provides a promising opportunity to mainstream gender-specific aspects in the chemicals sector and beyond. As a holistic approach, it encompasses ethic principles and social aspects. It addresses vulnerable groups and human right issues (women’s rights, rights of the child, workers’ rights), ethics of science (e.g. against military purposes), the prevention of future legacies, the precautionary principle and calls on the responsibility of all stakeholders involved in producing and using chemicals. 
Similar to the gender mainstreaming approach, SC helps us understand and tackle root causes of unsustainable behavior and make trade-offs visible.

Let’s have a look at the innovation field

Entrepreneurs, researchers and founders in industrialized countries and even more so in developing countries represent the change-makers and innovation drivers of their communities by solving key local and global societal problems through innovative products and processes, for example, in waste management and renewable feedstock.

Innovative solutions very often originate from the chemical sector, its research community and start-up companies in different areas. Unfortunately, these solutions do not easily find their way to the market, and particularly female researchers and founders face a long and stony way towards success, especially in searching for funding sorces, financial support from investors, training possibilities or lack of equipments and adequate lab spaces. Female founders are strongly underrepresented in technology-intensive areas, which is closely related to the low number of women with a background in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

According to the Silicon Valley Bank Report 2019 about Women in Technology Leadership 2019[ii], only 28% of all technology start-ups have at least one female founder. Kuschel et al (2020) “This underrepresentation of women in innovation-driven business startups highlights existing gender biases and systemic disadvantages in social structures, making visible the double masculinity that exists at the intersection of STEM and entrepreneurship.”[iii]

STEM fields show a high level of gender imbalance, chemistry included, and in all regions of the world. Traditional structures persist, and structural barriers hinder the equal engagement of women in entrepreneurship. Furthermore, they limit opportunities for women as entrepreneurs within fields “where earnings are higher, startups have higher growth expectations, and both public support systems and private venture capital tend to focus.“[iv]

The Female Founders Monitor 2019 makes it clear that while women are indeed more strongly represented than in previous years, they are still drastically underrepresented when it comes to founding young, innovative companies.

Looking at the green and sustainable chemistry startups landscape in Germany, for example, we see that green startups have a significantly higher female founder quota (22%) compared to non-green startups (13%)[v]. In fact, female founders are more motivated by social and societal issues, thus establishing new business fields at the interface between economy and society. Moreover, social entrepreneurship and green economy seems to be a high priority for women.
Hence, we can assume that increasing women’s leadership in STEM fields and fostering female entrepreneurship in green and sustainable chemistry could further strengthen the introduction of green applications and circular business models.

Why is progress so slow? What are the difficulties for female start-ups?

As Brigitte Zypries, former German Federal Minister of Economics and Energy, put it, “the existing [political] measures designed to help women to set up their own businesses are far from adequate. […] It is still made much more difficult for women to obtain the necessary funding. This is clearly reflected in access to venture capital or business angels. […] We must overcome these and other obstacles. Then it will be much easier for women entrepreneurs to think bigger and to realize their full potential.”[vi]

Let’s have a look now at education in chemistry

When looking at school or university curricula in chemistry, gender aspects are rarely considered.

Statistics on chemistry courses 2008-2018 by Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (GDCh) make it clear, that in Germany there has been a slight and steady increase in the proportion of female new chemistry students since 2011, from 36% to 43% in 2018, although the difference between the genders is greater when it comes to degrees: only about a third of these degrees are held by women (Bachelor’s: 37%, Master’s: 35%, doctorate 34%; as of 2018).

More attention is needed, for instance on gender relevant aspects in toxicology – also in connection with gender medicine, which is currently gaining popularity in medical research, (see https://www.journals.elsevier.com/gender-medicine), but also with regard to gender-aspects in chemicals management.

Sustainable chemistry offers a different way of thinking and teaching chemistry. By adopting a more comprehensive perspective, SC raises the awareness for the fact that the chemistry of the future has to find sustainable answers for global problems. Teaching sustainable chemistry means challenging chemists and engineers to design substances, processes and services by considering the whole lifecycle of materials, focusing on closing loops and circularity processes, on non-chemical alternatives and the producers and consumers themselves. It requires out of the box thinking and new curricula in chemistry education, where gender-specific aspects are included. A novel programme teaching this new holistic approach to sustainable chemistry was jointly developed by the Institute of Sustainable and Environmental Chemistry at Leuphana University and ISC3. The programme was successfully launched at Leuphana Professional School in March 2020.[vii]

Looking ahead

Much has still to be done to strengthen and mainstream the gender topic within the chemicals sector. Developing sustainable chemistry with its holistic approach can help mainstreaming gender-relevant aspects in chemistry – in education, innovation, entrepreneurship and beyond. 
It can help raising questions and highlighting the shortcomings that still exist.    
It can point out how women’s participation and leadership in STEM affects the chemical environment.
It can underline where there is lack of progress and it can help realize unused potentials for further development in chemistry.
Sustainable development cannot be achieved without sustainable chemistry, and sustainable chemistry cannot be implemented without the empowerment of women and gender equality.

The International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre (ISC3) is an international think tank, dedicated to shape the transformation of the chemicals sector towards sustainability. By promoting the emerging concept of sustainable chemistry as a new holistic approach, the ISC3 strives to contribute to the sound management of chemicals and waste as well as to the Agenda 2030 and the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The ISC3 has taken on the gender topic in its portfolio as a part of its sustainability agenda with the goal of strengthening the specific gender aspects in entrepreneurship, innovation, research etc.

The author: Creta Gambillara has been working in the chemicals /textile sector for over 10 years, sustainability issues have been at the core of her advocacy activities for many years. Since 2019, she has been working as a Policy Manager at ISC3. International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre (ISC3), Creta Gambillara, M +49 175 44 30 179; creta.gambillara[at]isc3.org,  www.isc3.org

References

[i] Address at the PhosAgro / UNESCO / IUPAC Award-Giving Ceremony (Grants for research projects proposed by young scientists in green and sustainable chemistry) St. Petersburg, 2 June 2017

[ii] Women in Technology Leadership 2019, Key insights from the Silicon Valley Bank Startup Outlook Survey https://www.svb.com/globalassets/library/uploadedfiles/content/trends_and_insights/reports/women_in_technology_leadership/svb-suo-women-in-tech-report-2019.pdf

[iii] Stemming the gender gap in STEM entrepreneurship – insights into women’s entrepreneurship in science, technology, engineering and mathematics by Katherina Kuschel & Kerstin Ettl & Cristina Díaz-García & Gry Agnete Alsos, Published online: 5 March 2020, in International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal (2020) 16:1–15, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11365-020-00642

[iv] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11365-020-00642-5

[v] Green-Startup Monitor 2020 by Borderstep Institut für Innovation und Nachhaltigkeit gemeinnützige GmbH and Bundesverband Deutsche Startups e. V.

[vi] Female Founders Monitor 2019, by Bundesverband Deutsche Startups e.V. The translation into English is done by the author of this article

[vii] www.leuphana.de/sustainable-chemistry

Nesting – Reducing the exposure to chemicals in everyday products with simple steps

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

by Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF)

Source: Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

www.nestbau.info – an information program by WECF for young families, pregnant women and anyone who wants to know which harmful chemicals can be found in everyday products, how to protect themselves, and what governments do to protect consumers?

Going shopping without worrying because the products are safe and harmless to our health – that would be great. It would be particularly great if you have already too much on your mind and you only want the best – for example, for the baby that is expected or for the little offspring that is already in the world. But it would also be excellent if it would be “only” about your own health. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Many of our everyday products contain chemicals that are suspected or known to be harmful to the environment and our health. 

We at WECF – Women Engage for a Common Future – have been campaigning for years for a ban on harmful chemicals in products. Therefore, we have developed our program www.nestbau.info – a “best practice tool” to inform and raise awareness. This should actually be a task for governments so that sustainable chemicals management is finally implemented. A crucial international process in this regard is the SAICM Beyond 2020 process. However, governments have not fulfilled their duty of care and prevention to the necessary extent so far. Thus, education and information are the only way to protect unborn children, children, women and men from harmful substances. 

Synthetic chemicals occur in nearly all areas of life. Unfortunately, this means that these chemicals are also used in the products that are intended for us consumers. Formaldehyde in cosmetics, softeners in plastics, per- and polyfluorinated fabrics (PFC) in outdoor clothing, or pesticides in food – depending on the type of product, we take them with us when we go shopping, we furnish our homes with them, we keep our homes clean by using them, wear them as a garment or apply them as cosmetics on our skin. When these substances escape from the products, we can absorb them through breathing, skin and food. Analyses of blood samples, the umbilical cord, sperm or fatty tissue show that every person is contaminated with dozens of harmful substances. 

There are about 100,000 chemicals on the market worldwide. Only a small number of them have been tested extensively for health effects and are regulated accordingly. This means that they may no longer be added to certain products or only in small quantities. However, many chemicals are already known to be harmful to health. They are known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic for reproduction or endocrine disruptive (affecting the hormone system), but they can also trigger allergies, impair IQ development, etc. Nevertheless, they can be found in the products we use every day.

Women and children are particularly vulnerable to chemicals of concern. That is why WECF is focusing on these groups in its chemicals work and with www.nestbau.info.

Due to their higher fat content in the tissue, women accumulate more fat-soluble and bio-accumulating chemicals such as plasticizers, which are found in many plastic products and hygiene articles.

The different stages of physical development that women go through and which are controlled by the hormone system make them very susceptible to hormonally active substances: during puberty, lactation, menopause and pregnancy women react particularly sensitively to these substances. Pregnant women are also the first environment of their children. Exposure to hormonally active substances can disrupt hormonally controlled developmental processes and have critical health effects on the unborn child. The placenta is not a safe barrier for harmful substances, which are transferred from mother to child. According to the International Federation of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians, many babies are already born with up to 200 substances in their small bodies.

Another problem is that we absorb a large number of chemicals every day, from a wide variety of sources, so that many different chemicals come together in our bodies. And it is not known how they interact! The so-called cocktail or sum effect, however, is scientifically proven to play a significant role in the risk assessment and should be a decisive factor in the development of regulations and “safe” limit values. 

It is the responsibility of governments to protect our health and the environment from harmful chemicals through regulations and laws. In many points, however, regulations are not sufficient – not even in Europe, where REACH, a world-leading chemicals legislation has been implemented, and the precautionary principle should apply. For example, hormonally active substances which are found in many everyday products are not sufficiently taken into account in REACH and other directives.

Many questions remain open for consumers: How can I protect myself? What can I consume as an alternative, and what not? Can I do all this without having to become an expert and complicate my everyday life? The simple and relieving answer to this question is: you do not need to be an expert status, but you need to be proactive: you have to inform yourself. WECF has developed the nest-building program in order to answer questions such as “Which product is the right one?” and to provide consumers with concrete help. 

For selected product groups, the program provides you with concrete, easy-to-implement suggestions regarding:  

  • Body care 
  • Detergents
  • Renovation and furnishing
  • Toys 
  • Textiles

A list of harmful substances helps to avoid them and stay on the safe side safe when shopping. Additionally, we provide advice on product groups for which there is no legal obligation to declare the ingredients and explain how to check if a product is as safe as possible. Politically, we are working to ensure that a declaration obligation is finally implemented.

In addition to the www.nestbau.info website, the entire nest-building package consists of, the brochure ” Beware! Toxic Chemicals in everyday life”, the app “giftfrei einkaufen” (shop without toxics – in German), a postcard or flyer as well as numerous compact guides on toys, hormone-like acting chemicals, care products, etc. The material is available in English and many other languages such as German, French, Dutch, Turkish and also Chinese. 

As briefly mentioned In the beginning, the SAICM process is intended to continue on the path to sustainable chemicals management globally in the future. SAICMs “Chemical in Products” (CiP) program is particularly important for consumers: according to the program, information about which chemical is contained in which product should be accessible, and at least regulated chemicals that are attributed potential health hazards should be labelled.

WECF is working with a number of other NGOs at the national and international level to implement the CiP programme. However, practice still lags far behind what is needed. In the meantime, it is all the more important to inform yourself and to shop as toxic-free as possible, for example with the help of www.nestbau.info.

Resources for further information:

https://www.figo.org/

https://academic.oup.com/endo/article/160/6/1421/5473530

https://noharm-uscanada.org/sites/default/files/documents-files/51/Body_Burden_in_Newborns.pdf

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/331794876_Environmental_toxins_and_the_impact_of_other_endocrine_disrupting_chemicals_in_women%27s_reproductive_health

https://ipen.org/sites/default/files/documents/ipen-intro-edc-v1_9a-en-web.pdf

Plastic and Toxic Free Period: a new information resource and a clearinghouse for people who menstruate

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

by Olga Speranskaya and Alexandra Caterbow, HEJSupport Co-directors

Source: HEJSupport

The future where plastics- and toxic free female sanitary products are affordable and available globally and where the environment is free from a top-ten source of non-value plastic waste is just around the corner. Many good alternatives exist, in few countries, some regulation is on its way and the topic surfaces slowly on the agenda of decision makers. Now is the time to bring solutions to the public and to decision makers and raise pressure on big manufacturers to produce healthy and environmentally friendly products.

With the new Clearing House website www.ptfperiod.info highlighting the issue, information about women and chemicals with the focus on toxic chemicals and plastic in menstruation products becomes clear and easy to understand. Readers do not need to spend time searching through numerous resources to find information they need. Everything is available in just one click.

The website is connected to global and national campaigns on toxic free menstruation products happening around the world and organized by our partners. It includes twitter messages on the issue posted from different countries and regions with hashtags such as #ptfperiod, #periodaction, #PlasticFreePeriods, #periodwithoutplastic.

The Clearing House website is the cornerstone of cooperation, outreach, information sharing, and awareness raising. It provides an excellent basis that helps to elevate national activities of single organisations to a global movement. The project resulted in building a coalition of NGOs working on plastic and toxic free period in many different countries, regions and globally. 

What role do hygiene products play in the life of people?

Hygiene products play an essential role in women’s life by helping them stay clean and confident. They are comfortable and convenient which makes women depend on them, sometimes daily. Conventional stores suggest a variety of hygiene products including external products such as sanitary pads and panty liners as well as internal tampons and menstrual cups. Women chose what suits better for their lifestyle.

The average woman will use 12,000 to 16,000 disposable feminine hygiene products in her lifetime and it can take up to 100 years or more for something like a plastic pad or applicator to break down. Noting that early puberty is becoming more frequent in our days (in part as a result of chemical exposures¹), the use of feminine hygiene products will be skyrocketing in the near future. During a woman’s fertile years, period-related garbage makes about 0.5% of her “personal landfill load” which is comparable to the percentage of the annual trash made from plastic plates and cups.

Can toxic chemicals in hygiene products impact the health of women?

Women and the environment are highly contaminated with hazardous plastic chemicals in feminine hygiene products. Conventional sanitary pads are made from up to 90% crude oil-sourced plastic and can contain associated plasticizing chemicals like BPA and BPS, and petrochemical additives which are known endocrine disrupting substances and are linked to e.g. infertility, heart diseases and cancer. Phthalates, mainly used as plasticizers, are a common ingredient in tampon applicators, and are known to disrupt hormone function and may lead to multiple organ diseases. Phthalates can leach from finished products when handled. Many of these chemicals can cross the placenta, some of them more readily than others. The recent research found troubling bisphenol concentrations in the placenta and cord blood² which

highlights the issue that chemicals a mother is exposed to can impact the development of the fetus.

How to manage hygiene products when they become waste?

If conventional hygiene products contain plastic, they cannot be recycled to reduce their load on the environment, as they are designed to collect human waste. In addition, these products are largely made of low-density polyethylene. While plastic bottles and containers can often be recycled, hygienic products are considered to be single-use, non-value plastic products which are subject to quick disposal. They end up in incinerators, landfills, illegal dumping grounds, water sources, seas and oceans. They cannot be composted or repurposed into new products. Waste pickers avoid collecting this type of garbage as it is disgusting and of no use to them. According to a Life Cycle Assessment of tampons conducted by the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology, recycling of low-density polyethylene is energy consuming as it requires high amounts of fossil fuel generated energy. As a result, used hygiene products usually end up either in landfills, sewer systems, waterways or are incinerated.

The multi-billion-dollar industry that manufactures feminine and other hygienic products, profits from the dominance of disposable products. They have succeeded in making consumers believe that disposables are not only the most convenient and affordable option, but also have no health or environmental risks.

Better solutions to conventional feminine hygienic products exist but are not available in many countries or are unknown to women making them a limited as a safer option.

What information does the Clearing House website provide?

To help people find information on hygienic products they need, the new Clearing House website provides resources regarding global campaigns, new science, toxic free alternatives and more. It also acts as the platform for sharing knowledge and experience, advocacy work, new ideas and advices for everyone who menstruates. In addition, it shares presentations at the recent webinar on toxic and plastic free menstruation products that we organised to discuss important issues about period products, their effects on the health of people and the environment, and what difference we can make to minimise the negative impact and ensure the availability of more sustainable, plastic and toxic free options.

For more information about the Clearing House website www.ptfperiod.info and how to become a partner, please contact HEJSupport team at info[at]hej-support.org

(1) https://www.nwhn.org/early-puberty-for-girls-the-new-normal-and-why-we-need-to-be-concerned/

(2) https://www.pnas.org/content/117/9/4642

 

25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action: Feminist guidance – including for future chemicals policy

Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995

The year 2020 marks not only an important year for chemicals and waste, it is also a “super year” for gender equality: UN Women celebrates its tenth anniversary and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Twenty-five years ago 17,000 participants and 30,000 activists from around the world came to Beijing to participate or demonstrate at the Fourth World Conference on Women in September 1995 to strengthen gender equality and the empowerment of all women. After two weeks of political debate and tough negotiations, the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, was adopted.

Even if you don’t remember the World Conference itself, we’re pretty sure you’ve heard the famous quote by Hillary Clinton, underlining that gender equality is at the very heart of human rights and the United Nations:

Hillary Clinton 1995, by EngenderHealth

As a defining framework for change, the Beijing Platform for Action made comprehensive commitments in 12 critical areas of concern. Even 25 years later, it remains powerful: The concept of gender mainstreaming was developed, which is the chosen approach of the United Nations system and international community towards realizing gender equality until today, and the interlinkages of “Women and the Environment” were highlighted for the very first time (UN Women, 2020) – a novelty in international policy.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the document to see why it is still so important – including for a future framework for the sound management of chemicals and waste:

In Chapter K “Women and the Environment”, the Beijing Platform for Action comprehensively defines the interlinkages between women and environmental policy:

246. “Women have an essential role to play in the development of sustainable and ecologically sound consumption and production patterns and approaches to natural resource management (…).”

249. “Women remain largely absent at all levels of policy formulation and decision-making in natural resource and environmental management, conservation, protection and rehabilitation, and their experience and skills in advocacy for and monitoring of proper natural resource management too often remain marginalized in policy-making and decision-making bodies (…).”

Clear political guidance was also given regarding the gendered effects of chemicals:

247. “Environmental risks in the home and workplace may have a disproportionate impact on women’s health because of women’s different susceptibilities to the toxic effects of various chemicals. These risks to women’s health are particularly high in urban areas, as well as in low-income areas where there is a high concentration of polluting industrial facilities.

Actions to be taken include: 

25.8 (…) Develop gender-sensitive databases, information and monitoring systems and participatory action-oriented research, methodologies and policy analyses, with the collaboration of academic institutions and local women researchers, on the following: The impact on women of environmental and natural resource degradation, deriving from, inter alia, unsustainable production and consumption patterns, drought, poor quality water, global warming, desertification, sealevel rise, hazardous waste, natural disasters, toxic chemicals and pesticide residues, radioactive waste, armed conflicts and its consequences; 

(…) Ensure the full compliance with relevant international obligations, including where relevant, the Basel Convention and other conventions relating to the transboundary movements of hazardous wastes (which include toxic wastes) and the Code of Practice of the International Atomic Energy Agency relating to the movement of radioactive waste; enact and enforce regulations for environmentally sound management related to safe storage and movements; consider taking action towards the prohibition of those movements that are unsafe and insecure; ensure the strict control and management of hazardous wastes and radioactive waste, in accordance with relevant international and regional obligations and eliminate the exportation of such wastes to countries that, individually or through international agreements, prohibit their importation; (…)”

25 years ago, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action stated:

  • that women are agents of change,
  • that women’s full participation is crucial, and
  • that gender mainstreaming needs to be implemented in all policy fields – including chemicals and waste.

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action remains as relevant as ever!  Let’s celebrate its 25th anniversary by finally implementing its recommended actions. 

Generation Equality Campaign, by UN Women

Today, on 9 March 2020,  the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW64) is happening, which marks the starting point for the celebrations and the UN Women special campaign “Generation Equality: Realizing women’s rights for an equal future”. Sadly, due to the coronavirus, it was decided that the commission will convene for a shortened and procedural meeting only. “The meeting will include opening statements, followed by the adoption of the draft Political Declaration and action on any other draft resolutions. The session will then suspend until further notification. No general debate will take place, and all side events planned by Member States and the UN system in conjunction with CSW 64 will be cancelled” (UN Women). 12.000 participants were expected for this major event in New York this week – we all had to cancel our trips, and hope that we will be able to convene somewhere sometime soon. 

Gender and Chemicals at the 3rd Meeting of the Intersessional Process Considering the Strategic Approach and the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020 (IP3)

View of the plenary, photo by IISD/ENB.

The 3rd Meeting of the Intersessional Process Considering the Strategic Approach and the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020 (IP3, SAICM) took place from 30th September – 4th October 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand. More than 300 delegates attended, including representatives of governments, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and industry.

During the meeting, participants discussed four critical aspects: 1) targets, milestones and indicators; 2) institutional arrangements; 3) mechanisms to support implementation; and 4) financial considerations. Participants “made a number of important advances in each area which will serve as an important contribution” (ENB 2019) towards the preparation of recommendations for ICCM5 in autumn next year, e.g. on criteria and mechanisms for adopting so-called issues of concern, ways to enhance multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder engagement and an enabling framework to encourage higher profile and ambition. However, participants couldn’t reach the major milestone of developing a ‘zero draft’ for IP4, which will take place in March 2020 (see ENB summary). This is now being prepared by the secretariat, which was requested to consolidate the outputs of IP3 into a draft for deliberation at IP4. A technical working group on targets, milestones and indicators was established to support further work in this area between now and IP4, and the Government of Germany offered to host a special workshop in January to discuss a possible enhanced enabling framework for beyond 2020.

Our policy demands and information booth #genderjusticeistherightchemistry

The MSP Institute was there, working to increase attention on gender issues, providing information and suggestions on how to integrate gender in a future framework on chemicals and waste:

With a small online campaign on twitter, we spread our main policy demands that new SAICM needs a gender action plan, a gender focal point and women’s full and equal participation. At our information booth, we shared policy suggestions, information material and our brochure about Gender and SAICM Beyond2020.

On Oct 2nd, the MSP Institute facilitated the second informal meeting on women and gender, which was open to all interested stakeholders. Fifteen delegates attended and exchanged experiences, informed each other about gender projects and activities and discussed how to integrate gender into SAICM Beyond 2020. After the meeting, several participants submitted a first joint position paper on “Gender and the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020” to the SAICM Secretariat, which was prepared by the ‘Women and Gender @ SAICM’- mailing list in advance and further fine-tuned at the meeting.

Participants of the “Women and Gender at SAICM” meeting.

During the week at IP3, we had a lot of inspiring conversations with delegates and we are pleased that the issue of gender and chemicals is attracting increasing attention – for example by ChemicalWatch and their article “UN should consider how chemicals affect genders differently, say NGOs”. However, merely talking about gender equality is not enough – at IP4, it will be most relevant to mainstream gender into all recommendations for a post-2020 platform.

There is not much time left – let’s integrate gender now!

Upcoming international meetings include:

  • IP4 – 23rd – 26th March 2020 in Bucharest, Romania
  • ICCM5 – 5th – 9th October 2020 in Bonn, Germany

If you want to be part of the mailing list “Women and Gender @ SAICM” please send an email to anna.holthaus[at]msp-institute.org. The mailing list is open to everyone working in the SAICM Process and interested in women and gender topics.

Thank you and best regards,
Anna and Minu from the MSP Institute

Gender and Chemicals: SAICM process news, project updates, and more

Photo by Alex Kondratiev on Unsplash

Preparations starting for IP3

The third meeting of the intersessional process (IP3) will be held at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok, Thailand, from 1 to 4 October 2019 – and the MSP Institute will participate to advocate for the integration of gender in SAICM Beyond 2020. Together with the new “Women and Gender@SAICM”-Group we are now starting to develop a position paper on women’s and gender issues in relation to the sound management of chemicals and waste. In addition, we are preparing an interactive join-in campaign for the meeting.

Stakeholder input – SAICM Beyond 2020

We submitted an input on SAICM and the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020 to the SAICM Secretariat in June, hoping to support the preparations for IP3. Our submission makes policy recommendations regarding mechanisms to support implementation; measures to achieve multisectoral engagement; issues of concern and “Principles and Approaches”. You can find our input here: Stakeholderinput-SAICM_MSPInstitute.

Gender and Chemicals at ISC3 Stakeholder Forum

We participated at the 1st ISC3 Stakeholder Forum (ISC3 – International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre) and are further engaged in the dialogue on the emerging concept of sustainable chemistry. It is argued that Sustainable Chemistry is a holistic approach addressing all three dimensions of sustainable development and therefore much broader than Green Chemistry. We will continue to advocate for gender equality; human rights and poverty reduction to be at the heart of the concept.

Upcoming events: Beijing +25 – Generation Equality Campaign

In 2020, the global community will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995). The Beijing Platform for Action is the most visionary agenda for the empowerment of women and girls everywhere around the globe. It was adopted by 189 governments committed to taking strategic, bold action in 12 critical areas of concern: poverty, education and training, health, violence, armed conflict, economy, power and decision-making, institutional mechanisms, human rights, media, environment, and the girl child. 2020 is therefore a pivotal year for the accelerated realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. UN Women’s new, multigenerational campaign marking the anniversary and the need to intensify action, is already starting now: “Generation Equality: Realizing women’s rights for an equal future”.

Informative Publication: Gender in Multi-Stakeholder-Partnerships

SAICM is a big multi-stakeholder process (MSP), where gender matters at different levels. We invite you to have a look at the new giz publications about gender in multi-stakeholder partnerships. They provide guidance on how to fully integrate gender in MSPs by offering concrete, systematic support. In a step-by-step manner, difficulties are pointed out, valuable tools are offered and concrete examples are given.

Gender in other global multilateral environmental agreements and the SDG Process

BRS Conventions: The Gender Action Plan of the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions was updated with indicators for monitoring in March 2019 and submitted to the 2019 COPs. In addition, the BRS Secretariat, together with GRID-Arendal, developed a Pocket Guide to the BRS Gender Action Plan, which was launched at the 2019 BRS COPs.

UNFCCC: At the Bonn Climate Change Conference (SB50) from 17th-27th June 2019, parties spent 4 days reviewing was has been achieved under the UNFCCC Gender Action Plan so far. In a workshop organized by the UNFCCC Secretariat Gender Team, success stories were shared and organizations like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Climate Technology Centre & Network and the Green Climate Fund reported on their gender actions.

High-Level Political Forum (HLPF): At this year’s HLPF, SDGs 4,8,10,13,16 and 17 will be reviewed under the theme “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”. Especially for women and girls, the 2019 HLPF is critical because “the goals under review speak to some of the most pressing structural challenges the world faces” (Women’s Major Group (WMG) 2019). See the WMG full position paper here.

Gender and Chemicals at the third Meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group for SAICM, April 2019

View of the plenary. Photo by IISD/ENB.

The third Meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group for the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (OEWG3, SAICM) took place from 2-4 April 2019 in Montevideo, Uruguay. Approximately 350 delegates attended, including representatives of governments, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and industry. The MSP Institute was there, working to increase attention on gender issues, providing information and suggestions on how to integrate gender in a future framework on chemicals and waste.

During the meeting, OEWG3 participants assessed SAICM’ progress and activities regarding the emerging policy issues and other issues of concern, discussed the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020, prepared for ICCM5 and considered the planned activities and draft budget of SAICM secretariat (see ENB summary here).

We presented our new brochure “Gender & SAICM Beyond 2020. How to create a gender-just healthy planet” at our information booth, as well as other information material and policy suggestions. We were very pleased to see that all our material was picked up, and we had a lot of inspiring conversations.

On the second day of OEWG3, we invited all interested stakeholders to a first informal meeting on women and gender. The goal was to get to know each other, exchange experiences and to think about how we can create a gender-just healthy planet. Seventeen interested SAICM stakeholders from governments, NGOs and IGOs attended the meeting. We had a fruitful discussion and brainstorming on the necessity of the integration of gender in SAICM. We also collected concrete ideas on what we can do to make SAICM Beyond 2020 more gender-sensitive, e.g. organizing side-events, publishing publications, compiling information on gender/women stories at country levels or working with the network of women environment ministers.  The group agreed that there should be a next women and gender meeting at IP3 in Bangkok in September/October and created a new mailing list to stay in touch and continue discussions. We are very happy that so many delegates are interested to work together on gender and we hope that this work will help to achieve the full integration of gender in SAICM Beyond 2020.

Participants of the Women and Gender Meeting

Brainstorming on Gender and SAICM Beyond 2020

The new mailing list “Women and Gender @ SAICM” is open to everyone working in the SAICM Process and interested in women and gender topics. If you want to be part of it, please send an email to: anna.holthaus[at]msp-institute.org 

There is not much time left until 2020 – let’s integrate gender now!

Upcoming international meetings include:

  • IP3 – 30th Sept – 4th Oct 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand
  • IP4 – Spring 2020 in Bucharest, Romania
  • ICCM5 – 5th – 9th October 2020 in Berlin, Germany

Thank you and best regards,
Anna and Minu from the MSP Institute

 

Brief Report: Gender and Chemicals at the Fourth Session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4)

Group photo of the UNEA-4 High-Level Segment by IISD

The fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) was held from 11-15 March 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya. Under the motto “Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production”, UNEA-4 addressed environmental challenges related to poverty and natural resources management, including sustainable food systems, food security and halting biodiversity loss, life-cycle approaches to resource efficiency, energy, chemicals and waste management and innovative sustainable business development at a time of rapid technological change (UNEP 2019a). Tragically, the assembly was overshadowed by the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash on March 10. We grieve with the global community for the 157 people and colleagues who perished while en route to Nairobi.

Anna from the MSP Institute attended UNEA-4 to work together with other women’s groups and feminists of the Women’s Major Group (WMG) to increase attention, inter alia, to gender and chemicals issues.

At UNEA-4, many side-events discussed the challenges of chemicals, waste and pollution. The new synthesis report of the second edition of the Global Chemicals Outlook (GCO-II) was being launched. It underlines the importance of a sound management of chemicals and waste: The global goal to minimize adverse impacts of chemicals and waste will not be achieved by 2020; the World Health Organization estimated the burden of disease from selected chemicals at 1.6 million lives in 2016; and moreover, the chemicals industry will double by 2030. Therefore, more ambitious worldwide action by all stakeholders is urgently required (UNEP 2019b). The High Ambition Alliance on Chemicals and Waste, led by Sweden and Uruguay, met for the second time and the German government and the BRS Conventions Secretariat held a side event on “Advancing the sustainability of chemicals throughout the life cycle”. The issue of gender and chemicals was taken up in particular by the BRS Secretariat: Executive Secretary Rolph Payet met with the Women’s Major Group, and a lounge area installation by the Geneva Chemicals and Waste Cluster addressed, inter alia, the interlinkages between gender and chemicals.

The UN Environmental Assembly adopted a first ever resolution on “Promoting gender equality and the human rights and empowerment of women and girls in environmental governance”. This is an important step towards strengthening gender equality and women’s rights in the area of international, regional and national policy making on climate change and environmental issues as a key to Sustainable Development and the 2030Agenda. The resolution specifically invites member states to establish gender criteria for national environmental projects and programs, to recognize gender equality and the role of women and girls as sustainability change agents, and to support capacity-building to enhance women’s active and meaningful participation in decision-making. However, states could not agree on the importance of protecting women’s human rights and environmental defenders, despite this having been articulated throughout the negotiations.  In addition, the United States refused to include any reference to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in the adopted resolution (Women’s Major Group 2019, see the full press release of the Women’s Major Group here).

Despite this landmark resolution, any real mainstreaming of gender was missing. Resolutions relevant to chemicals include a call to governments, international organisations, industry, civil society and the scientific communities to improve the information on chemicals in products in consumer goods as well as throughout the supply chain; to establish programmes that provide consumers and the general public with information on the risks from chemicals; to strengthen the science-policy interface; and to pursue an improved framework for the sound management of chemicals and waste after 2020 (ChemicalWatch 2019) – but none of these resolutions include any direct references to gender nor any substantive information on how gender mainstreaming could be implemented in the respective areas of work or action plans.

For us, UNEA-4 was a great opportunity to make quite a few new contacts, engage in intense discussions with colleagues, and share information about gender in chemicals and waste management with many governments and stakeholders from around the world in advance of the SAICM third meeting of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG3).

References

UNEP (2019a): Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production. The fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly will gather in Nairobi, Kenya from 11 – 15 March 2019. Online at: http://web.unep.org/environmentassembly/.

Women’s Major Group (2019): About us. Online at: http://www.womenmajorgroup.org/.

UNEP (2019b): The second edition of the Global Chemicals Outlook. Online at: https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/chemicals-waste/what-we-do/policy-and-governance/global-chemicals-outlook.

United Nations Environment Assembly (2019): Promoting gender equality and the human rights and empowerment of women and girls in environmental governance. Online at: https://papersmart.unon.org/resolution/uploads/k1900914.pdf.

CIEL/Women’s Major Group: Feminists at UNEA-4 Continue the Call for the Right to a Healthy and Sustainable Environment. Online at: https://www.ciel.org/news/feminists-at-unea-4-continue-the-call-for-the-right-to-a-healthy-and-sustainable-environment/.

ChemicalWatch (2019): Unea4 adopts resolutions to push forward sound management of chemicals. Online at: https://chemicalwatch.com/75338/unea4-adopts-resolutions-to-push-forward-sound-management-of-chemicals.

What is a Women and Gender Caucus?

#Explanation – Blog series: How to create a gender-just healthy planet

©️miratrick

What’s a caucus?

In the context of international policy processes, the participation of non-government actors has played an increasingly important role. A variety of interest groups, stakeholders, constituencies and actors are active in processes that affect or concern them.

The term “caucus” originates from structures and mechanisms in political parties, e.g. in the US, a caucus is a „meeting held to decide which person a political party will support in an election” (Cambridge Dictionary). In international policy making, participating non-government actors are often organized in caucuses – i.e. groups of people with influence or an interest in something who meet to consider a particular issue or problem. If the groups meet very regularly, sometimes institutional groupings called ‘constituencies’ or ‘major groups’ emerge.

With Women and Gender Caucuses, Constituencies and Major Groups, feminists and women activists have established a structure to coordinate their tasks and political positions as well as to make their voices heard and advocate for gender equality within UN processes on two levels: On the one hand, their aim is to strengthen women’s active participation by sharing information and access to documents, by organizing possibilities to submit proposals or to speak at negotiation meetings, and enabling physical participation by organizing travel funding for colleagues, especially from the Global South. On the other hand, they combine expert knowledge of women’s organisations, gender experts and other academics to support gender mainstreaming activities within policy processes, often in direct contact with the respective secretariat and/or with other relevant stakeholders. Women and Gender Groups and meetings are mostly self-organised but recognized by the official institutions who regard them as liaisons or focal points to reach out and interact with particular stakeholder groups. Women and Gender Cau- cuses are usually open to all interested stakeholders working to promote human rights-based sustainable development with a focus on women’s human rights, the empowerment of women and gender equality. Sometimes, participation is limited to non-government or civil society organisations and in- dividuals, and many caucuses have developed their own rules, procedures, and governance, from electing co-chairs, through facilitating representative, joint submissions to negotiations to managing shared financial resources. During UN conferences, they met regularly to discuss the ongoing negotiations and to develop joint responses from a gender perspective, between conferences they mostly communicate via email list servers and online platforms.

A bit of history

Since many years Women and Gender Caucuses contribute to UN policies on sustainable development with successful advocacy activities:

In 1992, the Earth Summit (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, UNCED) took place and was one of the first breakthroughs in women’s advocacy for sus- tainable development: Preparing for the conference the Women’s Caucus, organized by the Women’s Environment Development Organization (WEDO), met every morning to discuss texts, interventions and strategies, based on its own Women’s Action Agenda for a Healthy Planet, developed at the Women’s World Congress for a Healthy Planet in Miami in 1991. During the Earth Summit, the Women’s Caucus also played a key role with the Women’s Tent “Planeta Femea” of the parallel forum “Foro Global” with over 1.000 Women coming together from all regions of the world (Dankelmann 2011; WMG 2018).

The Earth Summit recognized nine stakeholder groups, so called “Major Groups”, to ensure a broad participation in the policy and implementation process: farmers, trade unions, indigenous peoples and their communities, children and youth, NGOs, local authorities, science and technology, busi- ness and industry, and women (WMG 2018). Agenda 21, one of the key outcome documents of the Earth Summit, includes chapters dealing with each of these Major Groups, recognizing their needs and roles, and underlining the need for their active participation in realizing sustainable development.

Major Groups, caucuses and constituencies today

Today, the Women’s Major Group (WMG) is an official participant in the UN processes on Sustainable Development and active at UNEP, with over 600 list server members who are organisations and individuals. The WMG is the focal point for UN-DESA, ECOSOC and the General Assembly for all UN Sustainable Development policies.

Its mandate covers Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals and Indicators, the Technology Facilitation Mechanism and the High-Level Political Forum. It covers the Rio+20 outcome, with SDGs, Financing for Sustainable Development, Small Island Development States SIDS, Technology. Furthermore, it also covers the global and regional policy processes of the United Nations. The Women’s Major Group on Environmental Policies follows the policy processes related to the UNEP and those governed by UNEP such as Sustainable Consumption and Production (UN DESA 2018). Additionally, the WMG works closely with other Women’s and Gender Caucuses or Constituencies in other UN policy processes, e.g. the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Disaster Risk Reduction, Cities / UN Habitat, Financing for Development, Commission on Population and Development (CPD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (ibid.).

The Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) is, for example, one of the nine constituencies, i.e. stakeholder groups, that is part of the UNFCCC process. Established in 2009 by women and gender activists, who actively discussed whether and how the issue of gender should be given more attention at the climate change negotiations since 2003, the WGC now consists of 28 Women and Gender Organisations and Networks with advocates from more than 60 countries. Since 2015 the WGC has organized the Gender Just Climate Solu- tions Award to promote gender responsive climate awards, in 2017 the WGC managed to shape the “Gender and Work Program” that has been decided upon at the COP 20 in Lima in 2014 and the most recent highlight is the “Gender Action Plan” from COP 23 in Bonn 2017, which was finally adapted through much advocacy work after years of discussions (GenderCC 2018).

A Women and Gender Caucus for SAICM Beyond 2020

Creating an informal and open-to-all Women and Gender Caucus For the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste can create an inspiring, useful, and powerful space for discussion, information sharing and advocacy to push forward the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and ensure the recognition of the interconnections between gender and chemicals. Such a caucus – gathering at the SAICM meetings and communicating electronically in between can strengthen the participation of (indigenous) women and also help to increase the visibility of SAICM beyond 2020.

As a starting point, we invite all stakeholders to a first, informal meeting on gender, women and chemicals and waste at the OEWG3!

Date: Wednesday, 03rd April 2019, 08:00-09:00 pm

Location: Antel Arena, Montevideo – Room: tbc

We are looking forward to seeing you!

References

Dankelmann, Irine (2011): Women on the forefront at the Earth Summit ’92 in Rio. Online at: WEDO: https://wedo.org/women-on- the-forefront-at-the-earth-summit-92-in-rio-a-personal-journey-by- irene-dankelman/.

GenderCC (2018): Looking back at 10 years GenderCC – Women for Climate Justice. https://gendercc.net/who-are-we/10-year-anniver- sary/10-years-fighting-for-climate-justice.html.
Hemmati, M. 2001. Women & Sustainable Development: From 2000 to 2002. in: F. Dodds & T. Middleton (eds.). Earth Summit 2002 – A New Deal. pp65-83. London: Earthscan, 2nd Edition

Hemmati, M. 2005. Gender & Climate Change in the North: Issues, Entry Points and Strategies for the Post-2012 Process and Beyond. genanet / Focal Point Gender Justice and Sustainability, Berlin
UN DESA (2018): Women. Online at: https://sustainabledevelopmen- t.un.org/majorgroups/women.

WMG (2018): History of Women’s Movement and Sustainable Devel- opment. http://www.womenmajorgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/ 2018/01/History-of-the-Women%E2%80%99s-Movement-and- Sustainable-Development.pdf

The Gender Dimension: Why chemical exposure affects each sex differently

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

by  Brenda Koekkoek, SAICM Secretariat

Graphic by the SAICM Secretariat

It’s a fact that chemicals are in everything we touch and that chemicals are essential for our sustainable development and future. Yet while chemical exposure can pose a risk to all, it has been shown to affect men and women differently, whether due to physical conditions or in reproductive health.

The susceptibility to chemical exposure varies according to sex – starting in the womb, through childhood and the first years of development to puberty, when adolescents are particularly susceptible. In order to ensure the health of future generations, the different vulnerabilities of men and women must be understood and considered.

The gender dimensions of the sound management of chemicals and waste are highly relevant. Exposure to chemicals depends on geographical location, behavioural patterns, age, nutritional status, and other biological factors. Hence, sex and gender are highly influential in an individual’s physiological susceptibility to chemicals. For example, the varying roles of men and women in the workplace and at home help determine respective exposures and vulnerabilities to chemicals. Because of largely gender segregated labour markets, there are many occupations involving chemicals that affect either women or men to a larger extent.

Although often overlooked, domestic exposures to chemicals and toxins must also be considered. Men and women use different personal care products and cosmetics and are affected differently. For example, women tend to use more personal items than men, and with over 5,000 different ingredients used in the personal care industry, it increases their dermal exposure to chemicals. Work involving household cleaning products also leads to chemical exposures, and with changing gender roles, exposure patterns also change.

With the size of the global chemical industry projected to double by 2030, there is a growing concern for people working in chemically intensive sectors such as agriculture, construction, electronics and textiles. Women are also increasingly working in the informal sector and rarely receive basic training about the chemicals they use, which increases their vulnerability to pesticide-related health risks.

Now more than ever, it is vital that measures are taken to ensure that the needs of particularly vulnerable demographics are met, when it comes to the sound management of chemicals. In considering reproductive health as an example, both parents have susceptibilities that must be understood for the health of future generations.

One step in the right direction is gender mainstreaming. This is defined as a strategy for equally making both men and women’s concerns, needs, and experiences an integral part of policies and programmes in political, economic and societal spheres. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda aim to address inequalities among all population groups – especially women, children, and the impoverished. Particularly, SDG5 aims to achieve gender equality and improve women’s rights. Directly addressing the links between the environment and gender in the context of the SDGs will provide new opportunities to achieve these goals in a more sustainable and beneficial manner and can yield tangible results and will provide benefits for both women and men.

UN Environment and the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) are working in partnership on gender and chemicals, in particular on raising awareness, promoting womens’ engagement and leadership in decision-making processes as well as contributing to activities related to the Strategic Approach emerging policy issues and relevant SDGs.  Furthermore, it is very positive that gender considerations have been increasingly incorporated into global multilateral environmental agreements, including the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions and the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

Gender and the SAICM Emerging Policy Issues

SAICM stakeholders have identified eight emerging policy issues and other issues of concern since the inception of the Strategic Approach in 2006. In general, all of these have susceptibility and exposure considerations related to gender, which I would like to illustrate:

1. Lead in paint

Lead, a widely used toxic metal, contaminates the environment and causes extensive public health problems. Children are particularly vulnerable and the exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead may cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and minor malformations.

2. Highly hazardous pesticides

Understanding gender roles in agricultural communities can create opportunities to unpack root causes of unsustainable behaviour in communities and has potential to support transformational change. For example, a large number of women in South Asia, East Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa work in agriculture and related tasks such as washing pesticide containers and thinning crops exposed to pesticides. The resulting exposure calls for the regulation of the use of highly hazardous pesticides.

3. Chemicals in products (CiP)

Efforts to label and classify chemicals help consumers make informed choices. By engaging with consumer product sectors, there are opportunities to empower workers and consumers, for example, to understand potential exposures to chemicals and to target initiatives to empower particular vulnerable groups. UNEP’s Chemicals in Products programme promotes transparency of information in supply chains and is currently focused on, but not limited to, the following sectors: textiles, toys, building materials, and electronics.

4. Hazardous substances within the life cycle of electronic products

The manufacture of electrical and electronic products relies on the use of over 1,000 chemicals, many of which lack comprehensive health and safety information due to weak regulatory policies. As the electronics industry has grown, women in Latin America and Asia have become the primary source of labour, and are now exposed to high levels of toxins such as lead and chromium.

5. Nanotechnology and nanomaterials

Nanomaterials, which can be found in many consumer products, can affect both male and female reproductive systems. These materials are prevalent in pharmaceuticals and textiles, and in the products related to information and communications technology.

6. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs)

EDCs affect the hormone systems of men, women and children. The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics notes that the global rise in non-communicable diseases, as well as the increase in preterm births, low-birth-weight babies, and the early onset of breast development can be partially attributed to EDCs.

7. Environmentally persistent pharmaceutical pollutants (EPPPs)

The sources of pharmaceutical pollution include drug manufacturing, human excretion, disposal from homes and hospitals, and wastewater from large-scale livestock operations. However, gender-specific effects of EPPPs remain largely unknown, due to the limited methods to measure such a wide-spread phenomenon.

8. Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs)

PFCs have become extensively used in both industrial and consumer products to make them resistant to stains, water, grease, or heat. Studies have shown that high levels of PFCs can be highly toxic, and animal tests have found PFCs to be potentially carcinogenic in the reproductive and fetal development stages, although these effects on humans remain inconclusive.

In general, all of the SAICM emerging policy issues and other issues of concern have susceptibility and exposure considerations related to gender, though no on-going gender activities are formally identified within the Strategic Approach context. A gender review across the current emerging policy issues and other issues of concern has been initiated as part of the SAICM GEF Project on global best practices on SAICM emerging policy issues.

What can we do for the future?

There are numerous relevant, diverse and influential stakeholders that can contribute and enable gender mainstreaming in chemicals and waste management.  These include, amongst others, national and local governments, intergovernmental organizations, regulatory bodies, regional bodies, donor organizations, NGOs, industry associations, farmer organizations, media, consumers, employers, educators and researchers, health professionals, workers and trade unions and indigenous peoples.

When it comes to designing the future for SAICM and the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020, all stakeholders have the opportunity to tap into the potential to address gender issues, promote equality, and protect vulnerable populations in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Strong legislation, effective information systems as well as scientific evidence and knowledge for chemicals are at the core of the SAICM community efforts on emerging policy issues today and remain relevant in the future to protect human health and the environment from harmful effects of chemicals across the lifecycle.  There are additional opportunities for strengthening focus on developing, collecting and analysing gender-disaggregated data, indicators and other information to support decision-making.

Let’s work together in moving forward to apply a joint gender lens in our work-planning, prioritizing, implementing and decision-making!


This article is based on the policy brief by the SAICM Secretariat; published September 2018 at http://www.saicm.org/Portals/12/Documents/SDGs/SAICM_Gender_Policy_Brief.pdf.

Please follow SAICM on twitter @chemandwaste

To find out more about SAICM, please visit http://www.saicm.org

Author

Brenda Koekkoek, Photo by IISD

Brenda Koekkoek works with the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) Secretariat, administered at the United Nations Environment Programme. Brenda has over fifteen years of environmental policy-related experience, particularly in relation to pollution. She is a Canadian national, previously working with Environment and Climate Change Canada.  Much of her work has focused on building strategic partnerships as well as overseeing stakeholder consultation processes.