Event report: launch of the Gender & Chemicals Partnership

During the negotiations on a Global Framework on Chemicals at the 5th session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5), which took place from 25 – 29 September 2023 in Bonn, Germany, a new multi-stakeholder partnership was launched: the Gender and Chemicals Partnership (G&CP).  

For decades it has been clear that chemicals often have gendered impacts on human health, and that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls can support the sound management of chemicals and waste. However, gender-responsive chemicals management has hardly been realised worldwide. Therefore, in recent months, interested stakeholders from the world of chemistry, including governments, international organizations, civil society, academic institutions, and industry players came together to develop the G&CP with the support of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) and Partnerships2030 – and to finally launch it at the ICCM5.

In Bonn, about 25 participants joined the evening launch event on 28 September in the colourful restaurant of the World Conference Center Bonn.

First, Minu Hemmati (MSP Institute) welcomed the participants and introduced the topic of gender and chemicals by showing a short information video about the gender lens produced by the MSP Institute. Anna Holthaus (MSP Institute) then gave a short presentation about the new partnership and introduced its objectives, initial activities and further development process of the G&CP: Together the partners aim to jointly promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in chemicals management to make future chemicals management gender-transformative. To start, the G&CP will first focus on the following three activities: collaborating with UN and other intergovernmental organizations, including the Secretariats of related chemicals conventions and processes to raise visibility of and bring attention to the gendered dimensions of chemicals and wastes; supporting gender data collection and disaggregation by science, industry, and (inter)national statistical institutes; and supporting knowledge sharing and training. Therefore, the G&CP plans to finalize its governance structure and to do fundraising in the coming months, to hold a first G&CP Assembly next year and to develop a two-year implementation plan.

In a subsequent panel discussion, the interim board members represented by HE State Secretary Christiane Rohleder from BMUV, Jorge Ocaña from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), María Eugenia González Anaya from the Foreign Office of Mexico, and Mariella Noto from Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) shared in their statements why gender equality in chemicals management is important to them, why they consider the new multi-stakeholder partnership as necessary and what they wish for the partnership in the next year. High Excellency State Secretary Christiane Rohleder underlined in her speech that “we cannot continue ignoring gender as we have so far. We know too little about how gender impacts chemicals management and what impacts chemicals have on people of all genders. There continues to be a lack of comprehensive, gender-specific data and research on chemical contamination as well as instruments and strategies to implement gender-responsive chemicals management locally – we are sailing in uncharted waters” and she called on the participants and partners “Let’s begin charting a course and integrate gender-specific dimensions in all of our efforts for chemicals management. This is the only way we can reduce the adverse impacts of chemical exposure in people of all genders.” All interim board members reaffirmed their future cooperation for an urgently needed gender-responsive chemicals management and thanked BMUV and Partnerships2030 for their support in the initial phase of the MSP.

In an open discussion, participants then discussed the lack of gender data and research in chemicals management, as well as tools and strategies for gender mainstreaming. In addition to the need for gender data from human biomonitoring studies, participants mentioned the need for data on women’s use of chemicals in the private sphere and in chemical industry sectors, the need for qualitative research and more research on the informal sector.

At the end of the event, partners and potential partners, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the BRS Secretariat, Canada, the Caribbean Poison Network of the University of Technology Jamaica (CARPIN), the Royal Society of Chemistry and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry shared in brief statements, why they want to join the G&CP and what they are looking forward to – and finally all partners and potential partners celebrated the official launch of the G&CP with music, balloons and streamers and invited other interested organizations to join the new partnership.

We thank all interim board members, partners, potential partners and interested stakeholders for this wonderful evening – and we look forward to the first joint steps and activities of the G&CP!

Would you like to know more about the G&CP? Are you interested in joining the new partnership? Contact us via email: anna.holthaus[at]msp-institute.org

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