Environment and gender equality: the keys to achieving Millennium Development Goals

20 September 2010 | International news release

Achieving gender equality is fundamental to sustainable development and to attaining the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including the eradication of poverty and hunger. This is expected to be one of the major conclusions of world leaders and development experts at the 2010 Summit on the Millennium Development Goals, to be held this week at the UN Headquarters in New York.

At a high level event on 21 September in New York, speakers including UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Mtengeti Migiro and IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre, will explain how the latest research and thinking point ever more to the urgent need for the equality and empowerment of women —who make up 70 percent of the world’s poor — at all levels of society worldwide.

“As we all know, the third Millennium Development Goal is dedicated to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. But when we look at the other seven goals, it is clear that none of them are possible without the inclusion of gender considerations and an improved situation for the women of the world,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “We can eradicate poverty and hunger, but only if we fully involve women’s voices in the decisions that are made on, for example, agriculture and biodiversity, since they provide up to 90 percent of the rural poor’s food and up to 80 percent of food in developing countries.”

The latest evidence provided by IUCN at the event draws from across the globe. In India, for example, women provide 75 percent of labour for transplanting and weeding rice, yet fewer than 10 percent actually own land. During rainfall shortages in India, more girls die than boys, and the nutrition of girls suffers more during periods of a shortage of food and rising food prices.

An analysis of credit schemes in five African countries found that women received less than 10 percent of the amount of credit awarded to male smallholders.

In Kenya, an irrigation scheme handed control to male managers. Women lost rights to land they had traditionally used to grow subsistence food crops. This inequality causes further gender imbalances as women are forced to turn to their husbands to buy food.

“Women play a key role in managing local biodiversity to meet food and health needs. In many countries, they also play a crucial role in managing agriculture and are primary savers and managers of seeds,” says Lorena Aguilar, IUCN Global Senior Gender Advisor. “They are also responsible for the control, development and transmission of significant traditional knowledge. As men are increasingly drawn to seek remunerated work away from their lands and resources, women’s role in farming and in the management of family and community biological resources, as well as the protection of traditional knowledge is increasing.”

The United Nations official 2010 report on progress made towards development makes its verdict clear: “Gender equality and the empowerment of women are at the heart of the MDGs and are preconditions for overcoming poverty, hunger and disease. But progress has been sluggish on all fronts—from education to access to political decision making.” 


For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:
Brian Thomson, Manager IUCN Media Relations, m +41 79 721 8326, e brian.thomson@iucn.org
Nicki Chadwick, IUCN Media Relations Officer, t +41 22 999 0229, m +41 79 528 3486, e nicki.chadwick@iucn.org