16 July 2019: An event titled, ‘Gender, Climate, Chemicals: Implementing SDG 12 and 13 with Gender-Responsive Policies,’ convened on the sidelines of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

The event was organized by Women Engage for a Common Future (WCEF) International, the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions, Women 2030 and Reaccion Climatica. The event sought to highlight that the waste and chemical sectors contribute significantly to climate change and to a high burden of disease due to toxic emissions, and that the technical approaches in addressing these challenges overlook social and gender dimensions and ways in which women’s leadership can boost the transition to non-toxic and low-carbon societies.

Sylvia Hordosch, UN Women, moderated the event. She highlighted that the waste sector is linked to climate change and vulnerable jobs. Hordosch also noted that chemicals are released into the environment as a result of natural disasters. She highlighted that the BRS Conventions and global programmes are promoting sustainable alternatives to toxic chemicals, but said more can be done.

Charles Arden-Clark, Head, One Planet Network, 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP) Secretariat, presented on behalf of the BRS Conventions. He noted that women and girls are more vulnerable to the releases of chemicals and wastes for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they are more physiologically vulnerable to chemicals and wastes because their smaller size means that a small exposure is more damaging than for a man. Given that women are generally “more sustainable customers,” Arden-Clark noted the opportunities to address consumption issues, including through the provision of information. He noted that the BRS Conventions developed a Gender Action Plan in 2012 and that they implement gender mainstreaming with partners and ensure that all programmes and projects are implemented with a gender perspective.

Sascha Gabizon, WCEF, discussed tools that had been developed to introduce the role of the BRS Conventions in addressing gender mainstreaming, including a video and case studies.

Carmen Capriles, Reaccion Climatica, presented a scoping study in Bolivia on mercury and gender. She noted that Bolivia is known for its mining activities, and pointed out that gold mining requires mercury. She said the mining is largely artisanal and is often done by women in the presence of children. She highlighted that miners incorrectly believe that gold is a renewable resource, and said the indigenous population is currently wealthy and has high consumption rates due to the resource. She said the high levels of mercury end up in the Amazon River.

Semia Gharbi, Executive Director, l’Association de l’éducation environnementale pour les futures générations (AEEFG), Tunisia, highlighted that women are exposed to chemicals from the time they wake up in the morning until they go to bed in the evening. Among other chemicals, they are exposed to the heavy metals and chemicals in e-waste, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which are found in their breast milk, and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) oils, which are found in their food. Gharbi said that women farmers handle pesticides without any protection.

Speakers highlighted the need to promote alternatives, grassroots action and women-led solutions. [Facebook Live Video of Event] [WCEF website] [BRS Conventions Gender Action Plan]