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Gender and the sound management of chemicals and waste: Prepared for the SAICM intersessional process beyond 2020

A request was made at the first intersessional meeting for information on the relationship between women and chemical safety as it relates to emerging policy issues and issues of concern, covering in particular the period beyond 2020. The Bureau agreed at its May 2017 meeting for the secretariat to prepare a paper, for the second intersessional meeting, that reviews the broader concept of gender and the sound management of chemicals and waste, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Gender mainstreaming” has been defined by the United Nations Economic and Social Council as ‘a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated’. In practice, gender mainstreaming supports both men's and women's equal contributions through policies and programs that address their specific needs.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda aim to address inequalities among all population groups, especially children, women and the impoverished. By directly addressing the links between the environment and gender in the context of the SDGs, it is believed that there will be new opportunities to help achieve them in a more sustainable and beneficial manner. SDG 5 has been created to achieve gender equality and improve women’s rights.

Gender is relevant to the sound management of chemicals and waste because women and men have different physiological susceptibilities as well as varying roles in societies that can impact decisionmaking and chemical exposure. Chemical safety is not present in all groups of the population in today’s world and the effects of chemical exposure differs depending on many diverse factors, e.g. geographical location, behavioural patterns, age, nutritional status, biological effect and/or exposure to a combination of chemicals at the same time (sometimes referred to as the “chemical cocktail”).

When gender is mainstreamed across high priority development issues, it can create strategic opportunities to focus on operations and provide benefits for both men and women. Identifying these strategic opportunities—such as promoting secure and safe working conditions—can yield tangible results.