Environment and Gender Index Data Reveal Women's Rights Make a Difference

03/09/2015 12:41 pm ET | Updated May 03, 2015

Every year on March 8, International Women's Day (IWD), the global community comes together to champion the rights of women, marking an opportunity to not just commemorate women, women's achievements and progress toward equality, but to also take stock -- to carefully study the gains made and to dig deeper into the challenges. Women continue to play an integral role in addressing the complex challenges our world faces on a daily basis -- but data shows our contributions as women are still undervalued.

First celebrated in the early 1900s, this year's IWD also recognizes the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) -- a key global framework agreed to advance women's rights and make comprehensive commitments under 12 critical areas of concern, one of them being the environment. Two decades later, BPfA remains an inspirational roadmap, illuminating the path toward a more just world, a path on which many significant steps have been taken.

But how far have we come? The theme for this year's IWD is "Make It Happen," but how can we make it happen without tangible data to measure results?

Reliable, well-founded data is essential for smart, evidence-based policy and for implementing commitments to gender equality and women's empowerment, not least in relation to the environment. However, there is a lack of accountability and monitoring mechanisms. The IUCN Global Gender Office (GGO) has endeavored to address some of these gaps by developing a monitoring mechanism that holds institutions, countries, and conventions accountable with our Environment and Gender Index (EGI). A composite index, the EGI is the first-ever tool to track progress toward gender equality in the context of global environmental governance. Its pilot phase ranked 73 countries worldwide, along 27 dimensions, divided into six categories (Livelihood, Ecosystem, Gender-based Rights and Participation, Governance, Gender-based Education and Assets, and Country-Reported Activities) and revealed interesting strengths, weaknesses and relationships amongst ranked countries and variables, such as:

- Poland ranked the highest worldwide in the ecosystem category, but lowest in the livelihood category in the region.

- Liberia scored in the top tier of countries where women have equal access to credit, land and property, so does Algeria.

- Jamaica ranked highest worldwide on number of women legislators, managers and senior officials.

- Sweden ranked highest for number of women in policy-making positions.

- Mongolia was the top performer overall in the Asian region and ranks extremely high globally, but is low on women in policy-making positions and protection of property rights.

These statistics and more can be found here.


Girls playing in Liberia, a country where 75% of the Ministers of Environment are women.

Over the past 20, 50, even 100 years, the world has made great strides when it comes to empowering women, but we have not yet reached gender equality. As we continue to move forward, gender-related actions need robust tools to inform policy and decisions and continue to identify persisting gaps. GGO is pleased to be collaborating with UN Women to create new data sets on women's participation in environmental decision making. This research finds that women still have less access to environmental decision-making spheres at all levels. The newest database -- which compiles indicators on women's involvement in international environmental delegations and leadership of large environmental institutions, green parties and environmental ministries at the national level -- shows specifically where women's leadership has advanced, and where more progress is needed. For example, new EGI findings include:

- Across key environmental fora, less than one third of decision makers are women.

- 29%* of Rio Convention government delegates are women.

- 43%** of Rio Convention NGO representatives are women.

- Less than 25%** of Rio Convention focal points are women.

- Out of 43 international environmentally focused institutions, 35%** of the executive directors (or equivalent) are women.

(*As of 2014; **As of 2013.)

Progress cannot be made without measureable results. With some of the best data to date on how countries are translating their commitments to environmental protection and women's empowerment at national level, the EGI consistently finds that countries taking seriously their commitments to advancing gender equality in environmental arenas are making strides well beyond survival toward long-term wellbeing for all their citizens.

To really "make it happen" this IWD, we invite you to join us in ensuring that data reflects the full picture -- that women are counted, and that women's leadership is championed, all toward a more sustainable, equitable and peaceful world.

IUCN GGO endeavors to provide innovative approaches, technical support, policy development and capacity building to ensure gender equality is central to sustainable global environmental solutions. At the present, the EGI team is developing new datasets and producing national case studies examining women's participation and leadership in environmental decision making. In its next full phase, the EGI aims to include all countries of the world in an updated composite index. To learn more about the GGO, please visit our website: