Gender and Sustainable Development

In this issue: 

This update focuses on the importance of having a gender perspective when conceptualising sustainable development and highlights a selection of key relevant resources featured in the BRIDGE global resources database.

February 2015
Issue number: 

Can there be sustainable development without gender equality? Too often sustainable development is still seen primarily as environmental sustainability. This narrow approach oversees some complex social, economic and ecological dimensions without adequately acknowledging gender concerns. The discussions leading up to the elaboration of a post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals, are good opportunities to include a gender perspective in the conceptualisation of the term sustainable development.

Achieving gender equity is critical to sustainable development. In all societies women’s and men’s roles are socially constructed, but all too frequently gender-based disparities exist that disadvantage women; this impedes their development and hence that of humankind.

Despite decades of effort, overall progress in improving women’s lives has been inconsistent. Moreover, environmental benefits and burdens affecting human capabilities are inequitably distributed. Women are still underrepresented in all levels of government and other decision-making arenas, whether at work or, for many, at home. Such lack of power is linked to higher levels of female poverty, especially in rural areas of developing countries where women are responsible for 60–80 per cent of food production as well as fuel and water provision yet have little access or control over natural assets such as land, water and ecological conditions that create opportunities for a better life.

 A sustainable development pathway must be established which has an explicit commitment to gender equality and seeks to enhance women’s capabilities, respect and protect their rights and reduce and redistribute their unpaid care work. Women must have full and equal participation in decision making and policy development to create this pathway.

 This collection of resources provides arguments for a gender perspective in development in order for it to be really sustainable.

Supporting Resources: 

Related resources from BRIDGE global resources database

The following is a selection of key resources related to the topic of gender and sustainable development featured in the BRIDGE global resources database.  

You can search for more resources on the BRIDGE website, including French and Spanish ones.


World Survey on the Role of Women in Development 2014: Gender Equality and Sustainable Development

This flagship UN study, part of the World Survey series which is issued every five years, highlights the links between the causes of gender inequality and unsustainability, and makes the case for the importance of recognising and building on the synergies between sustainable development and gender equality.

Are Women the Key to Sustainable Development?

The three pillars of sustainable development - social, environment and economic – are also relevant to discussions of gender equality. An increasing number of studies indicate that gender inequalities are extracting high economic costs and leading to social inequities and environmental degradation around the world. This paper reviews the findings of the existing body of gender research on the subject.

Menstrual Hygiene matters

The main purpose of this resource is to provide a comprehensive resource on menstrual hygiene that supports the development of context-specific information for improving practices for women and girls in lower- and middle-income countries.

Mujer, agricultura y seguridad alimentaria: una mirada para el fortalecimiento de las políticas públicas en América Latina

En el presente documento se analiza el carácter estratégico que tiene la mujer rural en relación a la agricultura y la seguridad alimentaria y la forma cómo han ido respondiendo las políticas públicas a este respecto.

Sustainable Development from a Gender Perspective: a Glossary

This glossary highlights the various issues a sustainable development agenda should address, as well as some concepts and ideas that have been put forward by different actors as solutions for some of the challenges facing the world community. It also shall serve to emphasize the gender relations underlying all different fields of action.

Green Jobs and Women Workers: Employment, Equity, Equality

This paper places what happened to MDG 5, and sexual and reproductive health and rights more broadly, into the context of the development model that was encoded in the MDGs

Balancing Paid Work and Unpaid Care Work to Achieve Women’s Economic Empowerment

This policy briefing argues that women's economic empowerment can lead to economic growth but it is important to understand it as not simply about labour force participation, but also about the choice to work, the choice of sector, location and working hours.

Gender & Land – Implications for Sustainable Development A working paper for development practitioners

This working paper highlights critical issues concerning gender and land and provides an overview of the international and regional legal and policy context.

In the news: 


BRIDGE is very excited to announce the launch the Gender and Food Security Cutting Edge Pack. Working with over 40 gender, food and nutrition experts, the pack is a result of a three year collaborative programme, which explored why food security is a gender justice issue and what needs to change to ensure gender-just food security.

In this pack, made up of the Overview report  and In Brief, BRIDGE make the case for a new, gender-aware understanding of food security, arguing that partial, apolitical and gender-blind diagnoses of the problem of food and nutrition insecurity is leading to insufficient policy responses and the failure to realise the right to food for all people.  The pack showcases effective and promising existing strategies.

Spanish and French versions of both the In Brief and the Overview Report will soon be available on the BRIDGE publications pages.


What works in engaging men and boys for gender equality in education, employment, care work, and political participation? Which interventions have been effective in engaging men and boys in tackling gender-based violence and in ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights? And what challenges exist in achieving all of the above? The EMERGE project has published a document library which gathers evidence and lessons to provide a stronger basis for improving policy, learning and practice.