6th Women and the Environment Dialogue 2015
Since 1994, South Africa has made significant strides in ensuring gender mainstreaming and that women are included in key decision-making processes. The National Environmental Management Act nr 107 of 1998 makes it clear that the vital role of women and youth in environment management and development must be recognised and their full participation therein must be promoted. The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) recognized the importance of gender equality in all efforts to achieve environmental sustainability. Under the umbrella of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 3 —namely the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women— the task has been to achieve gender parity in primary education, increase women’s political participation, and eliminate obstacles faced by women in accessing secondary education.
The National Development Plan (NDP) identified five environmental sustainability key areas towards the 2030 vision, which are:
- firstly sustaining South Africa’s ecosystems and using natural resources efficiently;
- building sustainable communities;
- responding effectively to climate change through mitigation and adaptation;
- managing a just green economy transition and
- enhancing governance systems and capacity.
The nine focus areas of green economy in the context of sustainable development are:
- resource conservation and management;
- sustainable waste management practices;
- water management;
- environmental sustainability: greening and legacy-major events and tourism, research, skills, financing and investments;
- green buildings and the built environment;
- sustainable transport and infrastructure;
- clean energy and energy efficiency;
- agriculture, food production and forestry and
- sustainable consumption and production - within which work streams such as oceans economy, recycle economy and wildlife economy, also contributes.
Parallel to the evolution of environmental and sustainable development legislation, policies and strategies, the environment sector gradually focussed its agenda on women empowerment through various national and provincial programmes. It is from this end that the National Women and Environment Forum became the catalyst and trigger for the sector to lead the development of the Sector Gender Framework for the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality through the MINTECH.
Through the framework, the sector reflects its commitments to take into account the principles of gender equality in its employment practices, policies and service delivery. The sector is further committed to take initiatives that aim at addressing the imbalances of the past and gender inequality regardless of race, religion, disability, or any other factor. The framework implementation will enhance our achievement of women empowerment and equality in the environmental sector in accordance with the Constitution (Act No. 108 of 1996); Women’s Charter for Effective Equality, 1994; the National Framework for Women Empowerment and Gender Equality, 2000; the Strategic Framework for Gender Equality within the Public Service, 2006; as well as international frameworks including UN Women, UNCSW and UNEP among others.
The sector gender framework development enabled us to highlight the gender empowerment and equality progress made thus far in response to the policy imperatives. The framework further outlined key issues for consideration towards the development of the sector gender strategy that will have an action plan that includes a component of monitoring and evaluation. The sector gender framework and strategy will be instrumental to coordinate the overall alignment of priorities, activities and progress to cover the environment sector portfolio as a whole.
The environment function is concurrent and crosscutting with horizontal and vertical reach. It is therefore critical that the sector partners collaborate in their efforts towards gender equality and women empowerment. Some of the key progress made by the sector in gender mainstreaming includes the following areas:
In line with the Skills Development Act of 1998, the sector has administered the Environmental Practice Learnership Programme. To date nearly 300 female learners have benefited: going on to formal employment in business, Government and non-Governmental and community based organisations.
The environment sector implemented the Groen Sebenza three year project that offered unemployed graduates and school-leavers the opportunity to work in 44 participating host institutions in private sector, government including public entities, NGO and academia. The project hosted 472 women of the total 800 that was targeted for placement in the Groen Sebenza.
- Other initiatives include the bursary opportunities that were created for women in the sector. These initiatives have gone a long way towards addressing the skills gap in the environment and reducing unemployment, especially of young women.
Enterprise and community development:
The National Green Fund established in April 2012 has injected much needed funding into women-headed green economy projects like the Muthi Futhi project in Edakeni, near Eshowe, Uthungulu District in KwaZulu Natal province. Here a group of rural women are pioneering the commercial production of selected indigenous traditional medicinal plants, with the sale of herbal products ensuring a fully functional and operational enterprise that provides green jobs. A similar such initiative is the 100 percent women owned Bema Bamboo project in Mandeni, Ilembe District in KwaZulu Natal. This project aims to produce top-quality Beema Bamboo biomass feedstock.
The sector is supporting a host of other projects around the country that promote environmental conservation, but at the same time impart skills to women in sectors such as wetland conservation and rehabilitation. These include those within the ambit of the Expanded Public Works Programme such as Working for Wetlands, Working for Water, Working for Fire, Working for Waste and the Land Care Programme. In 2013/14 alone, 80 658 (53%) work opportunities were created for women under the environment and culture sector programme.
This was an increase from the 2012/13 73 678 work opportunities created for women. The South African green economy modelling report of 2013 revealed that investments in the natural resource management, in particular through Working for Water type programmes has significant potential to create jobs while enhancing environmental goods and services such as water availability and regulation.
Employment in the natural resource management sector occurs in the restoration of ecosystem services, the utilization of alien plant biomass for energy and value added industries. Most of the employment, however, arises from the clearing and management of alien invasive plant species from ecologically sensitive areas. Although it started in 1995, The Working for Water programme started in 1995 and remains a particularly highly relevant intervention in the green economy sector through creating vital opportunities for women empowerment.
Since the 2005 and 2006 conferences a firm basis has been laid for the sector’s women and environment agenda. These two conferences defined clear areas of action for government, civil society and business. The 2008 conference took a step further by resolving to develop a structured Women and Environment forum for the country. The national Women and Environment Forum established in 2010 provided a platform for women to share experiences in the environment sector representing Government spheres, private sector and organised business, civil society representatives in rural and urban environments, organised labour, and academia and research institutions. The 2012 conference focused on the reflection of 56 years of women united against unemployment, poverty and inequality.
Women and the environment is one of the 12 critical areas of concern identified in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted by global leaders at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. The year 2015 marks a special milestone since the Beijing conference in 1995 and thus is also referred to as the 20-year anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Beijing+20). The Beijing+20 takes place at a strategic moment – at the crossroads of accelerated efforts to achieve the MDGs, review progress and gaps in MDGs, and during the elaboration of the post- 2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals. The Platform pinpointed three strategic objectives for government action on the environment. These include involving women actively in environmental decision-making at all levels, integrating their concerns and perspectives in policies and programmes, and establishing ways to assess the impact of development and environmental policies on women.
The 2015 Women and Environment Dialogue partners and stakeholders aims to reflect and take stock on the environment sector’s gender mainstreaming progress, successes and challenges thus far and agree on the next decade priorities and opportunities beyond. This will be achieved through engaging on the following objectives and themes:
Commitments renewal, debates revitalization and advocacy
- Governance and coordination
- Skills development and technology
Policy interventions and gaps
- Gender mainstreaming in the environmental policies
- Role of private sector and civil society
Good practise programmes and projects implementation
- Projects financing models and opportunities
- Projects show casing
Strengthen evidence base through sharing of research, information and practices
- Outputs on successes, challenges and opportunities
- Strengthening partnerships for gender science-policy interface