Empowerment of Women in a Green Economy in the Context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication: The Case for Community-Based, Gender-Equitable and Human Rights-Based Green Economic Development


Tandon, Nidhi. 2012. Empowerment of Women in a Green Economy in the Context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication: The Case for Community-Based, Gender-Equitable and Human Rights-Based Green Economic Development. New York: UN Women.

Author: Nidhi Tandon


This paper has three sections. The first section cautions against whole-scale acceptance of the current economic institutional order and the prevailing neo-liberal policy framework and applying those principles to the architecture of a green economy. Poverty is by far the greatest violation of human rights, and today’s economic institutional order is closely associated with the structural drivers of persistent poverty. It is therefore imperative and urgent that those movements that speak for both disenfranchised people and for disempowered women build understanding and solidarity to fundamentally change the global rules of engagement that disadvantage the poor and make it impossible for them to fend for themselves. This section outlines a sample of current challenges to how the economic system could be designed, regulated and measured around different sets of values and ownership models to benefit poor communities in a green economy. The author encourages the women’s movement to build strategic alliances and integrate gender equity issues with this emergent transformative thinking.

The second section identifies, illustrates and discusses three sectors, recognizing that a green economy has implications for women not only across sectors but in both urban and rural settings with a plethora of employment opportunities in labour and technology intensive areas. These sectors are drawn from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Green Economy Initiative report:4 (1) natural capital, emphasizing women’s relations with water, fisheries and land use; (2) energy and resource efficiency, including an examination of waste collection with a special emphasis on women waste pickers; and (3) the transition to a global green economy, which includes an analysis of enabling conditions and financial instruments. It also addresses a number of predicaments and ramifications already evident or emerging at the community, local, national, regional and global levels, where the drivers and interests of one green economy can erode or even erase the drivers and outcomes of another green economy. The author emphasizes that communities of citizens, broadly defined, each need their own cognitive framework of green economy values, principles, practices and policies, since these address and respond to intensely local issues. The locally defined framework then needs to be embraced and supported by an overarching public policy environment. This process constitutes a key platform for women’s engagement in the management and negotiation of the benefits from the development of the green economy.

Complex challenges create imperatives for change. At the community level these complexities need to be unpacked for women and men to fully grasp what is at stake. The third section continues the discussion by reinforcing the importance of developing women’s capacity for change through consolidating social capital, collective agency and community action. It suggests that while economic empowerment in a green economy context will be key, economic empowerment on its own will not translate automatically, or even necessarily, into the kind of action needed for a holistic green economy regime. The community level is the quintessential entry point for investing in women’s empowerment in green economies. If poor communities are the designated beneficiaries of cost-benefit programmes in green economies, to generate revenues from Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes or access regular compensation payments for water used by industry, then a scaled-down financial support infrastructure is an absolute necessity. The section closes with strategic recommendations focusing on community-level empowerment of women through collective agency, social capital and institutional anchoring of support services and investment.

Topics: Economies, Ecological Economics, Poverty, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Livelihoods

Year: 2012

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