Connecting Gender, Violence and Pollution

“16-Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence”

This was the UN’s global campaign in commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women last November 25, 2017.

Janet Kabeberi-Macharia, UN Environment’s Senior Gender Advisor and Head of the Gender and Safeguards Unit, gave some enlightenment as to why it was the chosen topic for the campaign and how it was related to the work of UN environment.

There are two cornerstones of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development: “people and planet”, and “leave no one behind”.

As already mentioned, in most rural areas, it is customary for the women or girls to collect resources like wood and water. Because of the environment’s deterioration, they have no choice but to walk to longer distances, even reaching unfamiliar territories, making them more prone to different dangers including sexual violence.

The UN Environment Assembly held its third session in Nairobi, Kenya last December 4-6, 2017 with the theme “pollution”. Although there is an obvious relation to gender, violence and pollution based on the fact stated above, Janet Kabeberi-Macharia was eager to explain more.

Water pollution is a definite consequence of a degrading environment. A survey in 25 Sub-Saharan Africa shows that women spend a total of 16 million hours a day collecting water, while men spend 6 million hours. When clean or potable water is unavailable from near or usual sources, they have to go further to gather it. It only widens the window of them being harassed.

The hazards do not end there.

Since women are also in charge of the cooking, they would also have to constantly deal with the burning of wood. This exposes them to indoor air pollution, which kills 4.3 million people every year, according to the World Health Organization.

The UN is currently seeking to promote low-carbon transport to reduce pollution. They affirm having potential to re-design transport systems that are friendlier to women and girls in cities, as sexual harassment and violence is a daily struggle for females in urban metropolises also.

Janet has truly established the connection between gender, violence and pollution. It is a scary truth, but it is reassuring that the UN is taking the necessary actions to address the situation.


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