Press release: using gender strategy tools to improve the management of chemicals and waste

For immediate release
Munich, 14 May 2019

WECF International, together with several partner organisations, and with the support of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) conventions secretariats, organised an event on how gender strategies contribute to improve the management of hazardous chemicals and waste. The event took place in Geneva on May 9th 2019 as countries that are Parties to the 3 global Chemical conventions gathered to make agreements to better manage chemicals and waste. Several tools and approaches to make gender mainstreaming a reality, as well as good practices were shared with participants.

Babies are born pre-polluted by toxic chemicals

Sofia Tapper of the Swedish Ministry of the Environment and Energy reminded that achieving gender equality is an evolving process, and pointed out that babies today are born pre-polluted by hundreds of risky chemical contaminants. A concern which is shared by the international health community, which has been urging governments to act (1).

Case studies: gender and chemicals strategies at local level

The Gender Action Plan (2) of the BRS-Conventions includes activities in pilot countries to better understand the gender dimensions of chemical and waste pollution. As a key to success, Sascha Gabizon (WECF International) estimates that good practices must be identified to be duplicated and multiplied. Indira Zhakipova, a chemicals and waste expert at EKOIS / BIOM ecological movement shared her experience on gender dimensions of chemical waste in Kyrgyzstan. The country has 42 dumping sites of obsolete pesticides which have killed sheep and pollute groundwater. Health studies show women living near these pesticide dumps or still working with pesticides in cotton growing have much higher levels of reproductive diseases and cancers.

Burning mountains of plastic waste

Close to the capital Bishkek the ‘waste mountain’ burns day and night, spreading toxic fumes into air, water and food of inhabitants. With China having closed its markets to plastic waste, statistics show a great leap in plastic scrap imports into Kyzrgyzstan. How much of plastic waste is just burned on waste dumps? It is therefore of historic importance that the Parties to the Basel Convention agreed to no longer allow trade in plastic waste, most of which comes from the West (4). Still, it will take a long time before the existing plastic waste mountains are safely eliminated. An estimate 60% of the waste scavengers in Bishkek are women, and they are exposed to dioxin and other toxic emissions on a daily basis. Interviews show that authorities often target male workers in training exercises, whereas women are to a much larger degree involved in managing of pesticides and waste. Women are more often “invisible” and informal actors. Having gender data helps with effective policies and actions. Thus far, the national policies on chemical and waste do not consider gender dimensions. Indira and her colleagues are ready to change that.

Tools for an effective implementation of gender mainstreaming

Since the adoption of a Gender Action Plan, gender mainstreaming has become a transversal approach in the implementation of the chemical conventions. The Pocket guide to the BRS Gender Action Plan (2), launched at the side-event, paves the way for the appropriation of a gender approach by Parties. Another tool, an e-learning course on gender, chemicals and waste (3), developed by UNITAR helps for instance to understand how women are differently affected by chemicals, to undertake appropriate action.

No doubt that closing the gender gap in activities of chemicals and waste management would benefit the activities by Parties to the BRS conventions, while supporting Agenda 2030 in reaching several SDGs such as gender equality (SDG5), good health and well-being (SDG3), responsible production and consumption (SDG12), which are key for a clean planet and healthy people.


  1. In 2015, the International Federation of Gynecologists and Obstetrics (FIGO) released an “Opinion on reproductive health impacts of exposure to toxic environmental chemicals”, which contains a list of 4 recommendations,
  2. The guide was developed by the Secretariat of the conventions and GRID-Arendal network, with the support of Sweden. For more information:
  3. The course, part of a Gender and environment global course proposed by the UN Climate Change Learning Partnership is available on line :
  4. UNEP press release Governments agree on landmark decisions to protect people and planet 11 May 2019


Sascha Gabizon, Executive Director, WECF International,
Elisabeth Ruffinengo, Advocacy and policy officer, WECF France,