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International Women's Day 2012: Why is Rio+20 important for women?

WECF, organising Partner Women’s Major Group for Rio+20 states: the “Green Economy” needs Gender Equality

07.03.2012 | WECF Press Release

Utrecht/Munich, March 7, 2012 –   In three months time, on 20-22 of June 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), Rio+20, will take place in Rio de Janeiro. 20 years after the historic Earth Summit, women's participation in the process and input on the themes and objective will be crucial to a successful outcome.  As representative of the Women’s Major Group the international women’s and environmental network WECF therefore presents Women’s Priorities for the Rio+20 Zero Draft in the run up to International Women’s Day.

Worldwide, 70% of the poor are still women. Also in Europe, many women-headed-households are among the lowest income earners.  Economic development - inclusive of women and the poor - is therefore one of the key themes of the Rio+20 summit.  The international women’s and environmental network WECF represents the women’s organisations worldwide in the preparations of the Rio+20 summit. The UNCSD works with nine so-called “major groups” which represent civil society, including a.o. “women”, “indigenous peoples” and “youth”. As organiser of the Women’s Major Group, WECF is an excellent position to bring the priorities of women to the attention of the government negotiators. (1)

In June 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Referred to as Rio+20, the conference comes 20 years after the historic Earth Summit of 1992, which set the framework for sustainable development, including its 3 dimensions: environmental, social and economic.

In the last 20 years we have learned that sustainable development is only possible with women’s equality and full participation. But women continue to benefit less from economic development, and are hit worst by economic austerity programmes. One of the main themes of the Rio+20 summit is “Green Economy” in the context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication.

“Women should not be left out, we want governments to set ambitious targets for green jobs for women”, says Sascha Gabizon, executive director of WECF “a target of 40% is a good beginning!” Too often investments, particularly in developing countries, forget women. The World Bank in its 2011 “World Development Report” affirmed that investing in women contributes more to development than investing only in men. There are many examples, of e.g. milk factories in Africa, which made contracts with the men, but overlooked that the women were the one’s to take care of the cows and milk production. Only when the women were included, could the milk quality be assured.

Women’s rights are at the core of human rights. Only a small part of humanity benefits from the current economic system, and particularly women are often left out. The unpaid work mostly provided by women to feed, cloth and care for our communities provides the backbone of our economies.  According to some estimates, women’s unpaid labour makes up to 50% of GDP in some countries.

WECF believes that the ‘green economy’ should support the well-being of all, and include the most vulnerable in society.  The vulnerable and poor need rights to protect their lives and livelihoods. They cannot rely on market mechanisms alone – as on the market the one with most capital most often wins. A ‘green’ economic system must promote social equity and gender equality.

The Women's Major Group and WECF therefore demand that governments at the Rio+20 summit commit to the following:
  1. Ambitious targets of at least 40% of new “green jobs” for women
  2. A global “basic income for women”, of at least 1 dollar a day; in this way the Millennium Development Goal 1 can be reached right away!
  3. A UN High Commissioner for Future Generations, to protect the interests of our children and grandchildren, for example, with the power to call a moratorium on high risk technologies such as geo-engineering, nano-technology or synthetic biology.
Sascha Gabizon, executive director of WECF, states “today, 70% of the poor are women. If we meet in another 20 years time at the Rio+40 summit, let’s make sure that this flagrant inequality no longer exists”.

(1) Negotiators are already drafting the expected commitments and results of the Rio+20 summit. See also:  


For more information on women’s activities and UNCSD process:

Official UN Rio+20 website, Women’s Major Group page
Interactive site for women and Rio+20
Women’s Major Group Women’s Priorities for Rio+20 Zero Draft 

Or contact:
Chantal Van den Bossche, WECF press: ; mob: 0031-6.2812 9992
WECF the Netherlands: +31 (30) 23 10 300
WECF Germany: +49 (89) 23 23 93 80

WECF is a unique network of over 100 grassroots women and environment organisations worldwide, working in multi-sector partnerships demonstrating sustainable development alternatives at the local level, and sharing lessons learned and promoting sustainable policies at the global level.

WECF has NGO consultative status with United Nations Economic & Social Council (ECOSOC) and is accredited with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).