Gender Equality and Sustainable Development: A Pathways Approach

image of Gender Equality and Sustainable Development: A Pathways Approach

The challenges of building pathways to sustainability and enhancing gender equality are both urgent. This work explores why they must be addressed together, and how this might be done. It puts forward a ‘gendered pathways approach’, as a conceptual framework for addressing the interactions, tensions and trade-offs between different dimensions of gender equality and of sustainability. The publication provides a historical review of how diverse concepts—or narratives—about women, gender and sustainability have emerged and come to co-exist. It acknowledges tensions and trade-offs in different pathways and addresses the policy and political challenges of transforming pathways towards greater gender equality and sustainability. Ultimately, the authors argue, feminist movements and collective organizing, emerging in diverse ways and places across the world, offer the greatest hope both for challenging unsustainable pathways and for charting new ones that lead us in more sustainable, gender-equal directions.



Gender and sustainable development: Reviewing concepts and debates

Even though ‘sustainability’ has become a key concept guiding global, national and local institutional frameworks, policies and interventions, the concept is ever-changing and deeply debated and contested. Gender has been variously ignored by, or incorporated into, conceptualizations and policy debates in a diversity of ways. A brief review highlights the historical roots of some key concepts and approaches that continue to co-exist and compete today, albeit in contemporary forms. Drawing together a chronology of environmental policies and action with evolving feminist perspectives on these, we chronicle – albeit in outline – a rich history of work on gender, environment and sustainable development over the last 30 years, with feminist theory co-evolving with feminist movements. Many of these approaches offer vital insights, principles and ways to enrich our gendered pathways approach, offering valuable potential for the design of policies and interventions and fostering a progressive politics of sustainability and gender equality. Yet, other conceptualizations are problematic and when applied in practice – including those mobilized as narratives by feminist policy makers at particular policy moments – have worked against gender equality and sometimes sustainability too. For each sub-section, we highlight positive contributions and insights, drawbacks and dangers in theory or when translated into policy, projects or practice as well as potential aspects to take forward into a gendered pathways approach.


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