Gender and Social Equality

Women carrying cotton.

Women carrying cotton. Nigna Latifa, Dadjan Wassinatou and Nacro Rainatou carry baskets of freshly harvested cotton along a road near Zorro village, Burkina Faso. Photo by Ollivier Girard for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), via Flickr.

There are vital interconnections between gender and social equality, and environment and development. Environmental change affects different social groups in different ways: women and men, rich and poor, specific ethnic and age groups, people with disabilities, and people in developed and developing countries.

Patterns of development and economic growth that neglect the needs of specific groups of people can exacerbate disparities, stratifying people into losers and winners, worsening living conditions and creating unjust outcomes. A deliberate focus on gender and social equality in development can help achieve more inclusive benefits, and enhance human and environmental well-being.

This theme, which is supported by SEI's Gender and Social Equality programme, aims to deepen engagement on issues of gender and social equality in the context of environment and development, foster collaborations, and strengthen capacity in this field.

Gender & social equality and power

Research since the 1980s has shown clear disparities in different population groups’ access to livelihood resources, and in their vulnerability to climate change and environmental degradation. These disparities are mediated by social, economic and political institutions with often tacit gender and social norms that create and sustain inequality – both within societies, and between them.

If we want to understand and address today’s development and environmental challenges, we need to examine people and ecosystems in relation to each other.

Key topics within this theme:

Gender – the roles, traits and expectations assigned to each sex. Gender identities can translate into unequal control over and access to resources and often into poverty, disadvantage and vulnerability.

Gender equality – a concept with transformative connotations, covering women’s empowerment, non-discrimination and equal rights regardless of gender. It embraces a multi-dimensional and intersectional view on inequalities between women and men, girls and boys. It points towards change of gender-based power relations in all sectors of society, private as well as public (Sida, 2016)

Social equality – the demand for equal outcomes for men and women and people of different classes, races, ethnicities, nationalities, sexual orientations, (dis)abilities, and so on.

Power relations – not just power over people, resources and institutions, but also “power to” act, and people’s “power with” one another or with institutions to effect change in their lives, as well as the power that comes from assigning special authority to particular forms of knowledge over others.

Some Key Resources


Participating Organisations




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Participating Organisations