What could a gender focussed 'just transition' look like?

| Somali Cerise and Ushana Jayasuriya

Without explicit attention to gender, a just transition risks replicating or even exacerbating structural gender inequalities, including women’s over-representation in precarious work, the gender pay gap, occupational segregation, women’s disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care and domestic work and their limited access to social protection. Women in rural communities are at particular risk due to limited livelihood options, inadequate infrastructure and public services, as well as their dependence on and responsibility for natural resources.

The participants were asked to share their perspectives on key issues from a range of disciplines, including what a gender just transition would look like and areas of commonalities and tensions. The group also discussed core principles that should guide a gender just transition. Four key ideas that emerged from these discussions.

A screen showing tiles of participants for the IGD's online workshop.

The need to redefine the relationship between humans and the environment, and move away from GDP as the widely accepted measure of success

As part of a just transition, there is a need to challenge idea of growth and GDP as measures of a successful economy, as well as assumptions and colonial foundations of dominant knowledge systems in ecology and economics. Dominant economic models have invisibilised, devalued and exploited both the natural environment and women’s labour, particularly care labour.

A just transition will require a reconsideration of how economies are organised, what the economy is for, what is valued and measured, and the industries or sectors that should grow or be transitioned away from to protect both people and the planet. These changes require fundamentally rethinking the relationship between humans and the environment – away from the natural environment serving the interests of human beings to viewing human beings as part of the natural environment.  

Justice for what and for whom?

A critical question arises in who and what the transition is focussed on and how just transition policies distribute the benefits and burden to ensure the interests of all people and their right to economic security and well-being are safeguarded. This is a form of outcomes-based justice where the end result at a minimum ‘does no harm’. A more transformative view of justice would also include distributive and restorative justice which also challenges existing and historical power asymmetries and redistributes power and resources. Justice in the context of a just transition also entails procedural justice through the participation of all affected groups and potentially ownership of resources by communities.

From a gender perspective, ‘justice’ must challenge and change the structural underpinnings of gender inequality. Women in poor rural communities are at particular risk due to limited livelihood options, inadequate infrastructure and public services, and their reliance on natural resources in the context of growing environmental degradation. Women are also disproportionately represented in informal work across a range of sectors.

A just transition must ensure rights and entitlements for all workers, including informal workers or those undertaking (often unpaid) care work. Ensuring global development justice as part of the just transition must also include addressing inequalities between the global North and South, and the legacy of colonialism.

Ethics of care as a framework to guide a gender just transition

The current pandemic has exposed not only the centrality of care to our economies, but also the economic reliance on women’s unpaid care work as deeply unsustainable. An ethics of care approach to guide a just transition would centre on the care for people and planet as interlinked objectives, recognising intersectional inequalities and disadvantage, to enable all humans and the natural world to flourish. As part of this approach, the role of the economy is to provision enough for the care of people and planet, and human and ecological well-being would be the measures of success.

Anita Nayar, Director, Regions Refocus

Anita has worked nationally and internationally on issues including women’s human rights, economic globalization, and climate justice. She previously served as Chief of the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service in New York and on the Executive Committee of the South-based feminist network, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN). She currently directs Regions Refocus and co-chairs the Gender and Trade Coalition.

Ariel Salleh, Honorary Associate Professor, University of Sydney

Ariel Salleh is an Honorary Associate Professor in Political Economy, University of Sydney; Visiting Professor in Culture, Philosophy & Environment, Nelson Mandela University, South Africa; and former Senior Fellow in Post-Growth Societies, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany. She taught in Social Ecology at the University of Western Sydney for a number of years; and has lectured widely, including NYU; ICS, Manila; York University, Toronto, and Lund. A longtime activist, she co-founded the Movement Against Uranium Mining; The Greens (reg. party); served on the Federal Government's Gene Technology Ethics Committee; and was a governor of the International Sociological Association Research Committee for Environment & Society. She writes in the field of political ecology, extending the remit of political economy by focusing on the role of reproductive or meta-industrial labour in sustaining relations between humans and nature. She has three books - Ecofeminism as Politics; the anthology Eco-Sufficiency and Global JusticePluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary edited with Kothari et al. and some 200 chapters and articles.

Avril de Torres, Center for Energy, Ecology and Development, Philippines

Avril De Torres is the Research, Policy, and Law Program Head of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, a Philippine think-do institution conducting policy research and advocacy and partnering with communities in advancing transformative energy, ecological justice, and people-centered development. She is also handling environmental cases in her public interest environmental law firm and acting as a consultant for the House of Representatives Committee on Metro Manila Development. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree, major in Political Science, and minor in English Literature in 2012, and her Juris Doctor degree in 2016 from the Ateneo de Manila University.

Bengi Akbulut, Assistant Professor, Concordia University

Bengi is an Assistant Professor in Geography, Planning and Environment at Concordia University. Her work focuses broadly on the political economy of development, including issues of political ecology, agrarian and environmental change, state-society relationships, social and environmental movements, and gender and household work. Her joint and independent work has appeared in the Cambridge Journal of Economics and Development and Change among others.

Bernadette Resurrección, Associate Professor, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario

Bernadette is Associate Professor and Queen’s National Scholar at Queen’s University, Canada. She has 20 years of experience doing research, teaching and advising on gender, environment, and natural resource management. In this broad field, her research covers core gender and social equity issues in upland agriculture, water governance in riparian contexts, mobile livelihoods and rural-urban linkages, disaster risk and climate change in the developing regions of Southeast Asia. Her work also critically examines how development practice and proposed policy interventions can meaningfully address complex and grounded realities through the lens of feminist political ecology. She was formerly a Senior Research Fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and an Associate Professor at the School of Environment, Resources & Development of the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT).

Dunja Krause, Research Officer, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development

Dunja Krause is a Research Officer and leads UNRISD’s work on climate justice with a focus on just transition to low-carbon development and transformative adaptation to climate change in coastal cities. She coordinates the Just Transition Research Collaborative and recently co-edited the volume “Just Transitions: Social Justice in the Shift Towards a Low-Carbon World” (Pluto Press, with Edouard Morena and Dimitris Stevis). A geographer by training, she has previously worked at the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (2009-2014), focusing on vulnerability assessments to natural hazards, the development of a global risk index, and the evaluation of climate change adaptation options in the Vietnamese Mekong Delta. Dunja previously held a shorter post (2008-2009) with the United Nations Environment Programme in Vienna, working on the interlinkages between environment and security and transboundary environmental cooperation as a means of conflict prevention.

Eileen Baldry, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Equity Diversity and Inclusion, UNSW Sydney.

Professor Eileen Baldry is Deputy Vice-Chancellor Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Professor of Criminology at UNSW Sydney. Professor Baldry’s teaching, research and publications focus on social justice and include mental health and cognitive disability in the criminal justice system; criminalised women, Aboriginal women and youth; education, training and employment for prisoners and ex-prisoners; homelessness and transition from prison; Indigenous justice; community development and social housing; and disability services. Professor Baldry has been and is a Chief Investigator on Australian Research Council (ARC), NH&MRC, AHURI and other major grants over the past 25 years, including Indigenous Australians with Mental Health Disorders and Cognitive Disabilities in the Criminal Justice System (IAMHDCD) Project. She has been involved in a voluntary capacity with a number of development and justice community organisations and is currently a Director on the Board of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and Deputy Chair of the Disability Council NSW.

Elizabeth Hill, Associate Professor, University of Sydney

Elizabeth is Associate Professor of political economy and co-convenor of the Australian Work and Family Policy Roundtable. She is a leading researcher on women, work and care in Australia and the Asian region and is interested in how economic institutions shape women’s paid work, unpaid care and the care workforce – especially as they evolve in response to the rapidly evolving dynamics of the global political economy. Elizabeth has collaborated with leading organisations including the International Labour Organisation and the Australian Human Rights Commission through her research. She is currently a Chief investigator on the Australian Women’s Working Future Project https://awwf.sydney.edu.au/ and ARC project Markets Migration and paid care work in Australia. Her research has been published in international academic journals including: Journal of Industrial Relations, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Work, Employment and Society, and Journal of Sociology and in public affairs journals such as East Asia Forum, The Diplomat and Asian Correspondent.

Hannah Bargawi, Senior Lecturer, University of London

Dr. Hannah Bargawi is a Senior Lecturer and co-Head of Department for Economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London where she convenes courses in Gender Economics and Development Economics. Dr. Bargawi’s research spans macroeconomic policies and employment as well as gender and labour market issues, including the links between paid and unpaid work. Her research is focused on East Africa and the Middle East as well as Europe - for example, together with a colleague she led an Employment Diagnostic Assessment for the International Labour Organisation and the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development in Uganda. She recently contributed a chapter on "How does Economics address Gender?" in a textbook entitled Recharting the History of Economic Thought, edited by Kevin Deane and Elisa Van Waeyenberge, published by Macmillan (2020). Before joining the Economics department, Dr. Bargawi was involved in research and consultancy projects for international agencies such as the Asian Development Bank, the International Labour Organisation and the United Nations Development Program.

Julie Nelson, Professor, University of Massachusetts-Boston

Julie A. Nelson is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Boston and Senior Research Fellow at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University. Her research interests include ecological economics, ethics and economics, and feminist economics. She is the author of many publications including Economics for Humans (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2nd ed. 2018) and  articles in journals ranging from Econometrica and  Ecological Economics to Economics and Philosophy and Hypatia: Journal of Feminist Philosophy. She was a founding member of the International Association for Feminist Economics and was the 2019 President of the Association for Social Economics. 

Kaira Zoe Canete, PhD candidate, University of NSW

Kaira Zoe Canete specialises in the intersection of gender, development and disasters. Currently, she is a PhD Candidate at the School of Social Sciences of the University of New South Wales. Her doctoral dissertation examines disaster recovery and reconstruction in Tacloban City, Philippines from the standpoint of women. Using the lens of feminist political ecology, she examines women's everyday embodied and emotional relations and practices as a resource for reconceptualising resilience, centring a feminist ethic of care as a normative basis for disaster recovery. Kaira is also a faculty member of the College of Social Sciences at the University of the Philippines Cebu and was founding Executive Director of research NGO in the Philippines called A2D Project-Research Group for Alternatives to Development Inc (2010-2014). 

Kiah Smith, Research Fellow, University of Queensland

Dr Kiah Smith is an ARC DECRA Research Fellow with the School of Social Science, The University of Queensland. Her research in Sociology focuses on sustainability transformations in local and global food systems, with publications on food security and food justice, climate resilience, ethical trade, sustainable livelihoods, gender, green economy, financialisation and the SDGs. She also has a keen interest in ecofeminism and the gendered dimensions of the right to food. Kiah previously worked with the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, has collaborated with NGOs in Australia and internationally, is a Future Earth Fellow, and sits on the editorial board of the International Journal of the Sociology of Agriculture and Food. She is currently the lead investigator on an Australian Research Council study on 'Fair Food Futures, Civil Society and the SDGs', and is the author of ‘Ethical Trade, Gender and Sustainable Livelihoods’ (Earthscan, 2014).

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, Professor, ANU

Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt is a Professor at the Australian National University, Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, and has over thirty years of work experience on gendered challenges of livelihoods in developing countries. In particular, she has researched the length and breadth of social and ecological aspects of resources, water resource management, gender and livelihoods in both large, industrial, and informal, artisanal and small-scale mines and quarries, and feminization of agriculture in rural communities in India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, and Mongolia. Her work has been used by both international and grassroots level development organizations. Currently, Kuntala is researching the potential gender impacts of coal sector transition.

Laura Turquet, Policy Advisor, UN Women

Laura Turquet is a Policy Advisor and deputy Chief of Research and Data at UN Women. For the past decade, she has worked at UN Women leading major research and data initiatives that inform the organization’s advocacy objectives and empower civil society and governments to seek and implement change. She leads the organisation’s flagship report, Progress of the World’s Women, and has worked on three editions to date, on women’s access to justice (2011), economic and social rights (2015), and families in a changing world (2019). Laura is currently leading on the development of a Feminist Plan for Sustainability and Social Justice, to highlight transformative policies needed to create a fairer world in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Laura is a co-founder of the UN Feminist Network and previously worked at Action Aid UK, the Institute of Development Studies and the Fawcett Society.

Radhika Balakrishnan, Professor, Center for Women's Global Leadership, Rutgers University

Radhika Balakrishnan is the faculty director at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and professor in Women's and Gender and Sexuality Studies at Rutgers University. She has a Ph.D. in Economics from Rutgers University. She is a Commissioner for the Commission for Gender Equity for the City of New York, on the Global Advisory Council for the United Nations Population Fund and the current president of the International Association for Feminist Economics. Radhika is the co-author of Rethinking Economic Policy for Social Justice with James Heintz and Diane Elson. She is the co-editor with Diane Elson of Economic Policy and Human Rights: Holding Governments to Account (Zed Books, 2011). Radhika’s work focuses on gender and development, gender and the global economy, human rights and economic and social rights. Her research and advocacy work has sought to change the lens through which macroeconomic policy is interpreted and critiqued by applying international human rights norms to assess macroeconomic policy.

Robyn James, Asia Pacific Gender Advisor, The Nature Conservancy

Robyn has been with the Nature Conservancy (TNC) since 2010 and guides conservation work in the Pacific (especially in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands) as well as addressing issues with mining and extractives. She also advises on equity and gender in conservation women’s empowerment work across the organisation and in Asia Pacific specifically. For example, she has worked with Solomon Islands Government to develop minerals policy and as well as improving the role of women in the most remote communities be better involved in decisions around their natural resources. She is currently working with PNG women on efforts to link sustainable management of mangroves to economic benefits at a larger scale through mechanisms such as the blue carbon economy. Robyn is undertaking her PhD at University of Queensland School of Social Sciences on Women in Conservation.

Ruth Nyambura, African Ecofeminist Collective

Ruth Nyambura is a feminist political ecologist and activist from Kenya working on the intersections of gender, economy and ecological justice. Ruth is a founding member and the convener of the African Ecofeminists Collective and also works with several regional agrarian and climate justice movements to track and challenge the privatization of the agrarian commons. She describes her work and activism that uses a feminist political ecology lens to critically engage with the continent’s and global food systems, challenging neoliberal models of agrarian transformation and amplifying the revolutionary work of small-holder farmers of Africa—the majority of whom are women—as well as rural agrarian movements offering concrete anti-capitalist alternatives to the ecological, economic and democratic crisis facing the continent.

Sandra van Niekerk, Public Services International

Sandra van Niekerk is based in Cape Town, South Africa, and is currently working for the Public Services International (PSI) on climate change and the public sector in a number of different countries in Africa. She has a long history in the trade union movement in South Africa, working for many years as the National Education Officer for the South African Municpal Workers' Union (SAMWU). 

Sarah Gammage, Latin America Policy Director, The Nature Conservancy

Sarah Gammage is an environmental economist with more than 25 years of experience working on economic development in Latin America, Africa and Asia. She is the Director of Policy and Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy. She has a PhD in Environmental Economics from the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague and a Masters’ degree in Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

She has worked with and for a number of international and multilateral organizations including the International Institute for Environment and Development, Women´s Edge, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the International Labour Organisation, the International Center for Research on Women and UN Women. She has written academic and policy research articles on gender and trade, poverty, labor markets, migration and environment.

Seemin Qayum, Acting Chief, Economic Empowerment and Policy Advisor, Sustainable Development, UN Women

Seemin Qayum is UN Women’s Acting Chief for Economic Empowerment and Policy Advisor on Sustainable Development. Her areas of interest within the broad domain of gender equality and sustainable development are the articulation of sustainable livelihoods, access to energy and resources, social and ecological resilience, and the continuum from unpaid care to decent work. She was a co-lead author of the first Global Gender and Environment Outlook, UNEP’s flagship assessment, co-author of UN Women’s Leveraging Co-Benefits between Gender Equality and Climate Action for Sustainable Development and co-coordinated the production of the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development: Gender Equality and Sustainable Development. Prior to joining UN Women, she was advisor and consultant in the fields of environment, development, gender, and culture for the United Nations Development Programme, Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Ford Foundation and Asia Society, among others. Her publications include The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics (co-edited, Duke University Press, 2018) and Cultures of Servitude: Modernity, Domesticity, and Class in India (with Raka Ray, Stanford University Press, 2009).

Shahra Razavi, Director of Social Protection, ILO

Shahra Razavi is the Director of the Social Protection Department at the International Labour Organization (since February 2020). Before joining the ILO she was Chief of the Research and Data Section at UN Women (2013-2020), and Senior Researcher at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, UNRISD (1993-2013), working at the interface of gender, social policy, social protection and the care economy.

Sonia Maria Dias, WIEGO Waste Specialist

Dr Sonia Dias is a sociologist with a PhD in Political Sciences.  Active in the field of solid waste management since the mid 1980’s, she has played a key role in helping to integrate the social aspects into the technical planning of waste collection and recycling in Brazil. She is Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing - WIEGO’s global waste expert. She leads the Gender and Waste Project with the Brazilian National Movement of Waste Pickers

Dimitris Stevis, Professor of World Politics at Colorado State University, USA

In broad terms my research and practice examines the political economy of labour and the environment, with particular attention to power and justice. I am currently coediting (with Nora Räthzel and David Uzzell) the Handbook of Environmental Labor Studies (Palgrave Springer, 2021) and completing a book on the global history and politics of just transitions. I am continuing work on just transitions as a member of the Just Transition Research Collaborative and on the organizing committee of the Just Transition Listening Project. With respect to socioecological justice I co-convene the Planetary Justice Task Force of the Earth System Governance Project and codirect the Center for Environmental Justice at Colorado State University. I am also pursuing collaborative research on the environmental politics of labor unions, the labor politics of environmental organizations, global union organizations, systems of sustainable production and consumption and ‘hidden figures’ in global environmental politics.

Sarah Cook, Director, UNSW Institute for Global Development

Dr Sarah Cook is the Director of the Institute for Global Development at UNSW after almost 10 years leading research institutes within the UN - as the Director of UNICEF’s Office of Research / Innocenti Research Centre, in Florence, Italy and from 2009-2015 as Director, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) in Geneva. In these roles, she has led research on transformative social and economic policy, shaping debates in the UN on equity, sustainability and social justice, and engaging at the intersection of research, policy and programming.  Her own research has focused primarily on China, following its social and economic transformations over more than 3 decades. Sarah’s research interests revolve around the relationship between economic and social policy in development contexts, and have included research on social policy and protection, labour markets and migration, and gender. From 1996-2009 Sarah was a Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, and she also spent 5 years as a Programme Officer with the Ford Foundation in Beijing. She received her PhD in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. 

Somali Cerise, Research to Practice Associate, UNSW Institute for Global Development

Somali is a Research to Practice Associate at the Institute for Global Development at UNSW and the Lead for the Gender and Just Transitions project. She has a background in gender and development and human rights, previously working as a Research Specialist at UN Women and Gender Project Coordinator the OECD Development Centre.  EAs a Research Specialist at UN Women, she led a global review of implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and also developed the first global report monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals from a gender perspective. Prior to the OECD, Somali worked at the End Violence Against Women Coalition and the Australian Human Rights Commission. She is currently an Adjunct Associate Lecturer in the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences at the University of Sydney, and a board member of ACON. She has a BA (UTS) and a Master of Science (Human Rights) (London School of Economics and Political Science).

Ushana Jayasuriya, Research Assistant, UNSW Institute for Global Development

Ushana is a Scientia PhD Candidate at University of New South Wales. Her research is in philosophy, exploring climate justice and just transitions. She focuses on how the transition to renewable energy could have positive outcomes for indigenous peoples and is hoping to engage with community to understand their priorities and conceptions of a just transition. Ushana is currently a research assistant on the UNSW Gender and Just Transitions project for the Institute for Global Development.