MDGs & Gender
GOAL 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Target 7a

Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources

[New] Target 7b

Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss

Target 7c

Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation

Target 7d

Achieve, by 2020, a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers

  • Proportion of land area covered by forest
  • CO2 emissions, total, per capita and per US$1 GDP (PPP)
  • Consumption of ozone-depleting substances
  • Proportion of population using an improved drinking water source
  • Proportion of population using an improved sanitation facility
  • Proportion of urban population living in slums
[NEW] Indicators
  • Proportion of fish stocks within safe biological limits
  • Proportion of total water resources used
  • Proportion of terrestrial and marine areas protected
  • Proportion of species threatened with extinction

Data is scarce on the impact of environmental degradation and climate change on poor women, but as women often ensure household food security and do the bulk of water and household fuel collection, their time burdens will increase if drought, floods, erratic rainfall, and deforestation undermine the supply and quality of natural resources. Women and children are usually in charge of fetching and carrying water, an activity that is among the most time – and energy-consuming of household tasks, especially in rural areas (Figure MDG7.1). It is estimated that women and children in Africa alone spend 40 billion hours every year fetching and carrying water – a figure equivalent to a year's labour for the entire workforce of France.

Figure MDG7.1: Women Tend to Be the Primary Water Collectors in Households

In all but four of the countries reporting on water use, adult women are in charge of water collection in more than half of the households. Women's responsibility for water collection tends to coincide with poor access to water, thus suggesting a high time burden on women.

Source: UNIFEM elaboration based on UNICEF MICS 2004.

Most regions in the world are on track to halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, with global access to improved sources of water up from 78 per cent in 1990 to 83 per cent in 2004. Still, more than one billion people lack access, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Access to sanitation is also a critical issue for women and girls, as survey data from schools in developing countries shows that the absence of appropriate sanitary facilities often discourages female attendance, especially of girls in puberty. Inadequate sanitation also exacerbates family health risks and women's vulnerability to violence. In the absence of latrines, women are often expected to wait until dark to relieve themselves, which poses risks of sexual violence and harassment. Accountability for the protection of the environment and sustainable use of resources is an important gender issue. Women have less control over natural resources than do men because of power disparities. Yet their responsibilities for family well-being mean that women suffer most directly from environmental degradation. In this context, an increased rate of engagement by women in decision-making over the use of natural resources must be supported.