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« Environmental aspects with gender-differentiated impacts »

Modified on 2013/05/23 11:06 by Haoyi Chen Paths: Read in Order Categorized as Chapter 2 - Environment
From gender issues to gender statistics related to environmental impacts on women and men: illustrative examples

Policy-relevant questions Data needed Sources of data
When water is not available on household premises, do women and men participate equally in water collection? Households/population by availability of water on premises and sex of person usually collecting water

Persons involved in water collection by sex and age

Time spent on water collection by sex and age
Household surveys such as DHS (Demographic and Health Survey) and MICS (Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey)

Time use surveys
Are women more likely than men to develop health problems due to indoor smoke from solid fuels?

How many women and men are exposed to indoor smoke from solid fuels used for cooking?

Do women and men in the same household have different exposure to indoor smoke?
Relative risks of lower respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, lung cancer by sex and age

Population using solid fuels for cooking by type of stove, indoor/outdoor location of cooking and sex

Time spent indoors and time spent near fire by sex and age.

Time spent cooking by sex.
Epidemiological studies and health administrative records


Household surveys such as DHS and MICS



Small scale studies


Time use surveys
Are female or male deaths overrepresented among deaths due to various natural hazards? Number of deaths due to natural disasters by type of hazard, sex and age Health and other administrative sources, including post-disaster assessments

Population censuses

Household surveys

  • + Gender issues
    • Poor infrastructure and living conditions increase the work burden of women and men, but especially women’s. Lack of access to drinking water on the premises or within a short distance continues to affect the lives of women and men in countries from the less developed regions, especially in rural areas. When water is not available on the premises, women are more often responsible for water collection than men are (United Nations, 2010; WHO and UNICEF, 2011). Girls are also more likely than boys to be in charge of water collection. The resulting time spent to fetch water tends to be much greater for women than for men, especially in the rural areas. The gender-specific time burden in water collection may be associated with factors such as age or economic status. For example, water collection may be the task of younger women rather than older women. Also, in households where mothers are busy working outside of their home, older girls may be responsible for fetching water. Similarly, lack of access to modern cooking and heating services increases the time burden of women and men (United Nations, 2010). In some countries a large proportion of households still use firewood for cooking and heating. In communities from poor areas affected by deforestation or where nearby forests are protected, women and men may need to take longer and longer trips to collect firewood. The time spent by women and men in collecting firewood as well as the purposes for which they collect firewood are often different. When the wood is collected for household needs like cooking and heating, women tend to spend more time than men doing this activity. When the wood is collected for selling and gaining income, men tend to spend more time than women doing this activity.

      Environmental degradation, difficult access to natural resources, and natural disasters may have a different impact on women’s and men livelihoods and food security. Women in the less developed regions are particularly vulnerable. They tend to be more dependent on the natural resources affected by environmental degradation or natural disasters, yet, they may be involved very little in the management of natural resources. Furthermore, women tend to have fewer assets (such as land or income) that would help them to access additional resources necessary to cope with environmental scarcity or to speed the recovery when natural disasters strike.

      Environmental conditions have a major impact on women’s and men’s health. Among the health-risk factors related to the environment, two have the largest contribution to the world’s burden of disease: unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene; and indoor smoke from solid fuels (World Health Organization, 2009). Other factors may refer to outdoor air pollution, chemical exposure and occupational risks. These factors often have a different impact on women’s and men’s health. In particular, indoor smoke from solid fuels affects more women than men. In households where the cooking is done with solid fuels and the ventilation is poor, women are more likely than men to develop acute lower respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer (Desai and others, 2004; Ezzati and others, 2004). The increased health risk for women is mainly due to the fact that women spend more time indoors and more time near the fire while cooking, and are therefore more exposed to high-intensity pollution episodes (World Health Organization, 2006).

      Female and male mortality due to natural disasters may differ. The lives of thousands of women and men are lost worldwide every year as a result of natural disasters. Mortality differences by sex may vary from one country to another and by type of hazard (United Nations, 2010), suggesting that it is rather the socially constructed vulnerability of women or men that leads to gender-differentiated mortality rates during natural disasters (UNDP, 2011). For example, more women than men died during the 2004 tsunami, as a result of less access to information and life skills development, and culturally constrained mobility of women outside of their homes (United Nations, 2010). Natural hazards in other countries, particularly in the developed regions, however, caused larger shares of male deaths, suggesting that men were more inclined to risk taking or more involved in activities that would put them at risk (United Nations, 2010).

  • + Data needed
    • Several types of data can be used to assess the impact of environment on women’s and men’s lives.

      Data on water and firewood collection:

      Persons involved in water collection by sex and age

      Time spent on water collection by sex and age

      Population by availability of water on premises, time needed to collect water per trip, and sex of person usually collecting water

      Persons involved in firewood collection by sex and age

      Time spent on firewood collection by sex and age

      The statistics above should be further disaggregated by variables that would account for disparities in infrastructure, such as urban/rural areas or geographic areas. When feasible, information on deforestation status of geographic areas should be considered as breakdown for statistics on water and firewood collection. For the firewood collection, a further breakdown, by purpose of firewood collection, should be added, as men and women may collect firewood for different reasons.

      Data on health impact of environmental conditions:

      Population using solid fuels for cooking by type of fuel, type of stove, indoor/outdoor location of cooking. These data should be further disaggregated by variables that would account for disparities in infrastructure, such as urban/rural areas or geographic areas.

      Relative risks of lower respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, lung cancer by sex and age

      When possible, additional data necessary to estimate the gender-differentiated impact of natural disasters should be considered, such as:

      Number of deaths due to natural disasters by type of disaster, sex and age;

      School attendance before and after disaster by sex, age, and level of education;

      Labour force participation before and after disaster by sex and age;

      Access to resources such as food, shelter, safe water and sanitation, health services, or financial services such as loans and credit by sex.



  • + Sources of data
    • The collection of gender statistics related to the environment does not take place within the usual field of environment statistics, but integrated within the social statistics. Gender statistics related to the environment may be produced, for example, as part of statistics on time use, housing conditions, health, or education.

      Time use surveys are an important source of data on work burden due to poor infrastructure and poor housing conditions. When access to water and energy is an issue, it is important that the time use surveys collect not only data on time use for water and firewood collection, but also other information: (a) individual characteristics on persons involved in those activities, such as sex, age, employment other than collecting water or firewood, or purposes for which women and men collect firewood; (b) basic demographic and economic characteristics for other household members; (c) information on household assets that can be used to construct wealth indices.

      Household surveys such as DHS and MICS may provide information on environmental conditions, although very little on the impact on women’s and men’s lives. For example, some of the housing conditions data collected by these surveys refer to access to water and sanitation. Data are collected on whether the households have access to water sources and sanitation considered improved, how far the source of water is, how much time is needed to fetch the water, and whether women or men are usually in charge of water collection. With regard to the potential health effects of the solid fuels used for cooking, the demographic and health surveys provide valuable background information on types of fuels used for cooking and heating as well as ventilation factors such as the place of cooking or the type of stove used for cooking.

      Multi-purpose household surveys within a regular programme of a national statistical office can be used to assess gender-differentiated impact of a natural disaster, when conducted in a short interval after the disaster. It is important to compare, for example, data on school attendance, employment, or work burden collected in the last survey before the disaster with data on the same issues collected in the post-disaster survey. When possible, the post-disaster surveys should also assess the loss of lives, loss of assets as well as access to economic resources necessary for recovery.

      Population and housing censuses usually provide important background information related to households and population with poor access to water; and households and population using solid fuels for cooking. This background information is useful in assessing the work and health burden of women and men, especially when additional information on gender roles or health risks is available from other sources of data.

      Epidemiological studies and health administrative sources are valuable in providing sex-disaggregated information on diseases associated with environmental factors such as unsafe water and sanitation and lack of hygiene, or indoor smoke from solid fuels. The health risks calculated based on these sources can be used in combination with background data provided by household surveys or population and housing censuses to estimate the burden of diseases associated with those environmental factors. Health or other administrative sources may also be used to obtained sex-disaggregated data on deaths due to natural disasters.

      Administrative records can be useful in assessing mortality due to disasters. It is important that basic individual characteristics such as sex and age are systematically collected for all deaths. Other information related to circumstances of death, such as where and how the death occurred, is also important. Furthermore, administrative records may be used to assess post-disaster access to resources such as food, shelter, safe water and sanitation, health services, or financial services such as loans and credit. It is important that individual characteristics such as sex and age as well as household characteristics such as size, number of children, and sex of the household head, are systematically recorded.


  • + Conceptual and measurement issues
    • The adequacy of statistics on gender and environmental conditions is limited by several factors. First, there are no international guidelines on producing environment-related gender statistics. Second, some of the sources needed to produce environment-related gender statistics, such as time use surveys or health studies, may not be part of the regular programme of data collection in national statistical offices. Third, even when potential data collection instruments exist, they may not be designed to capture the links between gender and environment. Therefore, the existing sources often provide data insufficient for a coherent and comprehensive understanding of the impact of environmental aspects on women’s and men’s lives.

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