Gender equality is a fundamental human right which in Fraser’s (2013) words, requires the realization and recognition of all human rights including livelihoods, integrity, dignity, well being, and access to food, water and sanitation. Gender equality and sustainability nexus can be understood by acknowledging positive impacts of women on sustainable development and how slow progress on sustainable development restraints gender equality. Lisa Segnestam, (2018) states that, inequalities in resource distribution, rights and responsibilities has designed power relations in a way that benefit some while discriminating others.
This pattern is associated with bearing the impacts of pollution, capacities to respond climate change, management of resources, access to sanitation systems etc. Over exploitation of natural resources, threatening the integrity of ecosystems, loss of key habitats and biodiversity, and pollution of land, seas and atmosphere are the key trends of today’s world as humans are key drivers of earth system processes.
As Steffen, et al. (2011) states that with the advent of Anthropocene, human activities are rivaling global geophysical processes.
Patterns of production, distribution and consumption are heading in profoundly unsustainable directions and humans’ unsustainable interactions with the environment are producing devastating effects in the form of droughts, floods, devastated rural and urban and ruined livelihood. Also, “climate change is a prime example of human induced changes to the global environment.” These unsustainable interactions not only add and exacerbate inequalities and poverty particularly in the developing countries with highest population density that directly depends on natural resources for their well being, but also poses great threats for the well being of our future generations.
Additionally, these unsustainable patterns intensify gender inequality.
The underlying drivers and causes of gender inequality and unsustainability are profoundly interlocked. Leach. M., et.al., (2014) argues that unsustainability and gender inequality are produced and inherited by political-economic relations in capitalism that support specific types of neo-liberal, market led growth which involves concentration of capital, privatization and production geared to short term profits. These market led models are unsustainable socially, ecologically and economically as they rely on over exploitation of natural resources, climate change and polluting oceans and lands to gain short term profits which ultimately undermines the conditions for future progress and perpetuate gender inequality.
Although women have various employment possibilities and opportunities in today’s globalized world but many of these have provided and reproduced patterns of segregation and discrimination. Gender inequality is a constitutive component of capitalist markets as they see women as unpaid caregivers and the work undertaken by them is considered to be an extension of their stereotypical gender roles such as in domestic service, labor-intensive agricultural work and low-end retail jobs which are characterized by instability, poor working conditions and low wages. Their work is consistently undervalued and ignored and consequently, women remain invisible within the economic system and considered secondary earners within their households. Women’s obligations to accomplish these traditional roles not only limits their choices, capabilities and paid employment opportunities but also compromises their wellbeing, dignity, status and rights. So this development model is socially and economically unsustainable as it over-exploits human capital and perpetuates gender inequality.