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Women's Community Environmental Report Cards
The Netherlands

Keyword: Women & Gender equality

Background

By way of the Women's Community environmental report cards women are being encouraged to review their living environment and exert influence in promoting a sustainable development. Based on the international formula of the Environmental Report Cards, a Dutch questionnaire was developed.

This project makes women more conscious of their role as consumers and citizens. Women's organizations gain experience in formulating women's interests and in getting public support for them. Policy-makers learn to take women's interests into consideration. During the experimental year 1995 twenty local groups in four Dutch provinces are involved, supported by local organizations and the National Steering Group.


Narrative

The project is intended to stimulate effective involvement among women's organizations in making policies and taking decisions to improve the living environment.

Living environment means the quality of the environment in which you live, work and spend your leisure time. This concept includes aspects such as clean air, water and soil. It concerns the amount of greenery in your local surroundings and the inconvenience caused by excessive industrial noise, stench and like. We also consider socially equitable relationships between men and women and between the North and the South.

In 1991, a worldwide conference was organized by women who were concerned about the environment. This event led the international organization WEDO (Women's Environmental and Development Organization) to initiate a worldwide network of women's groups entrusted with annual reviews of their local environment in the context of sustainable environment. The Dutch steering group for Women's Community Environmental Report Cards is encouraging women to participate in this effort.

To promote this idea. the steering group for Women's Community Environmental Report Cards has drafted a questionnaire to stimulate women's groups and organizations to promote sustainable development locally. This task is ambitious and comprehensive, as women who participate are expected to do more than issue report cards with recommendations. A major goal involves influencing policy making in effort to restructure policies in the interest of sustainable development.

In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) organized a conference attended by representatives from the governments of 178 countries. As a result of this conference, Agenda 21, an action programme on global sustainable development, was approved. This action programme assigns women an important role in realizing a sustainable society. Such a society is structured in a manner that protects people, the environment and nature and supports the needs of present and future generations.

Municipal councils are indispensable for creating a global sustainable community. The Agenda 21 action programme emphasizes this need.
Of the 2,500 actions points on the agenda, 1,600 need to be carried out within communities. For this reason, the project Women's Community Environmental Report Cards sets great store by local policy making.
Women's groups of small towns and cities will urge local authorities to consider sustainable development in policy making. These local efforts do not absolve other organizations from any responsibility. On the contrary, business, industrial and social organizations and individual citizens must be approached.
 

    How can we influence local government policy ?

Examining the policy-making process of the national government enables us to distinguish the following phases.
First, an issue is considered for inclusion on the political agenda. It is necessary to determine whether government involvement is needed or whether private groups can handle the problem. Entering the issue on the political agenda initiates the phase of policy preparation.
Officials investigate and draft proposals to solve the problem. Those proposals will be submitted to the government for a decision during the next phase. The final phase involves implementing the decisions taken. Here, officials have a certain amount of leeway regarding the realization of these decisions. Each phase offers different opportunities for exerting influence through joint action.
 

    Structure of the questionnaire

The questionnaire helps women review their living environment and exert influence to promote sustainable development. As usual, this questionnaire consists of many items. Nevertheless, it is not an ordinary questionnaire. It is special for the following reasons:
1. The questionnaire consists of six sections labeled A through F:
A: From dissatisfaction with the existing situation to fulfillment of wishes
B: Get your issue on the political agenda.
C.: Influencing policy preparation.
D: Influencing political decisions
E: Influencing implementation of political decisions.
F: Reviewing the environment.
The sections concern different phases in the process from defining wishes to influencing political decisions.

2. Section F serves a special purpose in the questionnaire. Part F consists of four themes: mobility, living, surrounding environment and consumption. Each theme includes five questions to help women relate their environment to sustainable development. For example, what is the local government doing to reduce car traffic? How does it accommodate the combined burden of family care and work? Is working from home an option? The answers to these questions can help to define the action points

3. Some questions cannot be answered immediately. These questions require investigating and gathering information.

4. Activities to influence policy making are suggested.
 

    Trial period

The first phase is experimental. This phase will consist of trial circulation of the questionnaire by women's groups and organizations in four Dutch provinces. Depending on the results, the project may be extended throughout the Netherlands.

We expect the participating women's groups to:

  • work with the questionnaire for an eight-month period, which will involve activities related to sustainable development in your local area;
  • send the complete questionnaires to the secretariat of the project;
  • review the questionnaire, the cards and the manual and tell us their opinion about the material;
  • devote at least one day a month to this project.

The steering group offers, in addition to the material, the following support. During the trial period, women from local and provincial organizations will support participating women's groups. They will provide information about local environmental and emancipation organizations, political parties and lobbies. In addition, members of the project Women's Community Environmental Report Cards will organize several meetings to encourage and stimulate the development of expertise in a specific area.


Impact

20 local groups reviewing their living environment


Contact

    Institute for Public and Politics (IPP)
    Prinsengracht 911-915
    Amsterdam
    The Netherlands
    1017 KD
    020-4201144

Sponsor

    Dutch Ministry of Environment
    Postbus 30940
    Den Haag
    The Netherlands
    2500 GX
    070-3393939

Partners

    Dutch Womens Environmental Group (St. Milieu Kwartet)
    Jaqueline Kuhn/Ingrid Horstik (IPP)
    Prinsengracht 911-915
    Amsterdam
    The Netherlands
    1017 KD
    020-4201144

    Advisors of Environmental Education (SME MilieuAdviseurs )
    T. Appelman, Dutch Environmal W.G (SMK)
    Oudegracht 42
    Utrecht
    The Netherlands
    3511 AR
    030-302181

    Institute for Public and Politics (IPP)
    Carla van Baarsen, SME MilieuAdviseurs
    Postbus 13030
    Utrecht
    The Netherlands
    3507 LA
    030-2802444


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