Human Rights and Gender


Both ENDS has been supporting marginalized communities whose environment and resources they depend on are (threatened to be) damaged or taken away from them for years. People who have no voice in decisions taken regarding their land and their resources, who can make no legal claim to the land they and their ancestors have been living on for centuries, and who usually are not (enough) compensated for the loss of their livelihood. Women suffer disproportionally from unsustainable 

developments based on the exploitation of natural resources, because of their specific role in feeding the family and fetching water on the one hand, and their lack of decision-making power over natural resources on the other hand. At the same time, international recognition of universal human rights, such as access to food, clean water and having a healthy environment, do not seem to make a difference for these people. Experiences, both in the effective implementation of these rights by governments and in the claiming of these rights by citizens, are limited. The current project is meant to explore how the Human Rights system can be better used to support especially women whose rights are abused by large-scale development activities such as mining or land conversion for commercial agriculture or forestry.



With a grant from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Both ENDS and some partners started a four-year project Upholding Human Rights, bridging the gender-environment divide in 2014, with the aim to empower women and human rights defenders, to improve sustainable resource management and to further explore the potential of the human rights system to enhance the position and protect the rights of women.


Specific case-building work is taking place in India, Kenya and South Africa, to generate evidence and strong examples of gendered human rights impacts of large-scale development projects. The first step is to make communities aware of their rights, and work with them to see how to claim them in an effective way. For example, ActionAid Kenya works with communities in Kilifi, Magarini Sub-County, where people were forcefully evicted from their ancestral land to allow for salt companies to extract salt. The fertile land has turned into salt goons, the water wells have been contaminated with salt deposits, and many trees have been cut down to fuel the salt industries. As women are responsible for their family's food and energy supply and for taking care of the ill, they suffer most from the consequences of these developments. The majority of the population still does not have land and a large part e living as squatters in lands that they believe rightfully belong to them but which are currently under the ownership of the salt companies. Organised meetings in 2014 between the communities and the salt firms as an alternative dispute resolution has led in some cases to the salt company returning land to the rightful owners.


Both ENDS coordinates the whole programme as well as the international networking and advocacy work within the programme. Our aim at the international level is to enhance recognition for the relation between gender, environment and human rights. Examples and evidence from the countries will be presented at dialogues and events with decision-makers in the Netherlands and abroad. This way we want to convince (international) donors, policy makers and the UN constituency to better integrate these relations in their policies and interventions. By monitoring women’s progress to claim their threatened or violated rights in the three countries, we will contribute to further insights on how to improve the implementation of internationally recognized human rights for the benefits of local communities and women especially. 


Video 'Women's rights undermined in South Africa' : 



Upholding Human Rights - Bridging the gender - environment divide (Upholding Human Rights, 2-pager November 2015)
Coal mining disrupts people’s livelihoods in Mui Basin, Kenya (Coal Mining in Mui Basin, Kenya, 2-pager, November 2015)
Severe Air pollution threatens people's health in Masakhane, South Africa (Air Pollution in Masakhane, South -Africa, 4-pager, November 2015)
Mining and conservation displace adivasis in Panna, India (Displaced adivasis in India, 4 pager, November 2015)
Forest people forced off their land in the name of conservation (Forced evictions in the name of conservation, 6-pager, september 2016)
Coal mining threatens people’s access to water in Mpumalanga, South Africa (Coal mining threatens water access, 6-pager, December 2016)
Women's Human Rights to Water, Food and a Healthy Environment (Women's Human Rights, 4-pager October 2017)


Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Human Rights Fund)




South Africa:




Useful websites:  - the platform of African Women Unite Against Destructive Resource Extraction - website of the global coalition The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) - CIEL's Human Rights & Environment Programme - mines, minerals and PEOPLE alliance, India




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