An inside view of the EGI: Melissa Luna

An inside view of the EGI: Melissa Luna

This post was written by EGI Fellow Melissa Luna

In early 2014, while writing my thesis as a graduate student at the University of Washington, I came across the recently launched 2013 pilot phase of the Environment and Gender Index (EGI), developed by IUCN. After my own struggle to find sex-disaggregated data in the environmental sector for my research, I was delighted to discover the EGI.

The EGI initiative is dedicated to improving information and empowering countries to take steps toward the promotion of gender equality in relation to the environmental sector. Across the globe, women are heavily involved in the environmental sector, including in agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and in adapting to and mitigating climate change. However, women’s participation and representation in decision-making processes that pertain to sustainability of the resources on which they depend is often restricted.

Therefore, as a part of the EGI’s goal to improve information, my tasks at IUCN’s Global Gender Office—the “GGO”—were to: 1) support and lead the development of a global database measuring women’s participation in environmental decision making; and 2) develop in-depth case studies in Ecuador, Liberia, and the Philippines regarding women’s participation in formal decision-making processes. I learned in my work with the EGI that women across the globe, perhaps not surprisingly, generally participate less in formal decision making, particularly in community structures within developing nations, and generally have less access to and control over natural, financial, and educational resources.


Without the consideration of gender dimensions, the success and sustainability of conservation programs can be undermined. There is still an incredible need to advance women’s role and build capacity to address the inequalities between women and men within the environmental sector.

It has been a lovely experience working for the GGO. The women of the GGO are inspiring—their grace, elegance, intelligence, and passion for women’s empowerment in the environmental sector are traits to be admired. Over the past year, I’ve learned many lessons first-hand—like women can play a great role in leadership. We need more women across the world to play leading roles, demand women’s rights, and work to build the capacity of others for the sake of environmental and social change. As a woman and conservation activist, I feel impassioned to build expertise in gender and work to reduce the inequalities between women and men as a way of improving conservation program effectiveness. I intend to take all the lessons I learned from the GGO and apply them in my future career as a marine conservation practitioner.