Women in Europe for a Common Future

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Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) is a non-governmental organization established in 1994 following the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, to give women a stronger voice in the field of sustainable development and environment.


The aim of the organization is to achieve an equitable and sustainable future for all. WECF works towards a healthy environment for everyone.[1] Today WECF is a network of more than 150 women’s and environmental organizations in 50 countries.[2] The international network of members and partners originates from Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia.

WECF's main focus areas are: energy & climate change; chemicals & health; water & sanitation; biodiversity & food; gender rights.

WECF's vision is that by 2020 all products will be free from hazardous chemicals; everyone in the region will have access to safe, affordable and renewable energy; everyone will have access to safe, local and diverse food products and clean water and sanitation facilities. To achieve this, WECF is working in the field of poverty reduction, public participation and environmental rights and gender issues.


The organization was founded by Marie Kranendonk in 1994. Now WECF has three independent offices in the Netherlands, Germany and France. Local projects provide solutions to environmental problems in the field of chemicals, sanitation, energy and agriculture. WECF also works on national, European, UN and international political levels with the aim to increase women's influence in political decision-making processes.

WECF has observer status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) and is an official partner of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). WECF is also a member of the European Environment and Health Committee (EEHC).They are also a partner to Women's Major Group.


WECF’s 3 areas of expertise:

1. Capacity building

  • Training, assessment and monitoring capacity of network organisations
  • Sub-granting to local women’s organisations to demonstrate sustainable solutions based on their priorities

2. Policy advocacy

  • Effective and meaningful policy participation of network organisations in national policies and plans
  • Strengthening of global women’s movements to ensure impactful policy advocacy by women’s civil society organisations

3. Outreach campaigns

  • Awareness raising, outreach and campaigning to change mind-sets and help create an enabling environment

WECF has expertise in three thematic issue areas:

1. Gender Equality in Sustainable Development policies

  • Sustainable Development Goals (Post-2015) EndFragment
  • Climate policies and implementation mechanisms (UNFCCC)
  • Environmental, chemicals and waste management policies (UNEP)

2. Creating Sustainable and Safe Circular Economies (Food/Water/Energy)

  • Gender Equitable Technology design and assessments for safe access to food, water and energy
  • Women’s leadership in Planning, Operations and Monitoring for Sustainable food, water and energy solutions
  • Women’s income generation and financial mechanisms for sustainable food, water and energy solutions

3. Equitable Mitigation Strategies and Plans (climate/chemicals/sanitation)

  • Gender equitable climate change mitigation strategies and plans
  • Mitigating women’s health impacts from chemicals, waste, radiation and other pollution
  • Women’s priorities for sanitation, hygiene and menstrual hygiene policies and actions
    Previous project: constructed wetland implementation for on-site treatment of domestic wastewater of a children's home combined with capacity-building for professionals.[3]


WECF's current projects include Civil Society Local Energy Efficiency Network (CLEEN), "Reducing chemicals and contamination of drinking water sources in rural communities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, FYR Macedonia and Albania"; Water Solidarity Project (France - Kyrgyrstan)"; "Capacity Building and Strategic Partnerships for Chemicals Safety in the Republic of Serbia"; "Managing Wastewater through Global Partnership".


Chemicals in Cosmetics[edit]

WECF recently published a study criticizing the safety and the use of chemicals in baby cosmetic products. Out of the 341 baby cosmteic products tested, WECF found that three ingredients (or ingredient families it considered high risk) were in 299 of those products. These include methylisothiazolinone (a contact allergen), perfume or fragrance (which may involve potential allergy risks), phenoxyethanol (a preservative suspected to be reprotoxic).[4]

Women and Chemicals[edit]

On International Women’s Day 2016, WECF launched its publication ‘Women and Chemicals - The impact of hazardous chemicals on women. A thought starter based on an experts workshop’. With Women and Chemicals, WECF presents a deeper look at the nexus between gender roles and women’s exposure to hazardous chemicals worldwide[5] and it summarizes existing information and initiatives on the topic.[6] The Report demonstrates that women are often differently exposed due to their (entrenched) gender roles and because of biological susceptibilities and health impacts.[7] In particular, the Report proposes an examination of the impacts of highly hazardous pesticides, mercury, and endocrine disrupting chemicals on the health of women everywhere.[8] The Report concludes with a call for more political action for better health protection from harmful chemicals[9] for all, but in particular for women as consumers and workers.[10] The goal is to raise awareness about what people can do for their health and how they can change their own behaviors as consumers.[11] As Alexandra Caterbow states: “in this report we focused on women, because often men’s health impacts are already better known, from reduced sperm-counts to testicular cancer and genital malformations. We call on urgent legislative measures to better protect the health of women, men and children from hazardous chemicals. Immediate steps have to be taken to end use of highly hazardous pesticides, to phase out EDCs such as Bisphenol A from consumer products and packaging, to ban mercury use in artisanal small gold mining, and to promote the use of safer substitutes and non-chemical alternatives”.[12]

15 year anniversary[edit]

In 2009 WECF marked its 15-year anniversary. On this occasion, the WECF organised a conference on 10 June in the Concordia Theatre in The Hague. The main theme of the conference was Innovation for Sustainability, the crisis as opportunity.

Professor Noreena Hertz, presented a critical analysis of the roots of the global economic crisis, and ways out towards a sustainable economy. The Dutch Minister of Environment, Jacqueline Cramer, outlined her vision on how innovation can create a sustainable economy. Minister Bert Koenders of Development Cooperation was invited to give his views on the theme of the day. Andy Schroeter, director of Sunlabob, winner of the Sasakawa sustainability award (UNEP) elaborated on the topic of how even the poorest may avail solar light/heating.

WECF at the 2012 UN Rio+20 summit on sustainable development[edit]

More than 50,000 representatives of social movements and civil society organisations took to the streets in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, to demonstrate against unfair and unsustainable economic policies. At the same time, 30,000 participants of the United Nations Rio+20 conference contributed to the document "The Future We Want"[13] which set the path for the Sustainable Development Goals (replacing the Millennium Development Goals).

WECF took a leading role in the 2012 Rio+20 conference, as co-facilitator of the Women’s Major Group,[14] one of the nine groups of civil society which have a space in the UN policy process, and are allotted speaking time and contribute to the proposed negotiation text. WECF’s role was to facilitate the 300 organisations through virtual and face to face meetings, develop joint text proposals for the negotiation text, organise meetings with country negotiators, as well as organising events in which to present the priorities of women’s organisations.

For WECF and partners, the main effort in 2012 was to demonstrate local solutions for inclusive and environmentally friendly development, with full participation and leadership of women. In Uganda and South Africa, women training and development of food gardens and organic agriculture started, as part of the Empower Women - Benefit (for) All program.[15] In Ukraine, Georgia and five other EECCA countries, Switch to Sun was launched, a program to improve and up-scale solar heaters for household and public building in rural areas where the energy services are not or little developed. In Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan WECF and partners transferred knowledge and built ecological sanitation systems for schools and households, with the addition of solar technologies to supply hot water for bathrooms, and solar food processing solutions. Through its capacity building and training programmes, WECF has been training trainers who are able to share their skills.[16] As a follow-up of those processes, many WECF members continue to build skills in the area of policy analysis and advocacy, to propose and push for better legislation and governance. A delegation of WECF members participated in the climate negotiations in Doha[17] and promoted the lessons learned from the local mitigation projects. Partners in Albania, Serbia and Macedonia organised consumer information and media events to raise awareness about product and chemical risks, and about the need for better protection of children from carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.


  1. ^ "Vision & Strategy". www.wecf.eu. Retrieved 2016-03-07. 
  2. ^ "Vision & Strategy". www.wecf.eu. Retrieved 2016-03-07. 
  3. ^ "Constructed Wetland in Bulgaria". www.wecf.eu. Retrieved 2016-03-07. 
  4. ^ Weil, Jennifer. "Safety of Cosmetic Products for Babies Called Into Question". WWD. Retrieved 2016-03-07. 
  5. ^ "Women in Europe for a Common Future launch "Women and Chemicals– The impact of hazardous chemicals on women"". IPEN - A Toxics-Free Future. 8 March 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  6. ^ "Women and Chemicals: The impact of hazardous chemicals on women". Greenarea.me. 8 March 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  7. ^ "International Women's Day 2016: Women call for better protection from hazardous chemicals worldwide". WECF. 2016-03-07. Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  8. ^ Lewis, Sunny. "‘Planet 50-50 by 2030’ Means Gender Equality". MAXIMPACT ECOSYSTEMS. Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  9. ^ "WECF - Women Call For Better Protection From Hazardous Chemicals Worldwide". Health and Environment Alliance. 17 March 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  10. ^ Linda, Bolido (16 March 2016). "Women need better protection against toxic chemicals". Inquirer. Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  11. ^ "International Women’s Day action on chemicals". WWF Global. 8 March 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  12. ^ "International Women's Day 2016: Women call for better protection from hazardous chemicals worldwide". WECF. 2016-03-07. Retrieved 22 March 2016. 
  13. ^ "The Future We Want" (PDF). uncsd2012.org. Retrieved 23 June 2015. 
  14. ^ "Creating a just and sustainable future". womenrio20.org. Retrieved 23 June 2015. 
  15. ^ http://www.wecf.eu/english/about-wecf/issues-projects/projects/EWA-empowermentforall.php
  16. ^ "Final Evaluation: Empowerment and Local Action" (PDF). wecf.eu. 
  17. ^ "New hope for the climate? – new UN climate change negotiation round starts today". wecf.eu. Retrieved 23 June 2015.  C1 control character in |title= at position 27 (help)

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