At present, environment and sustainable development are not only critically linked, but they have emerged as pressing issues in the world. In the global economic system, development is often associated with environmental repercussions, such as degradation and pollution. Intensive industrialization and commercial agriculture may have also contributed to calamities, such as global warming, desertification, declining soil fertility, loss of biodiversity, flooding, drought. Industrialization and modernization in tandem with inappropriate use of natural resources may have also brought about disasters that undermine the welfare of human beings in the world. Hence, there is a need to synchronize development with environment and gender in order to realize sustainable development. It is only when we find the right equations of these trio factors that we begin to talk about development with human face.
Development in its present state marginalizes women and adversely affects the environment. Scientific research should be designed with deliberate purpose of equity and efficiency. Explorations and investigations for economic development have to consciously incorporate the gender and environmental issues. It is only through such process that one may be able to achieve sustainable development. Otherwise, the status quo continues to perpetuate inequity and widen the economic gap between men and women. The involvement of both sexes in the development process is critical. The relation of humans to environment at every level of the development process also becomes paramount.
In Ethiopia, the constitution at regional and national levels, guarantees the rights of women to participate in the decision-making processes and to make descent living. The problem, however, is the lack of institutionalising what has been guaranteed by the constitution. As a result, interventions are needed to empower women. Empowering women means the deliberate and persistent effort to mainstreaming women in every sector of the political economy and social welfare. The perpetuation of male dominated institutional set-up has to stop. The present state contributes to underdevelopment and marginalization of women. Thus, it is high time that the development interventions should be linked with sensitivity to the environment, implementation of green economy, proper utilization of resources and gender equality. It is also with such new approach to new development that the Institute went ahead with the establishment of an academic program.
The Institute is set up so that both academic and non-academic activities in conjunction with environment, gender and development are fully coordinated. Favourable conditions are created by involving all the stakeholders, including development specialists, political leaders and professional in gender and other social issues.
Mekelle University’s decision to establish the Institute of Environment, Gender and Developmental Studies (IEGDS) emanates from the fact that there is a need to work together and to commit ideas and resources with regional and national transformation in mind. The Institute forms partnership with local, regional, national and international agencies, organizations and institutions.
IEGDS envisions itself as a center of excellence in Environment, Gender and Development Studies in Ethiopia. Based on its vision, IEGDS:
- Will continue its leadership role in offering excellent academic programs relevant to regional needs and responsive to students’ interests. Research will be concentrated toward thematic areas and will be conducted by core teams, and the outreach program will be community-service-oriented.
- Will be consolidated and will remain financially viable. The Institute’s activities including the students, staff, and curricula, will be subjected to quality assessment by independent investigators.
- Will create a space for academics and non-academics to work together with the intent of addressing development issues.
- Will contribute to the capacity building of the University and the country.
IEGDS’ mission is to promote capacity building, advanced learning and applied research programs coupled with consulting and advising services, networking and partnership building activities on Environment, Gender and Development in Ethiopia.
IEGDS’ also works "to develop highly qualified and committed professionals who will play a leading role in the sustainable development of the country and its integration into the global economy". The institute will serve the human resource development needs of Ethiopia and developing countries by taking into account their specific environmental issues, including the pursue of green economy, gender and the resultant development activities.
By functioning as an academic arm of community based efforts for the advancement of women, through equity-based sustainable development and poverty alleviation, IEGDS aims to work as a regional center of excellence in the field of Environment, Gender and Development Studies. The Institute seeks to integrate gender as a key intellectual component and ethical concern of development ventures.
This is to be achieved by:
- Teaching post-graduate students to create environment and development practitioners, gender experts, managers and social workers;
- Generating knowledge through interdisciplinary research and publication on topics of environment, development, and gender relations in Ethiopian societies;
- Providing advice and assistance to academic, policy units and external agencies with regards to environment issues and gender-responsive development strategies;
- Providing short-term courses to development practitioners and organizations in Ethiopia;
- Forging linkages with international women’s studies and gender studies, research networks and associations to engage in the current debates and issues with the intent of enhancing and improving the Regional and Rural Development Planning curriculum.