Gender Equality and Social Inclusion

Defining Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI)

Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) is comprised of two key terms, the BCFs define these as follows:

  • Gender Equality: is about addressing inequalities and transforming the distribution of opportunities, choices and resources available to girls, women and non-binary individuals so that they have equal power to shape their lives and participate in the process thereby increasing equality between people of all genders.
  • Social Inclusion: refers to the process of improving the terms of individuals and groups to take part in society, and the process of improving the ability, opportunity and dignity of people disadvantaged and historically excluded from decision making and spheres of influence on the basis of their identity to take part in society.

The BCFs understand Disability Inclusion to be included within Social Inclusion i.e. understanding the relationship between how people function and participate in society and ensuring the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities in all their diversity and the promotion and mainstreaming of their rights*.

The BCFs consider Indigenous People and Local Communities (IPLC) to be included within Social Inclusion as they have been disadvantaged and historically excluded from decision making based on their identity.

To shape and inform all biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction actions, it is vital to understand gender and social characteristics in differentiating biodiversity practices, knowledge acquisition and usage, as well as inequalities in control over resources. An understanding of these characteristics further identifies the ways in which those affected by exclusion and discrimination are unable to access the same economic opportunities. Addressing these inequalities and ensuring equal participation of all therefore has a direct linkage with individuals having the ability to meet their basic needs whether that be a lack of access to income or services such as healthcare, security and education. There is therefore a direct link between considerations of GESI and poverty reduction i.e. without a consideration of GESI the aim of ending poverty (UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 1: No Poverty) cannot be achieved.

Due to the diversity of projects within the BCFs portfolio, we acknowledge that these definitions provide a starting point and that GESI considerations may vary depending on a variety of elements including the nature and context of the project. All projects are required however to actively consider GESI within both project design and implementation and meet the minimum expected standard, outlined in the subsequent section.

Further it has been noted that considerations of GESI are crucial to developing stronger projects and programming that provide a better understanding of differentiated, and intersectional relationships with the environment (knowledge, needs, roles and priorities). It further identifies the different ways in which different identities access, use and control natural resources and services and supports equal (or equitable) opportunities to benefit from environmental policy and projects for all stakeholders.

As noted, the BCFs are rooted in the UK Government’s commitments to the SDGs and as such pledge to leave no-one behind. The UK Government has further made multiple commitments to delivering on gender-responsive programming with the International Women and Girls Strategy stating a commitment to “at least 80% of FCDO’s bilateral aid programmes having a focus on gender equality by 2030”. The BCFs also have a Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) to consider how our actions affect people who are protected** under the Equality Act 2010.

The GESI ambition for BCFs therefore sets out to support more impactful and successful projects, and to support the UK Government’s commitments.

This statement supports previous work and defines the BCFs’ ambition and ongoing commitment to integrating GESI within its programming and how this will be achieved for applicants, projects and other external stakeholders. This statement will be regularly reviewed on an annual basis.

BCFs Ambition

The BCFs commit to being a GESI Sensitive programme.

Our ambition is for all projects within the BCFs portfolio to meet the minimum expected standard of GESI Sensitive. While many projects are already meeting this standard, with some going further, this commitment seeks to support all projects to achieve the required minimum standard with an explicit aim of the programme to inclusively build capability and capacity and encourage those that can, to go further.

Defra defines GESI Sensitive as understanding the social context that programmes are operating in. A GESI Sensitive approach requires project partners to demonstrate programming will “do no harm”, not exacerbate inequality and ensure meaningful and context appropriate engagement and participation of those involved in the project. With the clear links, Safeguarding policies and procedures should also be established and effectively managed by all project partners with interventions completing due diligence, risk mitigation and assessing the impact of interventions of women and men and the relationships between them.

Defra acknowledges that work will be required to establish how to efficiently and effectively support projects to meet this standard and deliver on this through the various funds and schemes.

All projects seeking funding under the three funds will be required to demonstrate that they understand the GESI context in which the project aims to or is working within to ensure:

  • activities take contextual factors into account in the design and implementation of the project,
  • inclusive and meaningful participation of all those engaging with the project,
  • and the project is not contributing to or creating any further inequalities.

These requirements are essential for a project to meet the GESI Sensitive standard. However, it is acknowledged that within the GESI Sensitive ambition projects will approach and deliver elements to differing degrees. Therefore while the above points are requirements, projects are encouraged to consistently meet the minimum requirements and push beyond these to deepen and improve their GESI contribution where they can.

For information on how to achieve a more ambitious GESI approach, please see the diagram below: 


* Please see the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy: UN_Disability_Inclusion_Strategy_english.pdf

** The characteristics that are protected in relation to the public sector equality duty are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

For more information, read our GESI Ambition Statement: 

BCFs GESI Ambition Guidance Video:

In May 2024, our team created a video to briefly explain the Biodiversity Challenge Funds Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Ambition:


Additional Resources: