The Global Gender Office and the U.S. Senate

By: Molly Gilligan, M.S. Environmental Policy ’15


IUCN Global Gender Office 


IUCN Logo (credit: www.iucn,org)

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, is the world’s oldest and largest international environmental organization.  IUCN is a member organization with members such as national governments, departments and ministries, non-governmental organizations, and citizen groups. With headquarters in Gland, Switzerland, and regional offices all over the world, IUCN works in various conservation and environmental sectors. Probably the most well-known of IUCN’s projects is the Red List—an international list of species and their conservation statuses. This work is a great example of how IUCN operates: a dedicated core group of IUCN conservation and communication specialists works with scientists and researchers all around the world to gather and analyze data to determine the status of each species somewhere between least concern and extinct. Read more about the Red List in the National Geographic blog written by my colleague Craig Beatty.

I am interning with IUCN’s Global Gender Office based in Washington, D.C. The Global Gender Office (GGO) “contributes toward IUCN’s vision and mission by providing innovative approaches, technical support, policy development and capacity building [to a wide range of partners] to ensure gender equality is central to sustainable global environmental solutions.” My main project is to develop an extensive, annotated resource library. This library will highlight work published by IUCN as well as featuring work by our member organizations, partner organizations, and other organizations in the field. The goal is for our new website to act as a central hub for practitioners working in the intersection of gender and environment. This includes many sectors including agriculture, energy, water resource management, disaster risk management, finance, forestry, and more.

The Global Gender Office (GGO) works with countries around the world who seek our support in developing a Climate Change Gender Action Plan (CCGAP) or a Roadmap on Gender and REDD+. Climate change and gender are both cross-cutting topics which require an interdisciplinary approach. Some activities included in these plans to both mitigate climate change and empower women include the following: creating a women-managed water taxi program on the Nile in Egypt, supporting women’s mangrove nurseries in Bangladesh, and creating campaigns to ensure women’s access to land, seed, credit and information in Nepal. Learn more about CCGAPs and Roadmaps in The Art of Implementation. But really—browse through this publication—it’s super interesting!

Working for a large international organization, I have been able to learn a great deal about the structure of such an organization. IUCN’s headquarters are in Gland, Switzerland. Members of the Global Gender Office are based in Washington, D.C., Costa Rica, Boston, and Pennsylvania. The DC office hosts the GGO; the Global Forest and Climate Change Programme; members of the Global Protected Areas Programme and the Global Species & Key Biodiversity Areas Programme; a very talented team of Human Resources, Finance, Development and Partnerships, and Grants; and an IUCN member organization, EcoLogic. Wow! Obviously, internal communication is extremely important with an organization of this size and structure. This has also given me the opportunity to learn from staff, from countries all over the world, about their projects. The DC office is a very friendly, welcoming bunch. We especially enjoyed projecting the World Cup games on the conference room wall—at one point I was watching soccer with nine people from seven different countries. Much of the staff of EcoLogic is from Germany, so there was a healthy rivalry when we all went to watch the US vs. Germany game outside in Dupont Circle.

Gender and Renewable Energy Workshop Poster

Gender and Renewable Energy Workshop Poster

In September, the GGO and USAID hosted a workshop on Gender and Renewable Energy. I assisted in the logistics of planning this workshop and actually had the opportunity to facilitate break-out sessions. Participants included representatives from various USAID offices, the World Bank, Energia, UNFCCC, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, other renewable energy and sustainable development organizations, and governments. This workshop was extremely participatory with lively discussions about enabling policy; private sector investment; energy generation, transmission, and distribution; end users; and women’s advancement in this field. Through this workshop, I not only learned a great deal about these topics from leading experts, I also gained invaluable capacity building for my growth in this field by actively participating (and networking) even though I was the most junior-level person there.


The U.S. Senate

My forehead was on C-SPAN!

My forehead was on C-SPAN! (screenshot taken by Molly Gilligan from

IUCN has been very accommodating and supportive of the education aspects of my internship period. The gender team was flexible with scheduling the dates of my internship, providing me the opportunity to accept a six-week legislative internship position in the office of Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. I worked on agriculture, energy, and environment issues at the federal level. This included topics ranging from childhood school lunch nutrition standards to natural gas fracking to Clean Water Act amendments. I thrived in the fast-paced, demanding work environment of the U.S. Senate and loved attending hearings and briefings, conducting research, drafting constituent letters, and writing memos for the Legislative Correspondent, Legislative Assistant, and the Senator. Congress also offers many educational opportunities for summer interns, including the Intern Lecture Series which featured speakers such as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and many more!


From Bard CEP to Washington, DC

The coursework at Bard Center for Environmental Policy has helped to prepare me for my internship experiences by approaching environmental policy topics from multiple disciplines including science, policy, law, and economics. My research in my first year at Bard CEP focused on gender and the environment. I reviewed the literature on work currently being done by international organizations focused on gender-specific vulnerabilities to climate change with respect to land and water management. I initially became interested in this topic at Colgate University, where I studied Environmental Geology and Educational Studies. This combination of natural science and social science has been a very useful background for me to transition into the world of policy.

U.S. Capitol Building

U.S. Capitol Building                         (credit: Molly Gilligan)


I love DC and all that is has to offer. There is a feeling in this city that real, meaningful work is being done here. Want to work in federal policy making? This is the place. Interested in international development? Social justice work? How about urban forestry? It’s all here. I’m also very lucky to be living with two members of my Bard CEP cohort and to have family and friends nearby.



About mollygilligan

Molly Gilligan is an M.S. in Environmental Policy candidate at Bard CEP. She is interested in international- and federal-level environmental policy work, particularly the intersections of gender and climate change.