nl en

Social and Gender Analysis for Sustainability


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

None required, but recommended are Environmental Science, Energy and Resource Management, and/or Qualitative Research Methods


Impacts of environmental change tend to be distributed unevenly and are experienced differently by people. In many cases across the globe, systemic social inequalities result in some social groups bearing more of the negative impacts of environmental change, while having less access to resources needed for adaptation, and lacking opportunities and political power to influence decision-making on resource use and environmental management. Gender inequality, along with other forms of social inequalities, is a common factor underlying these critical differences. While achieving gender equality is important in its own right as a matter of social justice, it is also instrumentally important because it is synergistic with other social and environmental sustainability-oriented goals. For instance, gender equality plays a key role in ensuring that use and management of forests, fisheries, land, biodiversity, and energy, among others, equitably support human well-being. It helps ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable, whether at a global or a country scale, are included in decision-making processes and are able to benefit from environmental protection and other related sustainability initiatives.

The primary aim of the course is to enable students to develop the analytical thinking and practical skills required to integrate a gender and social perspective into interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary sustainability projects (e.g. conservation, natural resource management, climate change) and to conduct a gender analysis across different contexts. This is important because sustainability challenges are characterised by systemic complexity and always includes people. Through this course, students will learn about how gender and other social markers (e.g. class, race, ethnicity) shape people’s access to natural resources (e.g. forests, seas, energy), and influence the drivers and outcomes of environmental issues across different scales. These will be explored using case studies for different types of resources and environmental issues from high, middle, and low income countries. To achieve its aim, the course combines conceptual content, real-world examples, and hands-on learning activities. Through this, students’ knowledge and skills development are equally supported.

As a first step, we will learn about how gender came to be an important factor for the broader environment and sustainability discourse. We will distinguish between gender-blind, gender-accommodating, and gender-transformative approaches in addressing sustainability challenges. We will then get familiar with a number of established frameworks and methodologies for analysing the role of gender in environmental and sustainability research and practice. Along these lines, we will discuss the key concept of intersectionality which refers to how gender interacts with other social markers (e.g. class, race) to create context-specific social hierarchies, privileges, and marginalisation affecting sustainability outcomes. Thus, the focus of the course is not confined to the differences between men and women, but about broader, more complex, and layered social differences shaping the contours of sustainability outcomes. Within this topic, we will discuss how different gender analysis frameworks can be applied to analyse human-nature connections. This will build students’ capacity for deciding which framework to use in different settings. Additionally, we will explore a number of methodological tools that can be used for specific frameworks. Through these, students will build their capacity to decide and select which analytical framework to apply given project constraints and research limitations, and to critically reflect on the strengths and limitations of the frameworks.

To understand drivers of gender inequality and how they may be transformed, we will engage in critical discussions about the role of laws, social norms, and power relations in reproducing gender inequalities and in shaping sustainability outcomes.

We will explore the above-mentioned frameworks and concepts in real-world settings by looking at studies and projects such as those relating to forest management, fisheries, climate adaptation, and energy, among others. We will also examine how other organisations particularly those based in The Hague, have integrated gender into their own programmes. By examining concrete case studies, we will learn about challenges as well as innovative and successful approaches for transforming unequal social relations and for fostering a more sustainable and more equitable world.

Course Objectives

At the end of the course, students shall have acquired the knowledge and skills identified below.


  • Describe how gender, in combination with other social markers, influences access to natural resources and impacts of environmental change;

  • Discuss the importance of social and gender analysis in sustainability research and practice;

  • Differentiate between gender-blind, gender-accommodating, and gender transformative approaches including their strengths and limitations; and

  • Explain how laws, social norms, and power relations contribute to maintaining gender inequalities and describe approaches for transforming these.


  • Compare different frameworks for integrating gender in sustainability projects;

  • Constructively critique published project reports or scientific papers based on how effectively a gender perspective had been integrated; and

  • Analyse an organisation’s or a project’s approach to integrating gender and propose ways for how it can be further strengthened.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course is designed to foster co-learning and co-creation of knowledge between the instructor and the students. Thus, the students will play an active role in the learning process throughout the block. To this end, diverse learning approaches will be used for this course. These will include interactive lectures, video presentations, actual interviews or analysis of papers or reports, group discussions, in-class workshops, and panel discussion. Attendance is required for all class sessions.

Assessment Method

The students’ performance in the course is evaluated through the following assessment points: in-class participation (consisting of participation in class discussions and complete submission of after-class reviews), individual assignments, group assignments, and a final exam. Every (part of a) day late for handing in assignments will result in a deduction of 2/3 of a letter grade for that assignment (e.g. B+ (on time) to B- (one day late) to C (2 days late)).

Students must complete all assignments and exams at a reasonable level (which is determined by the instructor). Unless there are extenuating circumstances, not finishing an assessment component will automatically result in an F for the whole course. Extenuating circumstances must be communicated promptly and documented if possible (e.g. medical certificate).

Assessment 1: In-class participation and a complete set of after-class reviews (individual)
Weight: 15%, deadline: Weeks 1-6

Assessment 2: Review/critique of a scientific paper (individual)
Weight: 20%, deadline: Week 3

Assessment 3: Analysis of an organisation’s approach to integrating gender (group)
Weight: 25%, deadline: Week 6

Assessment 4: Presentation and panel discussion (group)
Weight: 15%, deadline: Week 7

Assessment 5: Final exam (individual)
Weight: 25%, Week 8

Reading list

Please get a copy of the following book for the course:

Cruz-Torres, M. L., & McElwee, P. (2012). Gender and Sustainability: Lessons from Asia and Latin America. University of Arizona Press.

This book is open access and freely downloadable online. An expanded reading list that includes required and recommended readings will be indicated in the syllabus which will be uploaded to BrightSpace a week before the start of the block.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Aisa O. Manlosa,


You will be required to read book chapters or scientific papers prior to the class sessions. Information about required readings will be indicated in the course syllabus which will be available a week before the start of the course. If you register for this course, you will be added into an MS Teams group when the block starts. Class materials and communication will be carried out through MS Teams. BrightSpace will be used mainly for uploading the syllabus and graded assessments.