Empowering Women and Protecting Mother Earth
When we think about the multitude of reasons to support the universal realization of gender equality – climate change is rarely mentioned. From addressing the moral concerns of respecting and empowering half of the world’s population, to considering the socio-economic benefits of reduced violence and increased economic prosperity, the relationship between women and the environment is a side of the story less explored. We now know, however, thanks to a pool of research by a leading resource on climate solutions, Project Drawdown, that the empowerment of women across our globe is not only vital to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, but is also one of the most promising means to reverse climate change.
According to research by this climate-focused non-profit, three rights-based solutions will be as critical to our planet’s future as the transition to renewable energy or the reduction of global food waste—the securitisation of rights for women small hold farmers, ensuring universal access to education, and family planning for women and girls.
“Gender equity is key to our planetary challenge”
But how are these two matters related to one another? It’s a good question. At first, these two topics seem worlds apart. Though, according to Katherine Wilkinson, an activist, author and vice president of Project Drawdown, “gender equity is a key answer to our planetary challenge”. Not only do the impacts of climate change affect women disproportionately—due to their persisting vulnerabilities to poverty, injury and displacement during disasters—but women are uniquely positioned to take the action required to drastically decrease emissions and prevent the worst effects of climate change .
For example, although women produce 60-80 percent of food in the planet’s low to middle-income countries, they often lack access to land rights, capital and credit, training, and tools and technology. By increasing women’s access to these rights and resources, farms would be more efficient and yields could increase by an estimated 20-30 percent, which would also reduce the need for further clear-cutting and deforestation. By improving this situation, Wilkinson and her team estimate that 2 billion tonnes of carbon emissions could be avoided by 2030 – the very same impact as household recycling world-wide. Securing these rights for the world’s women small holders also would reduce the threats of hunger, poor health and low household income.
Education Is The Answer
Increasing girls’ access to education addresses another climate challenge—population growth. Today, 130 million girls are still excluded from their fundamental right to attend school. Girls with more years of education tend to not only marry later but also have fewer and healthier children. This climate solution could be key as the world seeks to reduce energy demand and emissions in the coming decades. This is, of course, not to be taken as the reason for why we should be educating the world’s girls but as Wilkinson notes, “it is one meaningful outcome.”
A Focus on Family Planning
Increasing access to family planning for women and girls who want it will also shape the future, and related climate challenges. Globally today, 214 million women in lower-income countries report that they want the autonomy to decide “whether and when to become pregnant” and in the United States 45 million women experience unintended pregnancies each year. Advancing women’s autonomy and access to reproductive healthcare and quality education would be equivalent to removing 85 gigatons of carbon dioxide or closing nearly 22,000 coal-fired power plants. To use Wilkinson’s words once more, “there is life force in learning and there’s life force in choice.”
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Goal 5
Aside from significant potential as a climate solution, the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all the world’s women and girls is also essential to securing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. In 2015, the 193 members of this international organization signed a commitment to work in global partnership to create a more prosperous, peaceful and sustainable world of tomorrow, establishing seventeen interlinked social, economic, and environmental goals.— Goal 5, Gender Equality, seeks to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls, as well as ensuring their safety, and has been identified as a key driver for the acceleration of economic prosperity.
This article is part of our series for International Women’s Day, celebrating “Women In Regeneration.” At Regenerative Travel, we see the potential to our planet and our societies of securing these rights and opportunities for women. Across our resorts, the empowerment and education of local women is essential. From helping girls to start their own businesses via a circular economy, such as the women making artisanal products from recycled glass at Blue Apple, to the weaving co-operative for women led by our African Bush Camps resorts, the empowerment of females will remain at the center of our ambitions for a truly regenerative future in travel.