Women have proven to be highly effective agents of change in working towards a healthy environment. Many organisations with women at the helm have contributed to setting a sustainable agenda through their advocacy and lobbying, creating solutions to unsustainable development, and making sure that other women’s voices are heard and their perspectives taken into account. Yet, while women make up a little over half of the world’s population, their contribution to measured economic activity, growth and well-being is far below its potential.
In both urban and rural areas, environmental degradation results in negative effects on the health, well-being and quality of life of the population at large, especially girls and women of all ages. Particular attention and recognition needs to be given to the role and special situation of women living in rural areas and those working in the agricultural sector, where access to training, land, natural and productive resources, credit, development programmes and cooperative structures can help them increase their participation in sustainable development.
Many reports highlight that the global economy would benefit substantially from greater participation of women in the international workforce. However, there is still limited recognition of what women contribute – or have the potential to offer – to survival and development. For most societies, discriminatory social structures and attitudes, at personal, community and institutional levels, persist in deeply entrenched patterns of gender inequality. Many women encounter steep barriers related to their family and socio-economic status, including their living conditions in isolated or impoverished areas.
Through their management and use of natural resources, women provide sustenance to their families and communities. As consumers and producers, caretakers of their families and educators, women play an important role in promoting sustainable development through their concern for the quality and sustainability of life for present and future generations. Looking at the way women herald change, Sea Change Radio speaks with two women in Asia who are leading the way both economically and sustainably. Jenny Fernan, President of Pangea Green Energy, a landfill gas company based in the Philippines, talks about a pioneering company which runs a biogas plant, converting hazardous garbage into electricity. The other story is from Shilpi Chhotray, a consultant with Future 500, who discusses the burgeoning seaweed industry in India and the important role that women are playing in making it a success.
Women often have important leadership roles or have taken the lead in promoting an environmental ethic, reducing resource use, and reusing and recycling resources to minimise waste and excessive consumption. Women can have a particularly powerful role in influencing sustainable consumption decisions. We just need to ensure that we actively involve women and integrate gender concerns and perspectives in policies and programmes for sustainable development. Actions to strengthen or establish mechanisms at national, regional and international levels to assess the impact of development and environmental policies on women is a must.
Photo Credit: Sea Change Radio
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