I've always been inspired by the people who work tirelessly to make a positive impact in the world. Today is special because it’s International Women’s Day and we get to celebrate the women who are doing great things. Whether you are pursuing a career, fighting for environmental justice, raising children or focused on your personal development – the progress we've made in the last century is undeniable. You should celebrate and be celebrated.
Many great women have fought for the freedoms we enjoy today. When you consider the victories we've won in the last century – the right to vote, own property, get an education, and work without our husband’s consent – you can appreciate how far we’ve come and the colossal progress we've made.
We live in a time where women around the world are building businesses and nonprofits to protect our environment. Sea Legacy, an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans through storytelling and photography, was founded by the award-winning photographer and marine biologist Cristina Mittermeier. Osprey Orielle Lake founded the non-profit Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) to unite women as powerful stakeholders in climate change and sustainability solutions. The Little Market is a women-led non-profit that empowers women in developing nations to earn an income through the sale of artisan-made, ethical fair products. These organizations and many others are fine examples of how tapping into our shared values and empowering ourselves can make a difference.
It’s important to recognize that gender rights are a key factor in addressing global environmental issues. A recent UN study found that women are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change. And because of the gender gap, we are often excluded from opportunities to impact key policy decisions. Women and children are 14 times more likely to die in climate disasters.
We’ve known for some time that the clean water crisis disproportionately affects women. In 80% of households across developing nations that lack access to drinking water, the burden falls on women and children to travel long distances every day to collect water. And as climate change makes water sources more unreliable, the burden on women becomes even greater. As a result of this time sink, their opportunities for obtaining paid work and education become very restricted.
A 2017 ICT study found that only 28% of women in Eastern and South-eastern Asia had access to the internet, in comparison to 42% of men. But what exactly does the internet have to do with our environment? It turns out, a lot. Access to information is vital to a growing economy. Studies show that as women’s education levels rise and more women enter the workforce, poverty levels decrease. Research confirms that there is a positive correlation between developed economies, affluent societies, and positive environmental impacts. Rallying for women’s rights goes hand-in-hand with rallying for our environment. But we didn’t need a study to tell us that, did we?
“The unique nature of environmental degradation that is caused by the struggle to survive should be seen as a clear indication that economic development in the poorer places of the world is a prerequisite for environmental improvement.” - Alan Mackinnon
Gender rights and our environment share a symbiotic relationship. By empowering women, we increase our collective capacity to work towards a sustainable future. We’ve proven time-and-time again that no matter how challenging our circumstances, we are incredible agents for change. I'm thankful to have so many extraordinary women like you by our side. Your commitment to doing better and living with purpose inspires me every day.
If you'd like to get more involved, please consider these organizations:
- Girls Rising, a nonprofit focused on global education and empowerment for girls.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature is one of the first non-profits that integrate gender considerations into their analyses and policy work, in order to ensure a sustainable future that meets the needs of women and men alike.
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