Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Women Key to Greening the Economy

By Aline Cunico

Earth Day celebrated its 41st year Friday with the slogan ‘A Billion Acts of Green’. The grassroots demonstration is said to have inspired the modern environmental movement, and continues to inform and promote green economic policies worldwide, while attracting over a half billion people every year.

This year, one of the main elements of the Earth Day campaign is the Women and the Green Economy (WAGE) campaign focusing on engaging women leaders in the advancement of a global green economy.

Originally launched in December 2010 at the 16th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in Cancun, Mexico, the WAGE Campaign intends to promote leadership amongst women, in order to create a sustainable green economy and alleviate climate change.

"Women are on the frontline of climate change and other environmental crises. It makes sense to see them spearheading the effort to solve our environmental problems and jumpstart the clean energy economy," Jenny Powers, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told IPS.

"Earth Day events give us a chance to celebrate progress, but also to roll up our sleeves and start solving today’s problems," Powers said. "People from all walks of life have embraced green solutions, and environmental stewardship has become more pervasive than even the Earth Day founders could have imagined," she added.

"Being disproportionately affected by the negative consequences of climate change throughout the world, women are influential, as home makers and community organisers," says Katherine Lucey, executive director of Solar Sister, an initiative that supports women and girls in rural Africa by providing access to dependable solar energy. "It is critical that they are full participants in the creation of a sustainable green economy."

According to the Earth Day Network, educating women about environmental issues is essential, not only because women constitute more than half of the world’s population, but also because they are responsible for over 85 percent of all consumer choices.

"We are creating the next generation of environmental leaders," Andrea Delgado, senior policy analyst at the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change (NLCCC), told IPS. "Women have a critical role and make most of the decisions at home. It is critical to empower them with choices that are good for the environment," she added.

"In order to move forward and fight climate change, we need to address the vulnerabilities of women in this fight. Empowering them will play a critical role in shaping environmentally sustainable behaviours and policies within households, communities, nations and beyond," Delgado said.

"We need to empower women, while improving the environment," John Coonrod, executive vice president of The Hunger Project, told IPS. He said that simple initiatives could help women escape hunger and poverty in developing countries. "Small-scale farmers - most of whom are women - are perfectly positioned to apply the kind of intensive methodologies needed to achieve goals on a sustainable basis," he added.

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Violence against women is a worldwide yet still hidden problem. Freedom from the threat of harassment, battering, and sexual assault is a concept that most of us have a hard time imagining because violence is such a deep part of our cultures and lives.