Today is Earth Day and a perfect moment to realize the importance of unleashing the knowledge and capabilities of women around the world: Women are critical to tackling climate change, and empowering them is the first step.
Why Women are better at protecting the earth
Research shows that where women have higher social and political status, their countries have 12% lower CO2 emissions. In many countries, women lead get-out-the-vote efforts and vote more often. They also have led on environmental and social legislation when elected to public office. After winning reelection, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her cabinet consisting of 40% women declared a "Climate Emergency" and set in motion a plan to make the country’s public sector carbon neutral by 2025. Additionally, it has been shown that women are vital actors in peacemaking, and when involved in negotiations, increase the probability of ending violence by up to 24%.
Women farmers feed the world. Managing 70% of smallholder farms in Africa, women provide more than half of all nutrition to people living on the continent. Their agricultural systems are rooted in ancient history, passed from mother to daughter for centuries, inherently adapted to specific variations in land and climate. Long before the advent of industrialized agriculture, women farmers were using regenerative agricultural practices to return nutrients to the soil, building resilience and fertility over time without chemicals. According to the UN, when provided the same resources as men, women can increase agricultural yields by 20-30%, reducing hunger by 12-17%. Instead of expanding industrialized agriculture, which is typically run by male-led companies and often heavily dependent upon expensive chemical imports, governments could choose to support the millions of women farmers practicing regenerative agriculture today, helping to close the hunger gap in their countries.
In almost two-thirds of households in developing countries, women and girls are responsible for collecting water, holding vital knowledge of local water systems and stewardship practices. Repeatedly, the UN has recognized that the success of sustainable water resource management largely depends on engaging women at all levels of decision-making and implementation. The exclusion of women from the planning of water supply and sanitation practices has proven to be a major factor in their high rate of failure. Fuel collection is also primarily led by women in the Global South, especially for lighting and cooking, where 90% of women take the lead in feeding and running their homes. When given the resources, women are more likely to choose sustainable fuel options that reduce emissions globally.
How knowing her own body can lead to more knowledge for women
In 1972, the Supreme Court made birth control legal for all women and since then birth control has contributed to 30% of the wage gains made by women between the 1960s and the 1990s. Further, before 1972, there were no female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies while today there are more than 30. In addition, between 1970 and 2017, the proportion of women 25 and older with at least a high school diploma increased from 55% to 90%, and the proportion with at least a bachelor’s degree increased from 8% to 35%.
It is important to educate women about their health, the control they have over their own bodies, self protection and what long-term effects could be.
Whether it is today, tomorrow, or Earth Day, let's continue to empower women to protect our precious earth.