The Green Life: Empowering women, saving the world
BY CHRISTIAN BOOZ —
Politicians are a major force of change in this country, especially when it comes to the environment. They are supposed to represent all of our varied interests with equal attention and be made up of various ethnic groups, religions and genders. Lacking in the U.S. and even more so in developing countries is the number of women in positions of political power. The current U.S. Congress is made of only 89 women, or 16 percent; according to the U.S. Census, women make up 50.8 percent of the population. The lack of representation for the female gender is obvious, and many are unaware fixing percentage this may benefit the world. Environmental policy is one major area which could improve from the inclusion of women around the world. Women and the empowering of women is one of the most important factors as we move toward global sustainability.
Most, if not all environmental issues, stem from overpopulation. According to the World Bank, women who are well-educated, have easier access to healthcare and birth control and are treated equally to male counterparts have fewer children on average. Those children then tend to go on to also be well-educated, have fewer children and have lower rates of malnutrition. In countries where women are empowered, birth rates tend to be much lower. The birth rate for Japan is 8.39 per 1,000 and in Germany it is 8.33 per 1,000. In countries where women are disenfranchised, there are higher rates of malnutrition, higher amounts of environmental degradation and much higher birth rates. For example, the birth rate in Niger is 50.09 per 1,000.
Increasing the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is another way to a better ecosystem, and educating women can quicken the process. A one-year increase in the education of women raises the country’s GDP by $700 USD per capita. Research done by the International Planned Parenthood Federation shows women reinvest 90 percent of their earnings back into their homes and local communities, while men only contribute 30 to 40 percent. Unpaid wages of women are responsible for 50 percent of the GDP of many countries. This reinvesting of funds could be used to create environmental non-profits and help forward the sustainability movement.
Women are also vital to agricultural production and stewardship. The United Nation’s food and agriculture organization states women are responsible for 50 percent of the agricultural development in Asia and up to 80 percent of production in Africa. If women were able to have the same access to resources and education as men in these countries, agricultural production would increase by 20 to 30 percent. This would lower the amount of people who are malnourished in the world by 12 to 17 percent, or 836,848,612 people. The extensive relationship women in developing nations have with the land means they almost exclusively have intensive knowledge of natural farming practices for the area. Through education, these women can pass on their knowledge and allow the methods of sustainable farming to gain traction across the globe. Fewer malnourished citizens would cause countries to work toward better education. The more starving and uneducated people there are, the harder it is for a country to focus on sustainability issues. Women’s empowerment can represent a solution for all of these problems.
Women represent the majority of the world but are not given the education, responsibility, empowerment or political inclusion men are given. There is no time like the present, and action to empower women should be taken now to ensure a sustainable future.