Environment Can’t Be Saved While Women Are Second-Class Citizens

Environment Can’t Be Saved While Women Are Second-Class Citizens

by December 4, 2015

“Why Women Will Save the Planet” tackles the links between discrimination and environmental degradation with a collection of articles and interviews from more than 30 women around the world.
Liz Hutchins, Friends of the Earth’s Senior Campaigner, said:
“We can’t have a healthy, flourishing environment and have women treated as second-class citizens; that means we must all fight for women’s empowerment. This book is a call to action across society – in politics, in the media, and within the environmental movement.”
Commissioned as part of Friends of the Earth’s Big Ideas Change the World project, the collection draws contributions from across the worlds of activism, business, politics and the media. It illustrates how, as the UN has stated, women are disproportionately affected both by poverty and by environmental pollution and mismanagement – and shows that this is no coincidence.
The UN Environment Programme Policy and Strategy for Gender Equality and the Environment states:
“Identifying and addressing women’s and men’s needs, as well as promoting women as decision makers, are critical elements to ensuring the success of environmental policy and programming”
The book argues a clear case for putting women’s empowerment at the heart of environmental campaigning. In response, Friends of the Earth is today making a commitment to do just that.
Drawing on evidence from across the globe, and contributions from Caroline Lucas, Barbara Stocking, Fiona Reynolds, Juliet Davenport, Vandana Shiva and many others, the collection demonstrates that gender inequality is holding up progress – locally and globally – in tackling urgent environmental issues. With case studies from Egypt, Guatemala, Somalia, the UK and elsewhere, the book makes it clear that women’s empowerment is not only the right thing to do, but is key to success for the environmental movement.
The book is a rallying call to environmental campaigning groups and other environmentalists who have, on the whole, neglected women’s empowerment in their work. The book aims to encourage the environmental movement and women’s movement to join in fighting the twin evils of women’s oppression and environmental degradation, because social justice and environmental sustainability are two sides of the same coin.
The book features a chapter by Dr. Sarah Richardson, historian at the University of Warwick, entitled, ‘Mistresses of their own Destiny: a history of women’s empowerment in 19th Century British politics’.
Sarah is an academic on political, constitutional and gender history at the University of Warwick in the UK. She is the author of ‘The Political Worlds of Women: Gender and Politics in Nineteenth Century Britain’, a book which identified the over-looked role of middle-class women in political affairs in the nineteenth century.
Her piece for this book draws on her research to highlight the important role played by women in achieving environmental and social reform. She shows how women often find alternative ways to contribute to and influence society in a male-dominated world.
Dr. Sarah Richardson, historian at the University of Warwick says,
“This book is a fantastic way for me to highlight inequalities of the past between men and women that are still around today. Women are still disadvantaged in many societies both politically and civilly. Using examples past and present I demonstrate that there are many opportunities for women to take direct action and make a difference, especially in relation to issues that affect them personally. Using these techniques I hope more women take the opportunity to mobilise people using these alternate forms of political participation. It’s important for everyone to remember that you do not necessarily have to become an MP to make a difference.” Fiona Reynolds, former head of the National Trust, says,
“The twenty-first century challenge is about engaging people, inspiring people to seek out more sustainable lifestyles. Women are, and always have been, critical in understanding the necessity of a high-quality environment for good health and wellbeing. Women are critical to bringing about change to achieve this.”
Women’s empowerment is critical to environmental sustainability, isn’t it? When Friends of the Earth asked this question on Facebook half of respondents said yes and half said no, with women as likely to say no as men.
This collection of articles and interviews, from some of the leading lights of the environmental and feminist movements, demonstrates that achieving gender equality is vital if we are to protect the environment upon which we all depend. It is a rallying call to environmental campaigning groups and other environmentalists who have, on the whole, neglected women’s empowerment in their work.
We hope that the book will encourage the environmental movement and women’s movement to join in fighting the twin evils of women’s oppression and environmental degradation, because social justice and environmental sustainability are two sides of the same coin.
“Why Women Will Save the Planet” was published by Zed Books on 24th November 2015; review copies can be obtained from Charlotte Hutchinson at Zed Books (zedbooks.net). The book can be purchased online from www.foe.co.uk/shop.
“Why Women Will Save the Planet” forms part of Friends of the Earth’s three-year research project Big Ideas Change the World, which aims to inspire a new campaigning journey for Friends of the Earth and others. It is collaboratively researching ten topics, including the future of cities, innovation, women’s empowerment and the history of change. It starts from the premise that humans are ingenious and have enormous capacity for collaboration and empathy, even though right now we are doing some pretty stupid things.
Big Ideas Change the World will identify what needs to change to focus some of humanity’s amazing abilities on solving the challenges we face and building a brighter future for everyone.
Find out more and get involved at www.foe.co.uk/bigideas. •

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