By Lea Mercado
Web Content Assistant Manager
International Women’s Day is a day dedicated to showing appreciation to the women who work hard to positively impact our lives. Those who choose to celebrate may adorn the women in their lives with flowers, gifts or maybe take over some of their responsibilities as a display of appreciation. But the focus of this year’s celebration requires far more than pleasantries. It requires action – now.
This year’s theme is “Gender Equality Today for a More Sustainable Tomorrow.”
You may be wondering, “what does gender equality have to do with sustainability?” If climate change impacts the earth, it would be safe to assume that sustainability is a topic of concern for everyone, right? While that assumption is correct, climate change proposes a unique and urgent set of challenges for women in particular.
As global leaders struggle to address the present and ever-growing climate crisis, researchers are working to find how the crisis will affect the population. As a result, findings have concluded that marginalized groups, such as women, will experience the greatest impact.
Across the world, women still face disparities that western countries have assumed are of the past. For instance, women are predominately responsible for the world’s food production, yet less than 15% of all landholders are women.
But the issue far surpasses agricultural concerns. Women are also vulnerable to climate change due to gendered responsibilities and roles.
In developing countries that are most susceptible to climate-related disasters, women struggle to cope in addition to their lack of influence in political and environmental matters. When disaster strikes, parenthood and lack of resources often restrict women from migrating or seeking refuge elsewhere presenting an added burden in highly stressful situations. Relating to this matter, the UN estimates that women make up 80% of those displaced from climate change.
However, in light of these restrictions, women are rising up for the cause through activism and a demand for climate justice, which is what this year’s celebration is dedicated to. While gender inequality has traditionally inhibited women from becoming actors of climate change, unprecedented environmental emergencies have no place for tradition.
As a matter of fact, women have taken the lead in the fight against climate change, especially young women whose lives hinge on the action being taken right now. To achieve progress in the charge towards climate justice, activists like Greta Thunberg have staged displays of disruption to make their voices heard such as school walkouts and hunger strikes, and even established movements like Fridays for Future.
Of course, with issues that affect our home planet, sporadic demonstrations simply aren’t enough and demand a charge for action on an institutional level. This need has been met by numerous women.
Catherine Coleman Flowers is the founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE), where she works to “promote sustainable initiatives to strengthen the infrastructure of families in rural and impoverished communities.” When she is not serving as the executive director, she is also a frequent climate change leader and speaker as well as working to influence Alabama climate-related legislation.
On a larger scale, New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has taken it upon herself to set an example on the global stage as to how a country should address the climate crisis. She has committed to achieving a carbon-neutral government by 2025 and often delivers powerful speeches to incite political and social action to work towards a more sustainable future.
While the examples listed only touch the surface of the woman-led movement against climate change, for women to have a say, it is the people’s job to ensure that women actively have a voice and represent their communities and interests. The willingness to work is there. All that is needed now is support and resources.
So, for this International Women’s Day, perhaps skip the flowers and pleasantries. Instead, utilize your right to vote to ensure all individuals are accurately represented in your federal, state, and local government and consider donating or getting involved in a women-led climate organization.
This crisis is not entirely above us yet, but that is contingent on the action that you are willing to take now.
Featured Image by KTSW Multimedia