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Women as engines of change
April 6, 2015, 9:34 am
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All over the world, women are advancing the green revolution -- from transforming farming in rural Africa, to creating businesses around clean technology in India, to investing in renewable energy.

Whether in promoting conservation, combating climate change, protecting biodiversity and vital ecosystems, securing water access, or reducing indoor air pollution, women are developing and effecting innovative solutions to critical environmental problems.

This should come as no surprise.

Studies show it is women who are often most affected by the increased frequency of extreme weather events wrought by climate change. It is women who frequently spend half their days trekking long distances to collect water and fuel-wood, which in conflict settings, increases their vulnerability to sexual and gender-based violence, and, in all settings, reduces the amount of time for education, employment, childcare, and other more economically productive activities. It is women who represent the majority of the world's small-holder farmers and who face the disproportionate burden of food insecurity.

Women clearly have a stake in the future of the environment and are taking action.

Take Nobel Prize-winner Wangari Maathai, for example, who launched the Green Belt Movement, which has planted millions of trees in Kenya and transformed women into powerful advocates for their rights, good governance and democracy, and natural resource protection.

Habiba Sarabi, the governor of Bamiyan Province and the first female governor in Afghanistan, created her country's first national park, Band-e Amir, protecting 220 square miles of pristine lakes and limestone canyons. Her work has inspired local communities to join her environmental efforts.

Mary Mavanza from Tanzania has helped hundreds of Tanzanian women start environmentally sustainable businesses through microcredit loans and by providing training in accounting.

Albina Ruiz and her organization, Ciudad Saludable, have for over 20 years helped communities in Peru manage and recycle garbage, leading to cleaner environments, better health for women and children, and small business opportunities. India and other countries are now looking to Peru as a model.

"Sari Squads," groups of women environmental activists in southern Bangladesh, have banded together to form patrols to protect endangered forests from loggers.
Investing in these women and others like them will be critical to addressing the myriad environmental challenges that our world faces in the coming years.

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