The 2012 Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative held September 23-25 in New York chose ‘designing’ as its theme. Choosing a design theme was inspirational because it reflects a focus on how the world can be remodeled to offer more opportunities for individuals, systems and the environment. With over 7 billion people in the world, just the thought of trying to get everyone moving in the right direction can be overwhelming. That is precisely why initiatives such as this one are so important.
The second day of the conference was devoted entirely to Designing Our Environments, which includes both built and natural environments. The topics included some you would expect like Sustainable Energy, Climate and Disaster Resilience, and Use and Watershed Protection. These are predictable topics given climate warming, water shortages and the enormous number of natural disasters that have shaken the world over the last few years.
However, there are delightfully surprising and exciting topics, too. One of those topics is Women and Built Environments. The discussion will focus on integrating women into the global supply chains and the benefits of leveraging an investment in women. The United Nations tracks the status of women around the world, and the news is not particularly good. For example, women account for two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults, and it has been that way for over 20 years. In addition, the U.N. reports that women are rarely employed in jobs that have any power or authority and continue to bear most home responsibilities. In terms of environment, women in under-developed countries are responsible for collecting drinking water from sources outside the home, cook on stoves producing health-harming pollutants from burning solid fuels, and have almost no input into environmental decision-making in or out of the home.
Connecting the dots of the status of women around the world as described by the U.N. and the Clinton Global Initiative, it is clear that women could have an enormous impact on the greening of the world. The under-utilization of their talents, creativity and resourcefulness is almost tragic, and especially so, considering they account for approximately 51 percent of the world’s population. Women should and must be brought into the sustainability efforts.
In fact, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer, addressed the U.S. Department of State in January 2012 and discussed Gender Equity and Sustainable Development. She points out that advancing sustainable development around the world will not succeed unless a way is found to include half of the world’s population. Verveer said that women could easily play a vital role in agriculture and food security, forestry, and energy access (fuel choices and cooking methods).
Yet, the ambassador is not saying that women’s roles in sustainability are merely ones involving cooking and farming. These are just the more direct roles that can most easily be brought into the sustainability effort because they address lifestyle issues. Verveer then goes on to discuss the growing number of women entrepreneurs and small businesses that are driving economic growth in developed and under-developed nations. Increasing family incomes, promoting sustainable business development, and elevating women to leadership positions will have a clear and positive impact on the ability to green the world.
The Clinton Global Initiative is a powerful strategy for raising awareness and moving from words to action. People cannot work together unless they come together. It will be exciting to read the discussions that follow the initiative, as the mantra changes from Women Power to Women Sustainable Power.
Missed out? Catch sessions here, and let us know what you think in the comments!