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Tiffany Traynum’s Blog

Girl Power Goes Global at Rio+20

Tiffany Traynum

Posted June 22, 2012 in Living Sustainably

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Today marked the conclusion of a global environmental summit that drew nearly 100 world leaders and more than 45,000 people. At the Rio+20 Conference, world leaders, thousands of participants from government, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, came together to shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection to get to the “future we want”. Until recently, I never knew such a thing existed. To imagine world leaders along with the highest of government officials, gathering to ensure that we have healthy planet, is an amazing concept. To wrap my head around this thing I began by asking myself one question.

“Who are these high level, important people”?  And how is that they are able to define my needs and “future wants’’? To adopt a plan of action that not only preserves, but allows my community to flourish? Well, I was pleased to find that a majority of these leaders are women! Powerful women. Women both young and not so young, using their voices to advocate not only for a sustainable Earth, but for gender equality.

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I like to think of myself as somewhat of a woman warrior. Not only do I work for and amongst many amazing women professionally, I also come from a long line of strong, intellectual women, who take pride in themselves and their community. At the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 there was unanimous agreement that sustainable development cannot be realized without gender equality. This year women heads of state and government signed a Call to Action with concrete policy recommendations on integrating gender equality and women's empowerment in all sustainable development frameworks. They also pledged to use their leadership positions, to advance gender equality and women's empowerment in the context of sustainable development internationally.

I know that our leader, NRDC President Frances Beinecke was there. Along with other powerful women such as Michele Bachelet, executive director of UN Women, Brazil President Dilma Rousseff, Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla Miranda and others. This makes total sense to me. Woman and girls continue to face the brunt of global challenges, through the feminization of poverty, hunger, disease and the burden of unpaid care work. At the same time, there is growing research and awareness that advancing gender equality makes societies and economies healthier and more equitable and sustainable. Sustainable development solutions, such as access to clean energy and safe water, can greatly improve women's lives by reducing poverty, freeing up women's time and protecting them from violence and adverse health and environmental impacts. For example, of the two million people who die each year from smoke from traditional cook stoves, more than 85 per cent are women and children.

At the Summit, women leaders reiterated that sustainable development cannot happen without half of the world's population. The same can be said for many concepts. As a woman, the future that I want is to see people free from poverty and discrimination, with equal access to opportunities and leadership, with a wide stewardship of our natural resources, and a sustainable community for me and my family to thrive. With strong capable women, such as the ones at this year’s Rio Summit at the helm, the future sure seems bright.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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