By Abigail Krusemark
PC(USA) Young Women's Ministries delegate to UNCSW58
From my experience thus far as a delegate at the 58th Commission on the Status of Women, I have noted several emerging themes of the meetings and roundtable conversations. They are: the importance of engaging men and boys in discussions of gender, the lack of an accountability mechanism for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the centrality of women’s participation to an overall development scheme. This last theme suggests that the world cannot achieve any of the eight MDG goals without achieving progress on goal #3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women.
MDG goal #7 (Ensure Environmental Sustainability) is a passion of mine. We live in a world that is increasingly affected by extreme weather and shortages of basic resources. These side effects hurt the most vulnerable populations, which includes women and girls. For this reason, I am a strong advocate of eco-feminism. Eco-feminism is a movement that links gender equality with justice for the environment. Eco-feminists believe that both women and the environment have a shared history of oppression at the hands of a power-seeking patriarchal society. Last year, I spent four months in Rwanda running a women’s empowerment seminar under UNAIDS. The seminar focused on social justice topics through a gender lens. I had the opportunity then to speak with young Rwandan women about eco-feminism (see photo).
Strong eco-feminists who inspire me are women like Vandana Shiva and Wangari Maathai. Vandana Shiva is an Indian environmentalist who has advocated for placing women at the center of farming and has articulated principles of Earth and Water democracy. Maathai is a Kenyan woman who founded the “Green Belt Movement” to tackle the dual issues of women’s participation in community decision-making and Kenya’s desperate environmental problems. She engaged in acts of civil disobedience against the Kenyan government, who accused her of inciting women. Wangari Maathai was the fist woman in Eastern Africa to earn a doctorate degree and the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize for her work on sustainable development, democracy, and peace.
At the CSW, I attended a panel on “Cities for Sustainable Development.” The panelists had interesting ideas for a holistic approach to women’s equality. According to them, sustainability and gender equality includes putting human beings at the center of development and recognizing the intersection of women’s rights and environmental justice. It was an affirming testament to idea that significant progress on any of the Millennium Development Goals requires stakeholders to honor the reciprocal nature of all the goals in relation to goal #3. The world cannot achieve environmental justice without the involvement of women, and women cannot reach their full potential if they are threatened by environmental destruction.