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International Women's Day

This may not flow well, because I am sick, but if I wait until I am fully recovered, it will not be timely.

Via Twitter (how did I live so long without you!), I found an article pointing to this fine piece by Elaine Cohen, “One Day a Year is Not Enough,” on International Women’s Day from the Global Reporting Initiative:

This year’s theme is Equal Rights. Equal Opportunities. Progress for all. This is not just about human rights, morality and feeling righteous. It’s about survival, surthrival (did I invent that word, or did I retrieve it from my subliminal consciousness?), sustainability, and in a business context, sustainable business and accountability.

She is writing about the business aspects of equality, in particular, the Women’s Principles for Business, which provide guidance for creating gender-equal work environments. She believes that “If they are endorsed and assimilated by all the business leaders subscribing to the Global Compact, then 2010 will be a great year for women, and for men, and for business. As women take their well-deserved place on the corporate stage, they create more space for men, not less. As you may notice, transparency is a key principle. We must demand that businesses, in their CSR or Sustainability Reports, or in any other channel, account for the way they are enabling the inclusion and advancement of women. ”

There is a lot of other good reading in that post:  discussion of the founder of the Body Shop, Anita Roddick, who also pioneered sustainable business, how gender equality and diversity in general are related, and more information about women involved with sustainability.

Of course equality is a sustainability issue, and not simply from a birth control standpoint. Quoting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, from a longer interview: “. . . so-called women’s issues are stability issues, security issues, equity issues.” “Equity” is already considered one of the three aspects of the triple bottom line, and we can’t have a fully sustainable world when stability and security are threatened. People need basic stability before they can fully focus on resource or global climate issues, which create some of those threats to stability. So things that can be done to improve basic social stability in those regions are necessary! There is another long article addressing this in the New York Times (I have some issues with some parts of that article, but it is a good overview).

And on the topic of controlling reproduction, it is one of the cheapest ways to reduce carbon emissions in the future. An article by Frances Kissling, former president of Catholics for a Free Choice points out that a study (“Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost,” by Thomas Wire) found that

Each $7.00 spent on basic family planning over the next four decades will reduce CO2 emissions by more than a ton. To achieve the same results with low carbon technologies would cost a minimum of $32.00. If we just meet that need that women have already expressed for fewer children and access to contraception, we will save 34 gigatons between now and 2050, equivalent to nearly six times the annual emissions of the US.

Kissling also points out that, unfortunately, there is a certain amount of, shall we say, “resistance” to the idea of providing contraception from some religious organizations who are otherwise in favor of reducing the impact of climate change.

More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want, a book published in 2008 points out that, “In countries that make effective personal control of reproduction possible for all, women invariably have two children or fewer on average, according to More. Such low fertility levels eventually lead to gradually declining populations in the absence of net immigration.” (Source) The author found, in 25 years of international study, that what women want is not “more children, but more for their children, and we can be thankful for that.”

So, while there is definitely plenty of bad history related to forcing population control on women (sterilization, forced abortions, etc., directed against the poor, the disabled, women in other countries, women of color in the US), it shouldn’t have to be a matter of force. Provide the tools, provide the option, provide education and allow us to support ourselves and our families, and many, many women will choose to have a small number of children, and as a result of the education and income, will have better lives and better be able to contribute to society.

For more, here is one part of a much longer debate about the relationship between women’s rights, population growth, capitalism, and climate change.

My simple understanding is that providing all women and girls in the world equal access to complete health care, education, and employment opportunities (whether self-employment or otherwise) is crucial to our long-term survival as a species. And it’s simply the right thing to do.

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