08/03/2012 Connecting girls, inspiring futures, the thought-provoking theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is a moment to envision a future where girls can connect with their community on the environment to act for a better tomorrow.
Women have been empowering themselves through collective action. They have become the prime agents of change in the sustainable management of the natural resources, especially in the developing countries. Numerous women’s movements promote the active roles of women in poverty reduction and sustainable development. Their role is especially crucial in the Drylands.
One woman who embodies this magnificently is Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, the late Wangari Maathai. Professor Maathai worked tirelessly to halt land degradation and desertification through planting trees, first and foremost, with women. She was not only an ardent advocate of the empowerment of women and girls worldwide, she stooped down to the level of the poorest to inspire and share her resources for the cause.
Her saying, “the planting of trees is the planting of ideas. By starting with the simple act of planting a tree, we give hope to ourselves and to future generations," is inspiring. Professor Maathai knew the power of collective action and of speaking in one voice. Her Green Belt Movement was a movement of people’s collective action. It led to vast reforestation all over the world.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification places women at the center of action. One of the obligations of the countries affected by desertification is to “promote awareness and facilitate the participation of local populations, particularly women and youth… in efforts to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought.” Strong emphasis is also placed on women and girls in the context of national action programmes, capacity-building, education and public awareness.
The UNCCD is targeting gender mainstreaming to increase effectiveness in implementation of the 10-Year Strategic Programme to combat desertification/land degradation and drought. We aim to demonstrate that focused action on gender issues yields tangible benefits. Education and connecting girls to systems that enable them to participate in relevant decision-making processes at the community and national levels and that engage them in research, partnerships and cooperation enhances their ability to improve their lives and those of their families. In the drylands, gender mainstreaming means focusing on the diverse roles and needs of girls and women, actions that reduce their vulnerability and increase the effectiveness of focused programmes, polices and projects as well as their achievements of the sustainable development agenda. These are pre-requisites for a sustainable future marked by healthy soils, peaceful societies and secure and improved livelihoods for families.
The journey to this year’s Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development is an opportunity to inspire all girls, especially those born after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, to connect through a global vision where a land-degradation neutral world is possible by recognizing the importance, added value and primary focus on gender issues; this is, of course, also true for the Drylands.
I wish you all a happy International Women’s Day, and a particularly inspiring year for all women.