While talking about environmental sustainability, we cannot ignore the contribution of the natural nurturers – the women. I believe that women’s role is immensely important in contributing to a sustainable future for which it is important that we promote women’s leadership in all arenas of life. This year, when the Padma Awards by The Government of India (Highest Civilian awards) was announced, one woman stole my heart, which was Ms. Smt. Pappammal, an organic farmer from a rural village in Tamil Nadu. She is 105-years-old and was awarded the Padma Shri for popularising organic farming. Her life stands as an inspiration to many women today. Despite the challenges she faced decades ago and a lot of constraints, she smiled and won every one’s hearts when she explained that even at this age, she goes to her farm at 5 AM and finds happiness in doing so. She did not stop herself from being a strong woman in those days of extreme patriarchy! Women solving women’s problems is possible only when we look beyond the four walls of our house and start looking at the world around.
On interacting with several female entrepreneurs, I have found that they directly and firmly stick onto certain principles of sustainability like reduced wastage of resources, efficient and full usage of materials, upcycling or recycling and following rules of pollution control. This confirms again the need of having more women in business.
Sustainability and Women are like an identical pair of twins. They are born alike and they live alike, whether we allow them to be together or not.
I propose three points to ponder for all of us to think about sustainability as a cause and effect of better gender equality. I believe that ensuring gender equality can lead to better sustainability.
Ensure Women’s Reproductive Rights: Yes, you heard it right. Women’s reproductive rights are still a dream. And the number one way to ensure sustainability is to reduce reproduction. One human life is worth about US$10 million, says a leading economist Kip Viscusi at Vanderbilt University. He says valuing life and making these kinds of lives-versus-money decisions comes from the world of safety regulations. According to Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, the global financial costs of pollution are huge, totalling to about $4.6 trillion per year, 6.2% of global economic output and we can easily guess that an average human consumes more than doing something to support the environment. So, why not provide better reproductive rights to women where she gets to choose unwanted pregnancy and also decide to have fewer or no children if she wishes to? For those who think, I am trying to poke into personal choices, remember we live in a world where there are countries with such regressive laws that a woman’s womb is owned by the nation which is led by men and their set of cultural and religious rules causing her to end up becoming a reproducing machine!
Practice Sustainable Living: I invite everyone to practice sustainable living, stop consumerism, adopt simpler living and learn to reuse, reduce, recycle, up-cycle and to buy what is needed only. Let’s not keep buying something just because a celebrity asked you to or because the product has a brand recognition. And guess what, my interaction with women again proves that they are indeed conscious consumers unlike the general negative perception about them as spendthrifts. Sustainable living also means that your buying habits promote livelihood in your local community rather than providing means for greedy global conglomerates! So, try buying products from local entrepreneurs even if the price may seem a bit higher!
Promote Women Leadership In All Walks Of Life: Women, as I said earlier, have the innate nurturing quality and the more women we have in leadership, the better the world will be. Let us have more women and people of all gender in leadership roles – be it a local small institution or the big global MNCs.
I believe a sustainable world is not easy unless women take equal participation in the economy and in solving sustainability issues. One of my ventures, www.pracol.com is India’s first women empowerment e-commerce platform with values of unity, sustainability and empowerment. We are now helping small and medium scale entrepreneurs to become self – reliant by selling their products on the internet and promoting sustainable products without environmental damage. Have a look at some of our eco-friendly products on the website with products sold by women entrepreneurs across India and you will realise the point I am trying to convey!
I look forward to a world of sustainability where women are truly flourishing beyond the societal expectations, stereotypes and are real “nurturers” of Earth!
Dr. Chandra Vadhana R.
Serial Entrepreneur | Voice Artist | Academician | Author |Feminist
Founder & Director, Prayaana Labs | Prayaana Collective
Email : [email protected]