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The School of UnLearning: Activism

International Women's Day

Happy International Women's Day!

For over 100 years, women across the world have joined together in the fight for equality and justice. Initially organized by the Socialist Party of America, the first Women’s Day took place in New York City in 1909. Three years later, millions of working women in Central and Eastern Europe began observing International Women’s Day with protests. Numerous and organized, their actions had far-reaching effects. In 1917, the Women’s Day strike marked the beginning of the Russian Revolution, which toppled one of the largest empires in world history.

“Women’s movements, be it suffrage or labor rights, have always had an international connection.” - Dr. Eileen Boris, Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara

The importance of women’s roles in leading change has not lessened today. A 2019 study from the European Journal of Political Economy found female representation in government was correlated to reduced carbon emissions, better conservation outcomes, and more rigorous climate change policy. What’s more, female representation in policy making is also linked to improved child health and vaccination rates as well as lower infant mortality.

That representation seems all the more vital considering research indicates that heat exposure and heavy rain associated with climate change increases incidences of stillbirths, mosquito and tick-borne diseases, and invasive fungal pathogens - all of which impact maternal and neonatal health.

Why Women Must Lead the Way

Across the world, women are largely responsible for unpaid domestic and care work like procuring food, water, and fuel for a household. These daily tasks are further complicated with increasing food prices, food scarcity, and extreme weather. And paradoxically, those most at risk of facing hunger are often involved in food production, like small-scale farmers.

While agriculture both propels and is negatively impacted by climate change, the sustainable way forward is surprisingly simple: there is, as always, a need for balance. Take the Ecuadorian Andes, for example, where Indigenous women are leading efforts to restore depleted land in order to rebuild sustainable agriculture in a fragile ecosystem. Or women farmers in Malawi who are increasing yields and earnings with ‘climate smart’ forecasts provided by UN Women and partners.

“Global climate change undermines efforts to produce high-quality, nutritious food.” - United Nations Environment Programme, 2016 Global Gender & Environment Outlook

Women and girls’ participation in decision-making - from that in private households to the top echelons of government - improves outcomes by offering unique, valuable perspectives and accessible, grassroots solutions. By supporting women-led initiatives and holding leaders accountable for building equitable communities, we ensure that we all can thrive as we navigate our ever-changing world.

Today is a reminder of the incredible power of organized, committed women willing and ready to fight for their dignity. From press freedom and family leave to wage equality and reproductive care, today we enjoy the fruits of yesterday’s labor.

What are you doing today for the women of tomorrow?

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