10 Ways Women Play Major Role to Save the Environment

"Women represent 50% of the world's adult population and a third of the official labor force... Receive one tenth of the world's income, and own less than one percent of the world property." This report from World Conference of UN Decade for Women report paints a grim picture of the position of the woman in society. However, on the bright side of life, women have strength in numbers to influence change on environment.

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How can a woman position herself in a male dominated society to safeguard environmental degradation? In which ways are women privileged to influence change in society? Ten overlooked ways women can act as change agents and contribute to maintain a healthy environment include the following:

1. Food Production

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Food has some of the most significant associations in all cultures. Mention food and you conjure images in the mind – a mother feeding her baby, a family huddled together at dinner table for the evening meal, consumption of food at festival, ceremony. The centrality of food in society cuts across all cultures.

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Women play a major role in food production, processing, transportation, storage, marketing and purchase. In many parts of the developing world, women have the major responsibility for lifting their families out of poverty. Women are responsible for between 40-80 percent of total agricultural production and support 30% of rural families in developing countries.

2. Water and Sanitation

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Water is life. Water is a priority need in the surroundings. Lack of money and food come after the need for water. No one knows these facts better than the woman.

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A woman uses water all the time for cooking, washing utensils and clothes. She is aware of cleanliness in promoting hygiene and disposing of waste in disease prevention. Her contribution in the family set up goes beyond providing nourishment to purifying clean water for drinking and sanitation to prevent water born diseases.

3. Agro-forestry

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In the remote Himalayan village of Durgri-Paitoeli, the men were extremely annoyed three decades ago. Reason, women stood up and stopped the sale of a nearby forest to state government to clear and convert the forest into potato farm. If the local women allowed this sale to go through, they would have had to spend time walking five kilometers everyday to fetch wood for fuel and fodder for domestic animals. Why was the forest important to these local women?

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You would have to rethink about male domination of management of resources to appreciate these local women's decision. In many cultures, women start the seed beds, care for the young plants and protect tress in their home. Women should be allowed to take part in decision making organs in society to protect agro-forestry environment.

4. Health and Fitness

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"A healthy nation is a wealthy nation," the saying goes. Health is often associated with the physical well being of individuals. However, health goes deeper than that. Health takes into account the mental – psychological, and the spiritual well being.

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Health is no longer just everyone's right. It is also everyone's responsibility. Women stand in the gap to raise the health and fitness of individual families in providing appropriate balanced diet free from contamination.

5. Economic Development

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What a man can do. A woman can do better. Women groups and cooperatives have national offices and a network of groups in their respective countries. Women groups are reliable, more organized and focused. This is due to the premium women place in fostering family units in society.

6. Energy Conservation

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Firewood accounts for 85% of wood fuel used in developing countries. In urban areas, charcoal, gas and electricity are used as sources of energy for cooking, heating and lighting.

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Fuel - for cooking and keeping warm is essential. Whether you pay electricity bill for the convenience of throwing a switch on, you rely on firewood, animal dung, agricultural wastes, and other "natural," materials for fuel requirements. Women are the majority consumers of energy resources and are well placed to assist in conserving energy.

7. Pollution

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Chemicals are big business and big benefits with huge burdens if left unchecked. There are over five million known chemicals in the world, 60,000 are commonly used. 1,000 are introduced into the market each year. The annual chemical turnover trade is worth over US 100 billion, Dr Prayoon Deemar, official of the Pesticide Research Branch of Thailand's Ministry of Agriculture observed. Human beings are exposed to chemicals in three main ways: inhalation, indigestion and through contact with the body surface.

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Food is the major source of exposure to most toxic chemicals. In some cases, food is contaminated directly during preparation or process. Food contamination is also passed from soil to plant and herbivorous animals to meat or milk before reaching human consumers. Who is at the centre of food preparation and provision in the family? None other than the woman.

8. Urban Migration

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"One billion people in the world live in slums," recent UN report population growth indicates. This statistic has great bearing on shelter, sufficiency and sanitation. Rise and growth of the city comes complete with challenges which create conflicts, crisis and crime rate increase.

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Cities were once viewed as places of opportunity. Today, life is becoming more and more challenging in the city due to congestion. Concentration of population in the city has devastating effects on human beings and poor infrastructure. Women bear the brunt of urban migration effects.

9. Social Environment

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"We have not inherited the earth from our fathers; we have borrowed it from our children," World Conservative Strategy, a blueprint for environmental protection observed in 1980. True, we have borrowed the earth from our children, and their hopes, their way of life, and in some cases their very survival depend on the state in which we return it to them. How will this generation determine favorable conditions for the next?

10. Environmental Consciousness

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The total support system of the world’s environment is in a growing state of crisis. Problems associated with environment are growing rapidly with increasing depletion of resources brought by wasteful patterns of consumption, and sheer magnitude of population growth.

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In 25 years time from now, will today's children look back on 1982, 10th anniversary of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, and regard it as downward or upward path to environmental restoration? The answer rests on increasing the number of women as change agents to improve the environment.