Emmeline Pankhurst, British Suffragette Leader, Born (1858)

“Votes for Women” was the battle cry of the suffragette movement during the last decades of the 19th Century and the first decades of the 20th Century.  The most famous—and fearsome—leader of that movement in England was Emmeline Pankhuurst, born on this day in 1858.  Mrs. Pankhurst was not an environmentalist, but her demands for equality for women provide an opportunity to talk about the same issue about the environment (want to read about a woman who was both a conservationist and a suffragette? read about Rosalie Edge here).

Emmeline Pankhurst being arrested outside Buckingham Palace in 1914 (photo by Imperial War Museum)

            Although Pankhurst achieved her goal of gaining votes for women in 1918, (and the same occurred in the U.S. in 1920), we still struggle to accept women as full and equal participants in all aspects of modern life. Consider, for example, that despite my best efforts, men appear in these calendar listings much more frequently than women. This is especially true in developing countries and distressingly true for matters affecting the environment and sustainable development. 

            We know that the best strategy for reducing population growth and expanding environmental consciousness is to educate girls and women.  This was a fundamental goal of the Millennium Declaration, and occurs throughout the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  One goal (Goal 5) is devoted entirely to Gender Equality.  Although progress is being made, women still hold only 25% of parliamentary seats and 27% of managerial positions worldwide.  And the U.S. has yet to have a woman president.

Wangari Maathai was an inspirational environmental leader in Kenya and around the world (photo by Fredrick Onyango)

            Agenda 21 of the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 (UNCED, or the Rio Conference) devoted an entire chapter (24) to “Global Action for Women Towards Sustainable and Equitable Development.”  It specifically called on governments “to increase the proportion of women involved as decision makers, planners, managers, scientists and technical advisers in the design, development and implementation of policies and programmes for sustainable development.”  It lists goals to eliminate female illiteracy, improve women’s reproductive health, establish women’s rights to own land, and many other specifics.  Because environmental impacts (climate change, pollution, land-use changes) tend to harm women and children disproportionately, Agenda 21 considered gender equality an urgent imperative.

            The Convention on Biological Diversity has taken a leadership role in developing an action plan for enhancing gender equality.  The program acknowledges that women throughout the developing world have the closest relationship with the environment—gathering wood and water, tending subsistence farms, and managing households.  These roles make their knowledge and participation essential to better place-based decisions about sustainability.

Women bring different knowledge and perspective to environmental matters (photo by Habib houndekindo)

            The IUCN has developed an “Environment and Gender Information” project that examines the gender equality of environmental programs around the world.  The EGI uses keyword analysis to examine how programs incorporate gender in their published documents.  The results vary, of course, but in general about 1 in 3 recognize the importance of gender-specific ideas and actions.

Today there are many websites dedicated to telling the stories of women involved in conservation and the environment. Too many, fortunately, for me to list, but you all know how to search the Internet better than I do–so do it!

            If we wish for our world to be sustainable, then we should add a few more slogans to Mrs. Pankhurst’s “Votes for Women.”  Let our signs today say, “Education for Women,” “Decisions by Women,” and “Leadership by Women!”

References:

Convention on Biological Diversity.  2015-2020 Gender Plan of Action.  Available at:  https://www.cbd.int/gender/action-plan/. Accessed March 26, 2020

Global Development Research Center.  Agenda 21, Chapter 24.  Available at:  http://www.gdrc.org/ngo/agenda21/ch-24.html. Accessed March 26, 2020

IUCN.  Environment and Gender Information platform.  Available at:  https://genderandenvironment.org/egi/.  Accessed March 26, 2020.

Purvis, June.  Pankhurst (nee Goulden), Emmeline.  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  Available at:  https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-35376. Accessed March 26, 2020

UN Women.  Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, The Gender Snapshot 2019.  Available at:  https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2019/progress-on-the-sdgs-the-gender-snapshot-2019-two-page-spreads-en.pdf?la=en&vs=5814. Accessed March 26, 2020

This Month in Conservation

August 1
Hawaii National Park Created (1916)
August 2
White Giraffes Found in Kenya (2017)
August 3
Arbor Day in Niger
August 4
Liang Congjie, Pioneering Chinese Environmentalist, born (1932)
August 5
First Traffic Light Installed in U.S. (1914)
August 6
Rajendra Singh, the Waterman of India, Born (1959)
August 7
World’s Oldest Tree Cut Down, Accidentally (1964)
August 7
Elinor Ostrom, Noble Laureate in Economics, Born (1933)
August 8
Banqiao Dam Collapse, World’s Biggest Dam Disaster (1975)
August 9
Smokey Bear Born (1944)
August 10
John Kirk Townsend, Pioneering Naturalist, Born (1809)
August 11
Gifford Pinchot, Father of American Forestry, Born (1865)
August 12
“The Lorax” Published (1971)
August 13
Roald Amundsen Completes Northwest Passage (1905-1906)
August 14
Hetch Hetchy Began Producing Power (1925)
August 15
Sponge Act passed (1914)
August 16
E. F. Schumacher, Environmental Economist, born (1911)
August 17
Cape Hatteras National Seashore created (1937)
August 18
Margaret Murie born (1902)
August 19
Cickamauga and Chattanooga Battlefield established
August 20
The Great Fire (1910)
August 20
Rajendra Pachauri, Nobel Peace Laureate in Climate Change Research, Born (1940)
August 21
“Bambi” Released (1942)
August 22
Loch Ness Monster first seen (565)
August 23
Chile’s Atacama Desert Blooms (2017)
August 24
Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, Maine, Established (2016)
August 25
National Park Service Born (1916)
August 26
Krakatau Volcano Erupted (1883)
August 27
First Oil Well Drilled (1859)
August 28
Roger Tory Peterson, Ornithologist, Born (1908)
August 29
Henry Bergh, Founder of ASPCA, Born (1813)
August 30
International Whale Shark Day
August 30
Lord Walsingham Shot 1,070 Grouse (1888)
August 31
John Muir Home preserved (1964)
January February March April May June July August September October November December