About this Story
This article is the outcome of an initiative World Pulse launched on our online community platform, inviting global grassroots women leaders to outline their personal experiences and recommendations on equitable and sustainable development.
In partnership with Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), we gathered 55 statements representing women from 28 countries ranging from Papua New Guinea to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The stories were delivered via the Women's Major Group to top world leaders at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) that will take place June 20-22, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This conference marks the 20th anniversary of the first 'Earth Summit' in 1992—a landmark UN summit organized in response to the growing ecological crisis.
Rio+20: Highlighting the Voices of Women
Recommendation: Prioritize Women's Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Care
UGANDA: Using the Lense of Population
Tackling climate change requires new, innovative solutions and ambitious policies. Dealing with climate change is not simply an issue of reducing CO2 emissions. Any solution must involve political, economic, social, cultural, and ecological concerns. And perhaps the most important contributing factor to this jigsaw puzzle of a problem is population.
Policymakers often have a blind spot when it comes to reducing population growth to mitigate climate change and global warming. My own country of Uganda has one of the highest population growth rates in the world today, mainly caused by high fertility rates. The average woman of reproductive age has six children. Between 1980 and 2010, Uganda’s population increased by 89%. In comparison, the world population increased by 30% during this same time period.
Population growth aggravates issues of access to water, land, food, and other resources. Of course, it is much easier to talk about how areas of high population growth will be impacted by climate change, rather than how population growth itself is a cause of climate change and other environmental problems.
It is critical that countries like Uganda prioritize lowering fertility rates and changing reproductive behaviors. Prioritizing women’s health and helping families access information and resources for family planning is key to protecting our planet. The bottom line is that putting population at the center of discussions about climate change will yield solutions that can push us toward achieving sustainable development on this earth.
Ikirimat Grace Odeke | Program Officer, Sexual Health Improvement Project (SHIP) | Uganda
USA: Blind on a Sight-Seeing Tour
Issues of population, reproductive health, and women's empowerment seem to be missing from the Rio+20 agenda. Do you as a woman have or have you in the past had access to family planning and/or safe abortion? Was pregnancy always a joy or was one or more pregnancies a burden? Access to the highest standard of reproductive health and to family planning is your human right as established in Cairo, Egypt in 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development and also in the Millennium Development Goals of the year 2000.
Last October the planet reached the 7 billion human population milestone. According to the Population Division of the United Nations, we will reach 9.3 billion by 2050. All the people now and in the future will want food, safe water, energy, access to education, health, and a job. The planet right now is giving way beneath us. Right now a billion people are hungry. A billion people lack access to safe water and sanitation. The oceans are overfished, forests are disappearing, climate change is wreaking havoc with floods and droughts. There are increasing numbers of climate refugees. Look at Pakistan these last two years with enormous widespread floods. Look at the drought in the Sahel region of Africa causing millions to need food aid. There is nothing sustainable about the human impact on the environment now. It is going to get a lot worse. It is going to get ugly. Wars over resources will abound. Women will suffer violence at the hands of the ignorant and frustrated.
Leaving issues of population and of women's access to education and health and to full gender equality in every realm of civil society off the main Rio agenda is akin to being blind on a sight-seeing tour. I urge leaders to put these issues at the top of their agendas!
Jane Roberts | Co-Founder, 34 Million Friends of the United Nations Population Fund | USA . . .