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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.

Click here to learn more and to read all the powerful submissions.

Rio+20: Highlighting the Voices of Women

"If you were to go with little food and water for days on end, would your priority be protecting and restoring our environment?"

Anamikam, India

© UN Photo/Tim McKulka

"Our voices and ideas should matter on the topic of sustainable development."

Marian Hassan, Somalia

Recommendation: Ensure Women's Economic and Political Leadership

INDIA: Educate Women to Educate an Entire Generation

My homeland is India—a place where the landscape is as diverse as its people. We speak a large list of languages and dialects, practice a number of religions and traditions, and live amidst lofty mountain peaks, sprawling plains, lush green wilderness, tropical rainforests, and dry deserts. But instead of making every effort to preserve this beauty gifted to us by Mother Nature, we cut down our trees, pollute our soil, water, and air, and relentlessly ruin the ecology of our land.

We must stop this mindless destruction and to do that I believe we must first address the very real problem of education and illiteracy that plagues India. We must focus our efforts on helping to make India’s working population—and especially its women—financially independent by imparting skills and education to citizens. After all, if you were to go with little food and water for days on end, would your priority be protecting and restoring our environment? Or would you prioritize finding food for yourself and those who are near and dear to you?

It has been famously said that, “When you educate a man, you educate a man. But if you educate a woman, you educate an entire generation.”

India’s women and youth are eager to learn, and investing in them will help bridge economic disparity and will help us build a better nation for tomorrow.

Anamikam | Founder, One Billion Literates Foundation | India

SOMALIA: The Backbone of Peace

Women are the backbone of every nation. They are the glue that holds and binds. This is as true in my country of Somalia as it is in any other nation.

Ever since the collapse of the central government in late 1990s, Somali women have been involved in mitigating conflicts. They bring people together and rally for peace. Their position within the clan system gives them the ability to bridge clan divisions and to act as a first channel for dialogue between parties in conflict. Women also own most of the small enterprises in Somalia and have shares in some of the large enterprises as well. They have been the sole breadwinners for over two decades and have taken care of families in the midst of chaos and terror. They have funded peace talks and contributed financially.

Many women peace activists have found the struggle for peace inextricably linked to that of women’s rights. I have been working in the field of peacebuilding and conflict resolution for years, and I have seen what women are capable of doing. The devastating part is that they sacrifice everything to mobilize peace talks, yet they are never included in the decision-making forums where peace accords are negotiated.

When women are mobilized and empowered, they can work wonders. They can be good leaders because mostly women are more honest than men. Women are dedicated, and they are usually on the forefront of every mediation. They go to war zones, sometimes going to places where access is difficult.

In Somalia, civil society organizations led by women have achieved much in the past two decades. They have helped disempower warlords and have reduced the significance of clan affiliation. They have ensured civil society representation, which is essential to any peace and reconciliation process. But Somali women still face constraints in breaking through gender-based inequalities, cultural ideals, and practical barriers to achieve equal political participation.

We need to be listened to, to be included in the decision-making committees. We need to hold positions within the government, and our voices and ideas should matter on the topic of sustainable development.

Women’s perspective and experience matter when we talk about creating an everlasting peace—stability in every country. As long as our efforts go unrecognized, countries will suffer and we won’t reach sustainable development goals and world peace. I hope the leaders who are meeting at Rio+20 will listen to and accept the support of women worldwide.

Marian Hassan | Program Officer, Danish Refugee Council | Somalia . . .


Unless government investments focus on having a quality population and a well managed and sustainable environment , only then can our countries ensure a bright future for the next generations

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."

Rosa's picture

It's my honor tor have the

It's my honor tor have the chance to post my comment here to stand by your article and express my happiness to see yor post. live in a village in India. Here, the public uses vacant sites and roadsides for toileting and health problems are rampant due to poor sanitation and hygiene. Local administrations have created a number of public toilets for public use, but water scarcity and maintenance of the facilities are major issues. The unclean toilets are causing disease, and there is no sufficient water supply for cleaning them. This drives community members back to open land for toileting.Yes, it's a meaningful article.excellent post, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector do not notice this. You must proceed your writing. I’m confident, you have a great readers’ base already!
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ikirimat's picture


Thank you Rosa for the positive comments. We shall continue to make our voices loud until as one of the approaches as we move towards action. One by one, we shall change attitude. You also point out the serious issue of poor sanitation in our communities especially for girls. I agree and more needs to be done. Together we can change the world to a better place to live in by all.

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."

Sustainable development is all about securing an uncompromisable future for humanity and our ecosystem; and we can only succeed in the drive by tackling the very issues that fuel the embers of exclusion and injustice. Everyone has a role to play and there is something every one can do. The need for man to live in harmony with nature is not negotiable and the earlier we accept this fact and have the will to make certain of that, the better.


Wendyiscalm's picture

This is very eloquent, well

This is very eloquent, well said and true. Thank you.

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together)

Wendy Stebbins

Wendy Stebbins
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Greengirl's picture

Best Wishes!

Many thanks to you! You are an embodiment of encouragement!

Very warm regards,

Olanike Olugboji

Greengirl's picture

Best Wishes!

Many thanks to you! You are an embodiment of encouragement!

Very warm regards,

Olanike Olugboji

ikirimat's picture


Thank you Olanike for adding your voice. Yes people are central in all this issue.

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."

Dear need to move information between people as well as their rights. Care and value is a solidary way to the environment and the lives of our brothers around the world

Frenny Jowi's picture

where is the commitment?

Media reports say the Rio outcome document is weak and lacks ambition. And with the latest environmental assessment report dubbed GEO5 having stated that earth's resources especially the marine ones are still at high risk even after 20 years since Johannesburg summit,that resolved to reverse this kind of degradation among other resolutions, it calls for high will power and commitment by leaders and citizens to save the earth.

I don't how sustainable development can be achieved without linking climate change to sexual and reproductive health: an issue that affect girls and women most.

kind3500's picture


Why will Brazil be hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics when there is so much else to be done there? Will the Olympics bring more wealth and awareness to the issues as outlined above , or will it be a distraction, something that will convince the world that everything is okay in Brazil? I believe something needs to be done, and priorities need to be straightened out.


lovepowerrespect's picture

Love one another

It is really important to care and love each other in spite of racial differences.

Paula LaPierre Kichesipirini Algonquin's picture

Kichesipirini Continues...

Thank you so much for the encouraging words. Words are important. Women's views of their own life experiences are a unique perspective of world events and how they play out in the real life grassroots level....We continue to assert, through a fog of misinformation and selective social participation and consultation processes at the State level, that there are ways to avoid these social problems. Many of the solutions have already been established but are not implemented. Brave women must carry on telling the Truth.

Paula LaPierre
Principal Sachem
Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation
Kichi Sibi Anishnabe
Culture is a pillar of sustainable development. Make certain then that is is culture with integrity.

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