Why women's empowerment is crucial for sustainable development

Why women's empowerment is crucial for sustainable development

What would you consider the most significant parts to create a healthier planet and to help reverse climate change? Recycling of plastic waste? Increasing our reliance on sustainable energies? Reducing the impact of industrial agriculture? All well and good, but don’t miss one of the most important keys to effective change: women!


Empowering women, experts say, is not only a rights issue. It is also crucial to a range of environmental concerns, including climate change. Gender equality and environmental protection go hand in hand, as the climate research organization Project Drawdown (https://drawdown.org) states in its latest report. Moreover, empowerment of women guarantees positive cascading effects on the achievement of other Sustainable Development Goals such as ending poverty, ending hunger and sustainable consumption and production.

500 million women in the Global South are illiterate

According to UNESCO estimates, still of today more than 130 million girls worldwide are denied access to school. 500 million women in the Global South are illiterate - and these are only the official numbers, most certainly highly underreported. Girls and women in developing countries face multiple barriers to education: poverty, traditional conservative thinking, early marriage, child labor, and structural and institutional factors.

This lack of education often leads to poor reproductive health, both in terms of unwanted pregnancies and higher infant mortality rates. With access to education, women have less children and have them later in life. “Wherever women are empowered educationally, culturally, economically, politically, and legally, fertility rates fall,” Professor Eileen Crist, of Virginia Tech in the US, wrote in a paper in the journal „Science“ in 2017. Women educated about contraception are not only able to make their own choices and participate in family planning. They can also provide a stronger framework for the next generation, because when they do choose to have children, they can invest more in only a few of them. Their babies are healthier and more likely to obtain a good education as well. Reduction of the uninhibited population growth (which is a major factor in climate change) is a welcome side effect of all this.

But, wait - there are a lot more benefits of women’s empowerment for our planet! First of all, with the protection against unwanted pregnancies, women can focus their attention, resources and skills elsewhere. Helping girls and women become resilient and self-sufficient, receive an education, and achieve agency over their bodies and their futures boosts female labour force participation. Studies show that this is the best way to increase both economic growth and diversification as well as economic stability in developing countries.

Poverty decreases when more women and girls are educated. An educated woman is more likely to obtain a job and earn a higher wage. UNICEF points out that only 1% increase in female education raises the average level of a country’s GDP by 0.37 %. Educated women earn more money, see higher crop yields and face fewer health issues. Thus, they can provide better nutrition and financial stability for their families. And when women and girls have access to educational and economic opportunities, they do not only invest in their families. They also turn into powerful agents of change in their communities, improving the lives of many. Wherever women are empowered, everyone benefits.

Women are early adopters of climate-friendly agriculture and clean energy

Last but not least: Research shows that women are early adopters of climate-friendly agriculture and clean energy which enhances their efficacy as sustainability leaders. In countries all around the world, a higher percentage of women take environmental issues seriously. Especially in developing countries women are much more likely than men to be affected by climate change. Their traditional roles as primary caregivers and providers of food and fuel make them more vulnerable in case of natural disasters like flooding or drought, and their economic marginalization makes it more difficult for them to to recover from disasters which affect infrastructure, jobs and housing. No wonder that women are more aware of the problem and more ready to take the necessary steps to solve it.

To find sustainable solutions for our planet, it is therefore crucial to empower women and to make them able to contribute as decision makers, caretakers, stakeholders, experts and educators across all sectors. This is the reason why we are turning Audiopedia into a global driving force for women’s empowerment and gender equality.