Climate change solution: Empower women.
Exploring the connection between empowering women and climate change.
-Devin Hibbard, CEO and Founder, Street Business School
If you know me, you know I’m passionate about women’s economic empowerment. In a recent conversation with several people, one man politely told me that, while I was doing good work, his issue was climate change. “Great,” I responded. “If that’s true, you and I are in the same line of work, because more and more data shows that empowering women as key to combating climate change.”
Investing in women MUST be part of the conversation.
Integrated solutions that involve investing in and empowering women and girls are a way the global community can combat climate change. “Gender and climate are inextricably linked,” said environmentalist and author Katharine Wilkinson. “Women,” she says, “are disproportionately affected by climate change. Because women across the world have fewer rights, less money, and fewer freedoms, in those moments of extreme loss, women are often hit the hardest.” Though women feel the effects of climate the most, they also represent an opportunity. “To address climate change, we must make gender equity a reality. And in the face of a seemingly impossible challenge, women and girls are a fierce source of possibility,” says Wilkinson.
Climate change disproportionately affects women.
Over the past 15 years, traveling back and forth to Uganda, I have witnessed climate changes firsthand. I used to call January the “three showers a day month,” because I would take a cold shower before work, another as soon as I got home, and a third before bed. This was my attempt to stay cool. Last year, it rained in January. These changing weather patterns across Africa are directly linked to the changing climate. It makes it difficult for small farmers to know when to plant, and leaves them increasingly vulnerable to drought, flooding and crop failure. The basis for their very survival is at risk.
Women living in extreme poverty often bear the brunt of the impact of climate change. That’s because climate change disproportionately affects the world’s poor, most of whom are women. According to the U.N. Development Programme, across Africa, the proportion of women affected by climate-related crop changes could range from 48 percent in Burkina Faso to 73 percent in the Congo.
Women ARE the solution.
While women are disproportionally affected, the solutions to climate change are skewed towards women’s empowerment. In the landmark book Drawdown, over 70 leading scientists from 22 countries ranked the 100 most important actions to fight global warming, based on the gigatons of CO2 reduction. Of the top 10 actions we can take to fight climate change, two of them are about empowering and educating women. This is because investing in women leads to lower fertility rates, reduced inequality, and improved health and nutrition.
Economic opportunity is the number one leverage point.
From the U.N. to the World Bank, development organizations recognize the need to invest in women to combat climate change. They are looking to policy change, technology, energy and equal participation as the way forward. I believe the number one leverage point for climate change is putting money in the hands of women. How? Through economic opportunity and entrepreneurship. Here’s why.
- When women contribute to household income, dynamics change with women viewed as partners and equals.
- While higher education is linked to a woman having fewer children, there is also a decreasing relationship between fertility and income.
- When money is put into the hands of women, child nutrition, health and education improve.
- As women gain more social and economic power, they can make better energy choices.
Empowering and investing in women creates a ripple effect.
Over the past 15 years, we’ve helped empower tens of thousands of women living in poverty to become entrepreneurs who triple their incomes. Our SBS program helps women unleash their confidence, embrace business opportunities and quickly adapt to changes. They are strong, motivated and confident.
While these women start all types of businesses, many begin with agriculture, selling vegetables. I’ve watched as these women became successful, grew their businesses, bought land and built homes. They’ve adapted to the changing climate. They’ve learned to access new markets. They also seek out new climate resistant crops to sell, lessening the shocks of climate change. It’s a ripple effect that can also be felt in the broader community by changing traditional ways of thinking. Many women also diversify and expand their small businesses to meet changing needs in their communities.
Entrepreneurial training brings solar power and economic opportunity to rural Uganda.
Meet Gloria: She’s a graduate of the Street Business School entrepreneurial training program. A widow with 6 children, she worked as a chicken farmer in her rural community of Koboko. She wasn’t earning enough so decided to follow her dream of supplying her community with solar energy. Why solar? Electricity was not accessible to most in her community, and many relied on firewood or coal, which negatively impacts human health, as well as the environment.
This was a huge undertaking, so Gloria teamed up with three other women (all SBS graduates) to form a partnership. They pooled their resources and put the idea into action, even receiving a local government grant for entrepreneurs who were working to make a positive impact in their communities. This grant enabled them to take their growing, successful home-based business, and move to a strategic location in the trading center.
While the business was doing well, Gloria wanted to have something of her own. She sold her share of the business and used the profits to open a new solar business in a neighboring community. Now, two communities have access to solar, four women have achieved sustainable incomes, Gloria’s six kids are in school, and Gloria is earning US$143 per month, more than the national average income.
According to the U.N., a reduction in poverty enables individuals to better adapt to changes in climate. Let’s take this a step further. A reduction in poverty by placing money in women’s hands will reduce poverty and directly combat climate change. And as far as I’m concerned, the best way to put money in women’s hands is by empowering them to become successful entrepreneurs.
Read more about how SBS empowers women to increase their income to become successful entrepreneurs in our Five Proven Strategies to Help Women Living in Poverty Increase their Income.
Join in our mission and a community of passionate change-makers today!
Devin Hibbard is the founder and CEO of Street Business School, an award-winning non-profit, igniting the impact of other organizations by equipping them with our one-of-a-kind entrepreneurial training for people, proven to triple their income and enable them to lift their families out of poverty with dignity.