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What's Good for Women and Girls, is Good for Earth

I have met them at home and in my travels: the street vendor with five hungry kids, the fish monger who has been up since 3 in the morning, the young girl walking for miles to fetch drinking water.

Too poor and uneducated to worry about much more than their family’s next meal how can we expect them to participate in solutions to climate change?

The ones who cannot allow their children to leave the house for fear they might be abducted; the ones that are victimized by husbands or partners that bully them into having more children than they want.  Saddest of all are the ones that live terrified because murderers and rapists are allowed to run the streets of cities in Mexico, Canada, India. 

In a remote corner of the jungle, a small community of Wai Wai indigenous people make a living on the edges of the remote Essequibo River. I felt a tinge of familiar sadness for this little girl as the boys mocked and excluded her from their games. She was a tough swimmer, a fast runner and a really cool kid. I remember hoping that she grows up to become a chief, a shaman, a leader for her people; someone who can help build a world where inclusion and tolerance are the norm, not the exception.

When I take stock of the challenges facing humanity and planet Earth, I cannot help but wonder, how can we aspire to solve massive global existential threats like climate change, inequality, and fascism when half of our planet’s population is disenfranchised to participate in the solutions? 

The future of our planet and of humanity relies not just in lifting women up, but in giving them the opportunity to lead and to help invent a new economic era. 

You may be surprised that women in some countries are still not allowed to open a bank account unless their husband or father signs off; they are not allowed to drive or travel and certainly not allowed to open a business to support themselves or to own land.  Women are being denied control over their reproductive lives, they are being subjected to sexual mutilation, denied medical services for religious reasons, and even stoned to death for daring to dissent.  And it is not just the poor or marginalized. Even in big cities in North America and Europe you hear stories all the time from professional women who are paid less and promoted less than their male counterparts; women that are sexually harassed and ostracized in their workplace.  #MeToo is not a hoax, and it is not small.  Almost every woman I know, including myself, has had to endure unsolicited and inappropriate advances.  From heckling to rape, it is all wrong. And yet, when women are given an opportunity; when even the slightest door opens for them to take a leap and stand in the world of men, they don’t just exceed our expectations, they do something amazing: they lift other women around them.

Ta’Kaiya Blaney, a singer, songwriter, drummer, and speaker for her people, the Tla’amin First Nation of British Columbia, encapsulates my three greatest passions: the natural world, indigenous rights and empowerment of women.

In my travels to remote and dangerous places, it has been through the kindness of women that I have felt safe and welcome.  This invisible sisterhood runs deep all over the world.

Whenever I have felt scared or lonely, there have been women there to give me shelter and comfort. 

On this International Women’s Day, let’s continue lifting each other up, because what’s good for women and girls, is good for Earth.