Friday, 15 January 2016

Why Women Will Save the Planet

Could women’s empowerment transform the chances of achieving environmental sustainability?
NFWI Vice Chair Marylyn Haines Evans, has added her voice to the ranks of environmental campaigners in a new book that seeks to show that the answer to this question is, emphatically, yes.

Part of Friends of the Earth’s Big Ideas Change the World project, the book – Why Women Will Save the Planet – is a collection of articles from women across the globe.  The book demonstrates that women’s empowerment is essential to securing a healthy and safe environment in which people and nature can thrive.

Marylyn’s article in the book explores ‘One hundred years of collective action for environmental change’ and draws on the WI’s history of collective action, of women coming together in order to exert the power and influence that they did not have as individuals. It highlights our environmental campaigns, from the 1927 resolution on polluted seas, to Keep Britain Tidy, through to SOS for Honeybees. 

The vision of the WI has always been a movement that could unlock the potential of all women and so create a strong, informed and active civil society. WI campaigns take a two-fold approach, while pressing for change from decision-makers, they also examine the role of individuals as change agents, leading the way in their own communities.

There is a great quote in a 1921 edition of the WI membership magazine Home and Country: 'if one person alone cannot make her wants heard it becomes much easier when there are numbers wanting the same kind of things.  That is why large numbers of women organised in bodies such as the National Federation of Women's Institutes can become a real power’.

At a time when the vote for women had not yet been won, the WI believed that if women learned how to conduct meetings, run committees and speak in public, they would be able to come together with other women and exert influence in public life.

With our roots in rural life, the WI has long been at the forefront of caring for the countryside and wildlife – and talking about land use, conservation and food production. As early as the 1920s and 1930s, our foremothers were working on environmental issues as diverse as marine pollution, crop diversity and food security, the preservation of ‘wide areas of special beauty,’ and the prevention of the rapid widespread destruction of wild flowers. 

More recently, a 2005 resolution on protecting natural resources inspired a nationwide action day that saw WIs return excess packaging to supermarkets. The WI Carbon Challenge, launched in 2008, saw 10,000 members signed up, pledging to reduce their carbon footprint by 20 per cent. The C02 savings achieved were equivalent to filling the Royal Albert Hall 108 times. 

Marylyn helped launch the book at a special event hosted by Friends of The Earth, where she led a discussion on Grassroots campaigning on gender and the environment. 

Why Women Will Save the Planet is available to buy now, get your copy here: 

To find out about the WI’s latest environmental campaigns, visit the NFWI website: 

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