Back in 2009 I was the Communications Director for a GreenMicrofinance, a small NGO/Social Business hybrid with a big idea, linking eco-smart technology to microfinancing. While our primary goal was poverty alleviation, we were well aware that women at home hugely benefit from domestic-based upgrades.
Solar panels that power lights and eliminate kerosene smoke, high-efficiency cookstoves that burn cleaner and use less wood (collected by girls), and biodigesters that collect waste hygienically all improve women’s daily quality of life and liberate their time.
It was in the role that I was invited to speak on a NGO Parallel Panel at CSW54 (or so). It was thrilling the topic “Women and the Environment” was included in the two-week gathering. I attended other sessions, but am reasonably sure I didn’t see any others on environmental topics. How great is is that the SDGs put women’s empowerment and eco-sustainable development at the heart of our mission for 2015-2030? CSW2016 attendees can choose among scores of events on just this topic.
The more I learned more about poverty alleviation via eco-smart tools, the more committed I became. These two great moral imperatives of our times can be accomplished together. And we all know that if we want to achieve poverty alleviation, we need to concentrate on girls and women. They have the potential to pull themselves, their families, and their communities up out of extreme deprivation.
When I set out to write my recent book on just this subject, 100 Under $100: One Hundred Tools for Empowering Global Women, my research continually took me to UN resources. Few people outside the development sector realize how vast the UN’s work is. Women’s Empowerment and Sustainable Development are spread over many different offices, of course. UNICEF, WFP, FAO, The UN Foundation, UNFPA, UNHCR, and specific campaigns are just a sampling of agencies supporting research and implementing solutions.
There is no single solution to poverty alleviation; its causes are complex and so are its solutions. Trends in our time give us impressive tools to tackle preserving our planet while expanding educational and economic opportunity long denied women. Solar panels’ increased efficiency and lower prices, the explosion of digital communications and information sharing, and increased awareness of the centrality of educating girls can combine to bring the women of the Global South out of the Dark Ages, literally and figuratively.
When my book was published I connected with my local UNA chapter in Philadelphia, and through that with UN Women. I am thrilled to both attend and present at CSW60. My talk, “Cool Tools: Addressing Women’s Time Poverty” will share ways well-designed, affordable technologies save women time. There are better uses of their time than hand-shelling corn, when a $2 tool can help them do it in half the time. You can learn more about time poverty, as I did, by reading a comprehensive report produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization titled “Running Out of Time: The Reduction of Women’s Work Burden in Agricultural Production.”
It is 46 pages of how foolishly we squander women’s time and labor, because it is devalued. The good news is, there are many, many ways to help them liberate their time. Let’s do it!