Why women should be at the forefront of world’s sustainable Covid-19 recovery
- The pandemic has created a once-in-a-lifetime chance for governments to reimagine sustainability, restore ecosystems and rethink the role of women
- We need those in charge to seize this opportunity. After all, the problems of a degrading planet are a job for all of us, not half of us
But we will not be out of the picture forever. We need solutions for ecosystem restoration that take into consideration the almost 8 billion of us sharing what is now a rapidly degrading planet. Some 1 million species are under threat of extinction. Wild spaces are disappearing. Zoonotic diseases like Covid-19 are likely to become more prevalent.
More importantly, we need solutions that don’t ignore the 4 billion women who are too often sidelined in environmental rehabilitation.
Multiple studies show that in many countries across the Asia-Pacific region, rural women possess a unique understanding of how nature works. They are the ones climbing mountains to collect firewood and cook for their families. They are the ones fording rivers and streams for water to drink and clean with. This knowledge can be used to improve lives and revive the planet.
However, fundamental to this success is women having access to equal opportunities. Right now, women are not even on the same playing field.
For far too long, women have been viewed as risky investments by banks and financial institutions because oftentimes they don’t own any assets or haven’t earned the right diploma. Lacking these traditional prerequisites locks women out of loans to set up their own businesses, especially in a field like renewable energy, which is typically seen as too technical and therefore unsuitable for women.
It’s past time that we change this perception. We hope that the EmPower programme will just be one of many geared towards helping governments create policies that will allow women entrepreneurs to grow sustainable businesses.
We can start by educating and then incentivising banks and financial institutions to prioritise lending to women-led renewable energy enterprises. There should be affordable financing schemes that will allow women entrepreneurs to maintain the operation of their businesses and eventually grow them.
The important thing is we start somewhere and continue moving forward. The pandemic has created a once-in-a-lifetime chance for governments to reimagine sustainability, restore ecosystems and rethink the role of women. We need those in charge to seize this opportunity. After all, the problems of a degrading planet are a job for all of us, not half of us.
Mohammad Naciri is Regional Director of UN Women in Asia and the Pacific. Dechen Tsering is Regional Director of the UN Environment Programme in Asia and the Pacific. Åsa Heden is Head of Regional Development Cooperation Asia and the Pacific, Sweden.