Women and Sustainability: Organizations to Watch at Rio+20

Nourishing the Planet is collaborating with Women Deliver to highlight the important role of women, youth, and reproductive and sexual rights in sustainable development at the upcoming Rio+20 conference.

For three days, beginning on June 20, 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio +20, will be taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Conference will convene representatives of governments, the private sector, NGOs and civil society, and many other stakeholders. These participants will discuss seven priority issues, under themes of equity and sustainability: decent jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, water, oceans and disaster readiness.

Women play key roles in poverty alleviation and environmental protection. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Important issues surrounding gender, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and youth have largely been left out of discussions and the Zero Draft document in the lead up to the summit. Several groups have been working to lobby for the inclusion of these issues. In March 2012, Women Deliver convened many of these organizations to discuss the opportunities and challenges in doing so. Below, we profile some of the organizations who are leading these efforts, and the work that they are doing to make sure issues related to international population and family health are included in the Rio +20 outcomes document, and the forthcoming sustainable development framework.

Here are a few organizations to look out for:

International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF):
Bringing family planning and reproductive rights to the forefront at Rio +20

With member associations in over 170 countries, IPPF is the largest provider of sexual and reproductive health in the world. In addition to increasing global access to contraceptives, family planning services, gynecological care, and clinical diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, IPPF advocates for a woman’s right to whether to have children, and to decide the number and spacing of her children. A long-time supporter of human equity, IPPF has been empowering women to make their own reproductive and sexual choices since the organization began in India in 1952. Founders Elise Ottesen-Jensen from Sweden, Margaret Sanger from America, and Dhanvanthi Rama Rau from India, who were incarcerated for advocating for women’s reproductive rights, would recognize that gender equity issues require just as immediate attention as they did sixty years ago. Now 71 percent of IPPFs funding comes directly from government grants and organizations that acknowledge the beneficial economic, development, and environment impacts of greater women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

At the UN Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, IPPF, along with the governments of Brazil and Denmark, will organize a side-event, “Dynamics of Rio: Population, Women and Rights.” At this event, several governments and high level stakeholders will work together to ensure that advocating for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights will be central to the Rio+20 negotiations.

Connect with IPPF on their
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/www.ippf.org
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/ippf
Website: http://www.ippf.org/en/

Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO):
Staking a claim to our future at Rio+20

WEDO works internationally to help establish women’s equality in global policy.  Established in 1990 by former New York congresswoman Bella Abzug and feminist author and journalist Mim Kelber, WEDO works on several international efforts fighting for women’s rights and empowerment. In 1991, WEDO brought together over 1,500 women representing 83 countries in an advocacy group known as the World Women’s Congress for a Healthy Planet (WWCHP). At the 1992 UN Earth Summit, the WWCHP devised a plan to increase gender equality as a key issue in the UN negotiations for a more sustainable world. These efforts proved groundbreaking, establishing women’s equity as a principal concern in the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 and pioneering the participation of women’s voices in the then male-dominated decision-making body of the UN. Conducting and disseminating research on women’s rights and leadership, and their intersections with both the environment and development, WEDO continues to be a leader of gender equality issues worldwide.

At Rio+20, WEDO will participate in several events. A roundtable discussion, “Framing Sustainable Development Policy Dialogues: A Well Prepared Society,” will highlight the role of gender equity and women’s leadership in linking and informing both sustainable global action and community-based decisions. “Women’s Networking for Sustainability Celebrating the Past & Envisioning the Future at Rio+20” will provide an opportunity for participants to build relationships and collaborate on issues of gender equity. On June 20th, WEDO will help organize the “Launch of Gender + Sustainable Development Commitments” event and host a following cocktail reception to celebrate women’s leadership in sustainable development around the world.

Connect with WEDO on their
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WEDOworldwide
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/wedo_worldwide
Website: http://www.wedo.org/

The Elders:
Rio+20: a moment for courage

Chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Elders is an independent group of global leaders, convened by Nelson Mandela, who work together for peace and human rights.  In 2010, The Elders started working on child marriage as part of their agenda to promote equality for girls and women. Ending this harmful practice is essential to protect the rights of women and girls and to improve maternal and child health, education and empowerment in developing societies worldwide. The Elders created “Girls Not Brides,” to bring together organizations working locally, nationally and internationally to build a global partnership to end child marriage.
In the lead-up to Rio+20, several “Elders” have written blogs, op-eds, and articles that highlight the need to address child marriage, and to bring youth voices into the debates on sustainable development.

“You must succeed where we have failed,” Desmond Tutu said in the run up to Rio+20. The Elders launched an online global debate with young leaders, called “Elders+Youngers,” to inspire the urgent change needed to build a more equitable and sustainable world. At the Rio+Social event on June 19th in Rio, several of the “Elders+Youngers” members, including, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and Mary Robinson, with Esther Agbarakwe, Marvin Nala, Pedro Telles, and Sara Svensson, will discuss the topic: “What kind of world do we want for our great-great-grandchildren?”

Connect with The Elders on their
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/theElders
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/theElders
Website: http://www.theelders.org

Population Action International (PAI):
Fighting for reproductive rights around the world and at Rio+20

PAI is a non-profit organization that advocates for women and families around the world to have access to contraception in order to improve their health, reduce poverty and protect their environment. Over the past 45 years, their research and advocacy have increased civic and institutional engagement with this issue through campaigns to repeal the Global Gag Rule, data linking demographic pressures to environmental degradation, and provocative films that put a local face on the global movement for reproductive rights. They also support the efforts of community-based organizations in order to promote local leadership and education about sexual and reproductive health.

PAI is hosting three side events at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in order to address different ways in which population dynamics affect sustainable development. “From Rio to Cairo to Rio, and Beyond” on June 16, will highlight the synergy between population growth and sustainability, and how this relationship must become central to development strategies in the face of climate change, particularly in Africa. On June 18, PAI will emphasize the central role that women play in sustainable development in “Healthy Women, Healthy Planet.” A screening of their film, “Weathering Change” will follow the discussion about the importance of women’s empowerment, health, and education.  On June 19, PAI is partnering with the Advocates for Youth and the Sierra Club in “Youth SRHR in the Context of Sustainable Development” where they will lead a discussion about the unique opportunities and challenges presented by youth sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the critical role young people play in promoting just and sustainable development.

Connect with PAI on their
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/populationactioninternational
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/popact
Website: http://populationaction.org/

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