04/17/2014 11:58 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

On Earth Day, Look to Women for Innovation and Impact

Once a year -- on April 22 -- around the world, people young and old, rich and poor, focus on the needs of our fragile planet and those of us who reside on it. Earth Day is a great opportunity to draw attention to how people and the environment co-exist. This year, in light of increasing disasters, many people are focusing on climate change and its impact on our weather patterns. Here in the Gender Office of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, we are excited by gender-based proposals to address climate change.


Why gender-based? Because women have too often been left out of high-level decision-making on environmental threats and opportunities. The fact is that the more inclusive nations can be in addressing environmental issues, the greater the odd of success. Inclusion is the first of five "I's" that lead us away from business as usual and toward an innovative and successful way to address climate change:

The Five "I's"

  • Inclusion: Citizens of all backgrounds, ethnicity, gender, cast, age and class must contribute
  • Impact: Solutions need to have real results, in the reduction of emissions (greenhouse gasses)
  • Improve: All strategies must aim to improve the quality of life of all men and women
  • Increase: They must increase sustainability and nature-based solutions for our planet
  • Innovative: We must all think of new ways to tackle these critical issues

From Mozambique to Jordan to Australia and the Amazon, people are applying the Five "I's" as they prepare to implement some of the following ideas:

  • A water taxi network of the Nile owned and operated by women will reduce emissions and provide fast, reliable public transport in a gridlocked transport system in Cairo, Egypt.
  • A waste-to-wealth recycling project will empower women as green entrepreneurs in Kathmandu, Nepal.
  • Women environmental whistle blowers on the coast of Liberia will assist the government in the collection of meteorological data to forecast the weather, act as an early-warning system for storms, and identify and report environmental offenses.
  • Women in Jordan and Nepal may use mosques and poetry singers in temples to communicate climate change messages.
  • Women could develop climate change kits in Mozambique that include traditional medicines that could help individuals and communities cope with some of the health impacts of climate change. For example, citronella could be used to control mosquitoes or the African plant moringa could help purify contaminated water.

IUCN is working with all of those who proposed these ideas to determine their efficacy, and is working with others to develop innovative solutions to pressing environmental issues. For far too long, we have all relied on scientists and "experts" to develop solutions when, in fact, each of us can play an important role in addressing climate change.

Earth Day is a great time to pause, reflect, celebrate, worry... and then move on to developing plans for action that include all of us.