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Earth Day Celebrations Include Recognizing Women’s Role in Sustaining a Healthier Planet

As we celebrate Earth Day on April 22, the Department of State, along with our partners, recognizes the critical role women play in environmental protection, biodiversity, agriculture and food security, clean technology, safe water, and sustainable fisheries, among other areas.

For instance, this past March, the Department of State honored Flor de Maria Vega Zapata of Peru as one of 10 recipients of the 2019 International Women of Courage Award for her work as the National Coordinator for Environmental Prosecutors. By prosecuting those who engage in illegal mining and illegal logging and promoting environmental stewardship to protect communities that depend on Peru’s natural resources, while simultaneously defying threats aimed to derail her work, Vega demonstrated the critical role women play in environmental enforcement and protection. She has paved the way for other women to step forward and take action against threats to the planet.

The United States invests in women to advance sustainable development and protect the earth’s natural resources. For example, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) empowers women in efforts to identify water conservation challenges, and has shed a light on South East Asia’s women leaders who are promoting sustainable fisheries. In Indonesia, women make up half of the seafood supply chain. By organizing the boat trips, buying the fish once in port, and preparing the catch, these women provide for their communities, create more sustainable fisheries, and deliver a source of vital protein to a growing global population of seafood consumers. They are leading the way toward ecologically sound fisheries management by shrinking the existing gender gap in salaries, work force participation, and professional leadership. Supporting women in this essential industry not only leads to healthier communities and greater self-reliance, it can increase the region’s GDP.

Other U.S. government efforts ensure women are central to creating a healthier planet, including the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative known as Feed the Future. While women represent nearly half of the agricultural labor force, the impact female farmers have in developing countries is often overlooked. In too many places, they lack access to the same essential resources and tools as their male counterparts. Yet, when the playing field in agriculture is leveled, women farmers can increase crop yields by 20 to 30 percent and feed 150 million more people. Feed the Future helps empower women with access to resources, tools and skills that help them grow both crops and businesses and lead their communities toward a more food-secure and well-nourished future. When women are empowered to play a role in agricultural production and food security, all of society benefits. Clearly, we need to pay tribute on Earth Day to women who are working in the fields and helping to bring an end to poverty and hunger.

We admire the work done by women throughout the world to preserve and protect the environment. From combatting environmental crimes to protecting the water and wisely utilizing the world’s land, women from all regions have contributed in myriad ways to ensure that the challenge of achieving prosperity, equality, and security go hand in hand with efforts to safeguard the earth’s resources for future generations.

(Author Julia Doyle serves in the Office of Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State.)

(Indian women plant rice saplings in a paddy field on the outskirts of Gauhati, India. Photo: AP)

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