Women and Sustainable Development


by Servane Mouazan

Enabling women to develop sustainable and socially impactful activities is at the heart of Oguntê’s mission. Yet, in the third sector, ‘sustainable development’ is a term that is frequently used with an environmental context.

Sustainable development rests on 4 pillars: Social, Environmental, Economic and Cultural*.
The elements that help articulate these 4 pillars are information, integration, and participation
And they have to demonstrate the following attributes: be bearable, be viable, be fair (equitable).

Who is involved? Everybody! Commercial organisations, the State and the Civil Society (Civil society referring to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values.)
What? “A central principle of ecology is that each living organism has an ongoing and continual relationship with every other element that makes up its environment (wikipedia)”. In this context, sustainable development cannot be dichotomised, it’s a fusional concept.  It’s a great opportunity for people to grasp and challenge universal values.

How big?

Sustainable development is a beautiful theory, the challenge is its implementation. We are making progress when we take responsibility (even small to start with) and question ourselves continuously. We don’t need to build huge empires, we need to think of a manageable legacy, sometimes it means de-growth…

And Women?

The value of women’s unpaid housework and community work is estimated at over $11 trillion. Yes, it’s time to send your invoice! Sustainable Development starts with the expansion of our comfort zones (you’ll notice i am not talking about confidence here…)

On a wider scale, gender and development can work only if they are looked at jointly and mainstreamed.

The ecology of “ME”

Sustainable Development: Being in the Black, not just Breaking-Even and Certainly Not in the Red

At Ogunte, we use a very simple development scale for learning: micro, meso, macro.

In this sense, when I think of sustainable development, I remind myself that on a personal level (micro), I can’t use up my resources faster than they can be replenished. The same goes for my direct social and economic relationships (meso), my finances, my capacity to contribute and lead, my skills to learn with and teach others, my professional connections. Similarly, on a macro level, I want to have sustainable connections with society and the environment, now and in the near future. I want to make sense of my wider purpose, understand my potential social impact, build a conscience and an ideology that enables others to grow and develop too.

Assumptions to start with, based on ground values:

Creating Impact: “Sustainable Development” is everybody’s business, a matter of life and death, sometimes not very clearly demonstrable. Yet everybody is accountable. Ban the “why should I?” mentality. Go for “How can I help?”

Networking: “Sustainable Development” has to involve people and their social connections, working out spaces and boundaries for well-being and personal development, designing systems that enable people to integrate their private, social and professional environments without suffering. Promote inclusion and harmony.

Confidence: “Sustainable Development” is about harnessing people’s skills to ask themselves “difficult questions” such as: is it necessary, do I want it, do I absolutely need it? How would life be without this resource? Confidence is a very volatile currency. I like to translate it to comfort zones, to expand, to prevent shrinking.. It morphes all the time.

Learning: “Sustainable development” is allowing yourself and others to say “I don’t know” and making place to real opportunities for life-long learning, embedded in all aspects of business, public sector and civil society.

Leadership: “Sustainable development” is respecting group’s differences yet enabling individuals and organisations to meet at times and merge when possible, celebrating identities, without forcing uniformity,

Questions for you:
How do you illustrate these 5 points in your personal and environmental development? What’s your reaction? What are your difficult questions?
• The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (UNESCO, 2001) states that “…cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature”; it becomes “one of the roots of development understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence”.

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