Prominent Women Tell U.S. Leaders That Protecting Global Environment Helps Women

Oct 07, 2010, 14:41 ET from Pew Environment Group

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Leading female conservationists, including Dr. Habiba Sarabi, Afghanistan's only woman governor, today called on Congress and the Obama administration to take a leadership role on global conservation. At a lunch event hosted by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and members of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues from both parties, the group asked leaders in government and the private sector to treat the loss of forests, freshwater, fish stocks and other natural resources as a critical threat to women.

The conservationists described ways in which women around the world are disproportionately harmed by environmental destruction. For example, they often farm the most environmentally degraded lands and depend on gathering products such as fruits, nuts, natural oils and plant fibers to supplement their income.

Further, because women are typically responsible for collecting increasingly scarce fuel wood and fresh water, they can spend two to nine hours a day on these tasks alone, depending on the region. According to a study by Doctors Without Borders, traveling long distances for resources places females at a greater risk of violence. In Sudan, 82 percent of rapes occur when women are outside their villages searching for firewood, collecting water or traveling to the market. 

"Around the world and in Afghanistan, critical natural resources are better protected when women can participate in their conservation," said Governor Sarabi, who worked to create Afghanistan's first national park. "And women become powerful advocates for their rights when they see what they can accomplish for themselves and their communities."

The leaders called for the United States to make biodiversity conservation a central goal in its efforts to improve the lives of women around the world.

"The U.S. government has six federal agencies working on conservation efforts around the globe," said Jeff Wise of the Pew Environment Group, who directs the Alliance for Global Conservation. "But in spite of all this activity, there's no overarching vision for how our country, working with other nations, can help reverse the environmental degradation trends undermining social and economic development, particularly that of women."

The lunch event was sponsored by the United Nations Foundation, the Alliance for Global Conservation and the Green Belt Movement. 

"Development experts have begun to recognize that the well-being of women can best predict the well-being of their families and communities," said Kelly Keenan Aylward, Washington office director of the Wildlife Conservation Society.  "Making sure the environment helps bolster women will make whole families and regions stronger."

The Alliance for Global Conservation — a coalition of some of the world's major conservation organizations, including Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, the Pew Environment Group, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund — is working to prevent the destruction of the world's remaining natural ecosystems for the species and human communities that depend on them. For more information, visit

For more information about the United Nations Foundation, visit

SOURCE Pew Environment Group