After all,
‘nature’ is female...

 Ana Lorena Gudiño Valdez

Nature – the very essence of all the entities that make up the universe – has created, managed, distributed and even regenerated all the ecosystems in the biosphere. It guides the adaptation of species when these are subjected to natural environmental change and even when they suffer serious damage through artificial change resulting from human exploitation.

During this evolutionary process, the world has witnessed countless numbers of peoples, tribes, ethnic groups, cultures and empires. Some were governed by matriarchies, with groups of women in many communities assuming enormous responsibilities – taking charge of seeing to their people’s survival, finding ways of providing them with food and drink, helping them to grow and develop, caring for the sick and coping when faced with epidemics: women, in short, who have taken on the responsibility of guiding people’s development, whatever the costs.

There is much talk about the interaction between ‘man’ and ‘nature’, evidently referring to the relationship between humanity and the environment; but it is important to make a distinction regarding the fundamental role played by women – the use, management, exploitation, administration and, of course, the care, of natural resources.

Women’s work
Just as nature itself is in charge of management, distribution and problem solving, so women daily face the need to manage, distribute and solve whatever comes their way in the home to ensure the welfare of their families.

Visualize a woman with a small daughter, walking in the sunshine, carrying two heavy containers, with an anxious expression on her face. The girl – already a woman destined for work – is starting to copy her mother’s tasks. When they get home they will have to ration the precious liquid to satisfy the needs of all the household. I close my eyes and see a woman harvesting, another serving up food she has been preparing, and another caring for the sick. I open my eyes, I see my country (no need to look further for the realities are similar on every continent, especially where poverty, epidemics and hunger are part of everyday life). There are the women, caring for their families’ health, worrying about how to provide sufficient food and well aware of the difficulties in providing it. This is where education must begin to give real value to each of the things we use or consume.

Protecting resources
Women conceive life, and must know that their daily actions profoundly affect their natural, social, economic and cultural environment: who if not they are in charge of managing water, energy and food at the most basic level? Women must be the main promoters of the protection of our resources – whether in the big cities of industrialized countries or the most marginalized communities. Day by day they face the high cost of food and medicines due to the scarcity of resources, together with bad quality water and diseases brought about by lack of sanitation. They experience today’s dire environmental situation and directly suffer its consequences. That is the very reason why they have often inspired a spirit of leadership, activism and action to find a solution to these problems.

It is time to recognize the real value of women’s participation in environmental matters and in implementing sustainable development. But – and let’s not forget it – this is a responsibility that must be shared and assumed equally by women and men alike

Ana Lorena Gudiño Valdez is a graduate in biology from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, National Coordinator for Rescue Mission Planet Earth, and a member of the Youth Environmental Network of Mexico.


This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Miles to go before we relax | Practical consensus | Power shift | Equally effective | People | Peace of mind, piece of land | The young ones | Fuelling change | At a glance: Women, health and the environment | Aishwarya Rai | Unprecedented opportunity | Books and products | Chemical inheritance | Toxic trespass | First empower | Citizen engagement | Adding feminine perspective | After all ‘nature’ is female... | A unique voice

Complementary issues:
Culture, values and the environment 1996
Poverty, Health and the Environment 2001
World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002
Water, Sanitation, People 2004

AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment:
Population and natural resources