The global environment is one that has continued to suffer severally and severely from various forms of degradation especially due to rapid industrialization. General living and working experiences unveils the reality of the appalling and deteriorating conditions of the environment on one hand. On the other hand, I have witnessed over the years, the disadvantages women suffer due to socially defined constraints that undermine their role in community development. It remains worrisome that women are often sidelined when decisions are taken on the very issues that most impact on their lives.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set out global benchmarks on gender equality, poverty eradication and environmental sustainability. However, current trends have so far neglected to seriously address the linkages between these areas. I believe there is a strong link between empowering women and sustaining the environment; and also that environmental sustainability is a strong tool for poverty eradication. Having understudied these linkages, I established a platform upon which women would be empowered through natural resource management. The Environmental Management and Protection Network (EMPRONET) was established with a goal to promote constructive environmental practices. As EMPRONET evolved, I continued to witness how much majority of women (especially at the grassroots) are marginalized and discriminated against. They are seen more as victims of than as positive agents of change. In both rural and urban areas of much of the world, Women and children (especially the girl child) often do the hard work of collecting and carrying wood for fuel and collecting water. In the struggle for life, they play these salient roles spending valuable time. These prevent them from taking part in more socially valued activities such as getting an education and or other necessary/ financially productive work.

In the course of promoting constructive environmental practices through EMRPONET, I recognized the potential for women to improve their social, economic and political status through developing and managing natural resources. Thus, the organization’s activities began to centre around environmental issues that have a direct bearing on the lives of women. Women are untapped resources as their responsibilities and roles in households and communities and as stewards of natural resources position them well to develop strategies for adapting to changing environmental realities. As a measure of re-strategizing to meet women’s expectations, EMPRONET was translated into the Women Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE). Through WISE, I explore and create opportunities for impoverished women to learn skills and develop opportunities in Environmental Management and Protection. I realize that when people’s daily needs are met, they are better able to think about the future including how to care for the environment. This is reflective of the World Bank’s definition of empowerment which says that empowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform choices into desired actions and outcomes. WISE promotes women’s participation in environmental management and protection, projects people oriented approaches to environmental management. As I move to be an effective change agent of environmental sustainability, I will continue to work to organize, advocate for and provide opportunities for women to thrive.

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Dear Olanike,

The work that you are doing to protect the environment and empowering women to take an active role in safeguarding their natural resources and livelihoods is amazing! I would love to hear more about the specific projects that you're working on - like water.

We are so fortunate to have someone of your experience, knowledge and passion in our community and I hope that you will continue to share your work with us!

Warm regards, Jade

Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words.

My work on water is centred around Water Supply, Water Treatment, Sanitation and Hygiene. Our most recent project that was implemented was a Water Treatment and Hygiene Training for a Rural community in Nigeria. The Technology adopted in the Training is the Bio-Sand Water Filter, which is a low cost technology that uses a natural filteration process.

In executing our work, we stick to environment friendly technologies

I am very open to sharing my work as much as I open to learning from others.

Thank you and Best Wishes!

Olanike

Hi Olanike, This is an innovative and great idea as it is a possible solution of both protesting environment and empowering women. I really love this idea. However, who effective it will be? Are the women really aware the environmental sustainability and who the climate change is effecting our whole world? I look forward to hearing some success stories of this project in your journal.

Thank you Umme.

I belong to the school of thought that believes that to empower a woman, is to empower a nation. Community mobilization, Awareness creation and sensitization ( using Information, Educational and Communication mediums and materials) are some of the ways by which we ensure that women are informed and become part of the process of engendering environmental sustainability. As you may want to agree with me, our Climate has to a very large extent become rather unpredictable. This is already raising questions especially on the minds of women especially the marginalized and disadvantaged ones. Armed with information about these changes these women are better prepared to manage environmental conditions that affect their lives (especially their livelihoods). My journal has not been very active because I have had so much to attend to in recent times. Hopefully I will be a lot freer from June. Be rest assured that by then, you will read about some of my success stories. Hopefully too, my organization's website will be up, then. Thank you for your interest, and best regards!

Olanike