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Rio+20: Highlighting the Voices of Women

By: Corine Milano; Originally Posted on World Pulse

World Pulse delivered the voices of grassroots women leaders to the UN’s 2nd Landmark Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Of the 55 statements from women in 28 different countries, eight recommendations were highlighted on the website, exposing that sustainable development must tackle issues ranging from sanitation to land rights to economic empowerment for women.

Recommendation: Invest in Community-Driven Development

BRAZIL: The Future of My Grandchildren

My city of Rio de Janeiro is beauty: It has stunning beaches, breathtaking scenery, and hospitable people. The beauty of the city goes beyond the landscape and extends to the culture of the people. Many of our people live in the many favelas of Brazil, sometimes called slums.

Poor immigrants make their homes in risky areas—on hillsides, on the banks of rivers, in places that are not structured to uphold homes. When the rains fall, there are always losses, either the death of loved ones or the collapse of homes. In addition to environmental issues, favelas are known for violence and high rates of drug use.

We have taken measures into our own hands. Policing units are working to create a state of peace. There are groups working on issues of urban sanitation. In partnership with the government, civil society provides care and social programs for these at-risk communities. But we must go further.
All must unite for the sustainable development of our state, our country, and our world. We must invest more in education, teaching our children to preserve their planet. This means lessons in entrepreneurship, recycling, conservation, and better utilization of natural resources.

Teach children and community members to ask questions. What do you do with leftover food to discourage insects and rodents? How do you reduce the flow of debris and sewage? How do you conserve water? Protect vegetation? Does new construction meet the environmental needs of the future? By asking these questions, we allow people to envision a new world.

The grandchildren of today’s youth will need to eat, to breathe, to have their thirst quenched. And the parents of the future—our youth today—need to eat, breath, and have their thirst quenched. And for that to happen, people must feel responsible for the longevity of our planet’s natural resources.
Valéria Barbosa da Silva | Manager, ONG Cruzada do Menor | Brazil

INDIA: Sanitation in My Little Village

I live in a village in India. Here, the public uses vacant sites and roadsides for toileting and health problems are rampant due to poor sanitation and hygiene. Local administrations have created a number of public toilets for public use, but water scarcity and maintenance of the facilities are major issues. The unclean toilets are causing disease, and there is no sufficient water supply for cleaning them. This drives community members back to open land for toileting.

Garbage collects in heaps and dust and plastic bags fly throughout the air. Cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, and other birds roam the neighborhoods. We are vulnerable to health issues caused by lack of sanitation and there is no immediate health care available. Public health officials fail to step in.

As a social worker, I educate rural women about environment and sanitation. Physical and mental health and environmental health are linked. I meet young girls who are not urinating during school hours due to the conditions of the facilities, which leads to urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and painful vaginal ulcers. These conditions have an impact on emotional health as well. I am working to encourage local agencies to construct toilets in schools—toilets that have a continuous water supply and that are easily maintained.

I encourage leaders at Rio+20 to consider the impact sanitation issues have not only on our environment, but also on the health of men, women, and children.
Bagirathi Ramanathan | Founder, Women in Solidarity | India

Read more of the suggestions, and check out an interactive map here.

Flickr photograph via IITA Image Library.

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