By Tasha Goldberg, Founder, Evidence of Hope
The Empowerment of women is an absolute necessity for true sustainable development. Intellectually, this is well understood. Academic research and endorsement from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) advanced and mainstreamed acceptance for a clear agenda for sustainable development that is bound to gender equality.
However, do we really recognize what it means to truly empower women? Have we arrived at a moment in time where global professional women understand how to exercise their fundamental right for gender equality? Do our young women and girls see their own reflections in who is considered a champion, hero? Have we proved to the global grandmothers that we are listening, that we have engineered systems of development that account for and lean on their traditional knowledge?
Are our global female leaders inclusive?
Young girls in Vanuatu 2020
As we physically distance ourselves, we are forced to come to terms with the need to reach for one another, to seek our connections.
In April, the Smithsonian Institute made a historical move to transition the 2020 Earth Optimism Summit into a complete virtual event. I am honored that I was invited to join this brave and bold experience, and perhaps even more joyful that I did this arm in arm with three other women. For the very first time in the history of the Smithsonian, an all-female panel of hosts were charged with the honor to welcome and help shape what it looks like to embrace truth and maintain optimism.
We spread out and interviewed hundreds of individuals from nearly every sector of life, from around the world, and engaged in conversations to open the door to learn from each other, and to celebrate our common denominator: the Earth. Sharing the work and stories that document hope and optimism for a sustainable world opens the window to what we believe is possible.
During the Summit, I had the honor to introduce my own work, Evidence of Hope.
Evidence of Hope is an effort to build a bridge and explore the intellectual concepts and translate them into human experience, a celebration of what IS working, and a testament that the world is full of people adapting to climate change and who are resilient to global challenges.Hope holds us in uncertain times and connects to the change we want to see in the world. When we feel good, when we feel connected….We naturally open. Take a moment to contemplate island and coastal communities. These communities are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, to natural disaster, to poverty, and to hunger. After thousands of years in complete harmony with their natural environment, in under 100 years, industry has bulldozed their forests, choked their oceans, and killed their ecosystems. Ask yourself, how does knowing this make you feel? Depressed? Numb? Overwhelmed? Frustrated?
Now, consider the example of island leadership in Evidence of Hope: Vanuatu’s Solar Mama and Evidence of Hope: Island Resilience. Deep in the South Pacific on the islands of Vanuatu, a place literally ranked as one of the worlds happiest places on earth, three grandmothers have become island champions. They left their homes, for the first time, to travel all the way to India for a six month programme to become solar engineers.
These Solar Mamas have returned to Vanuatu able to build, install, and maintain solar systems.
When the devastating cyclones hit, the Solar Mamas fixed broken equipment and installed new systems, allowing each and every family in their village access to clean energy, replacing expensive and carbon intensive fuels.
Solar technology, according to the World Bank, is central in solving the challenges of nearly one billion in the world living without access to electricity. Access to affordable and reliable energy links to economic opportunities and resilience, as embedded in Sustainable Development Goal 7. Now ask yourself, how does this story make you feel? Engaged? Excited? Inspired?
Solar Mama Rebecca Spetal working on a solar panel in Vanuatu.
Evidence of Hope is produced to share the positive and beautiful stories that make us feel good, so we can open our hearts to be inspired by actual evidence that it is possible to develop sustainably.
Another of my favorite stories is Evidence of Hope: Women of Morocco, an exploration of how to bridge the traditional knowledge of yesterday, with the innovation of today, for a sustainable tomorrow. In this short film, I travel from the valleys of the High Atlas Mountains to rural coastal communities along the Atlantic coast of Morocco, discovering that the bond between generations is key to realizing this potential.
I found many examples of women working together, bridging generations and connecting tradition to innovation to face the future together. From the grandmothers growing medicinal and aromatic plants using climate smart agriculture at UN Women sponsored Tudert Collective, to the next generation studying at the Dar Taliba boarding school supported by the Global Diversity Foundation, women in Morocco are changing their own lives.
Sharing Evidence of Hope and Participating in the Earth Optimism Summit was an incredible honor and huge success. We reached over 19 million people in more than 170 countries. This movement is inclusive, it is for all of us. Please visit the EvidenceOfHope.com website and share where you see Evidence of Hope in your world, and who you believe are the leaders for Earth Optimism.