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Population Action International – Climate Change and Women

By  Lisa Seyfried

This month’s EcoHour on January 17th features Suzanne Ehlers, the President and CEO of Population Action International (PAI). PAI is leading the charge on family planning, advocating for women and families to have access to contraception in order to improve their health, reduce poverty and protect their environment. Read her full biography on our speaker page.

Population Action International’s work on climate change takes a different approach than other organizations’ approaches.  Their focus is on the role that women, as family planners, play in their community’s adaptation to climate change.  According to the Population Action International (PAI), ‘[w]hen women are empowered to plan and space their children, they are better able to adapt to climate change and ensure the survival of their families.

The idea is that reducing population growth will lead to less impact on the planet and less strain on women.  Geographic locations that will be most affected by climate change in the future are generally the same areas that will see rapid population growth in the future as well.  A map of this trend is available on PAI’s website.  The goal of Population Action International’s work is to empower women and to address climate adaptation strategies.

PAI does this by highlighting the need for reproductive justice.  Global women’s rights advocacy often centers on the need for family planning. PAI takes that one step further and links family planning to environmental sustainability.  Family planning has a huge impact on resource distribution and use.  By highlighting the need for this, PAI brings attention to the role that women can play in reducing the impact of climate change.

PAI not only works to produce educational materials on the subject (and they have a lot of very informative articles, briefs, and blog posts!), but also advocates for these policies.  Their newest advocacy guide, Weathering Change, is a film that documents how family planning, girls’ education, sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation interact.  Understanding the intersection of these four elements means understanding that ‘women are important agents of change in addressing climate change challenges.’

PAI also provides grants to reproductive health organizations in countries such as Kenya, Nepal, Malawi and Ethiopia to further promote the inclusion of gender considerations and population’s impact on climate change in national and international policy plans.



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