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Women at the Center of a Sustainable World

The Huffington Post | 7-11-2013

The world is converging. Our communities are more interconnected and also more vulnerable. The changing climate is disrupting weather around the world as drought, flooding, and extreme heat put food and water supplies at risk and threaten millions of lives every year. All of these dynamics threaten the earth's ability to sustain human communities.

Is there a simple solution to this flock of "black swan" events? Yes and no.

Nothing is ever simple, but the global community can so something today that is guaranteed to ensure safer, healthier communities and more resilient natural systems for decades to come: invest in women and, especially, in their reproductive health and rights.

This week marks World Population Day, and with it will come the usual discussions of population control and fear-based talk of humanity's growing numbers. But the fact is that when women are in charge of their reproductive destinies, population growth becomes less of an issue, and the relationship between people and the planet begins to stabilize. That's because women know what's best for themselves and their families. When they're empowered with the basic tools of birth control (like condoms and pills), women choose family sizes that work for them and for their communities.

Today, over 220 million women around the world aren't ready for another baby but aren't using modern contraception. This unmet need hurts women, children, and families deeply. When the need (for birth-control tools and empowering education) is met, however, maternal and infant mortality rates fall dramatically, and women and children are far healthier. Something else happens, too, purely as a side effect: Population grows more slowly, and people are able to manage their natural resources in ways that will sustain their communities for the long term.

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