“When you talk about the emancipation of women, you actually don’t understand what it’s all about. It’s actually the emancipation of man”.
Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations on finding hope in women, young people and our capacity for innovation.
Sherah Beckley for Thomson Reuters Sustainability: What role do women play in order to achieve sustainable development?
Jan Eliasson: Well, women are of course agents of change, but I would also say that women often are the victims and those who pay the heaviest price, if we don’t respect nature and sustainability.
I was in Nepal recently, and it was the women who had to carry the water for kilometers, and hours sometimes, to get the water to cook and use for the house or tents where they lived. I was in the Mekong Delta also recently, and a woman farmer had lost her husband and she complained and was bitterly sad that her three sons couldn’t continue to farm the land because the salt water had contaminated the water, and she had to tend to the little farm there with the cows that were drinking salty water. And I was thinking that it was very often the women who paid the heaviest price.
SB: So what should men do in order to ensure that women are elevated?
JE: I used to work for a prime minister in Sweden, Olof Palme, and he said that – when you talk about the emancipation of women, you actually don’t understand what it’s all about. It’s actually the emancipation of man.
Both men and women gain from seeing women’s empowerment.
It’s one of the most unfulfilled resources in the world, apart from the fact that it’s a breach against human dignity, not to give that possibility. But I think that man has to realize that this is one of the most important factors ahead of us if we are to make progress on changing the course of dealing with environmental threats to us.