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Celebrating International Youth Day by Taking a Look at Intersectional Environmentalism

August 12, 2016

Today, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) takes part in recognizing International Youth Day. Originally recognized as the International Year of Youth in 1985, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the recommendation that August 12th be declared International Youth Day in December 1999. Each year a theme is chosen to address a particular issue, how youth around the world are affected, and action steps to address the issue to build a better tomorrow. This year’s theme, “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production,” focuses on addressing the intersections between poverty and environmentalism.

What is the correlation between sustainability and ending violence against women? Environmental degradation affects all aspects of human life, particularly for those living in poverty. Globally, women and children experience poverty at alarming rates, and are therefore disproportionately affected by climate change. Some of these effects include malnutrition, mental and physical trauma due to weather crises, and exacerbated existing social and economic disparities.

With a few exceptions, those living in poverty are least likely to contribute to climate change since they generally have little to no access to private transportation, flights, or ownership of powerful electrical appliances. Women experience poverty at much higher rates than men and therefore will have a smaller carbon footprint than men. However, poor and marginalized individuals, primarily women and children, tend to be underrepresented at all levels of decision-making regarding climate issues, yet are the most exposed and vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

Even if women and children survive extreme weather events, the effects of climate disruption can worsen existing inequalities. For example, changing weather patterns can wipe out crops and devastate a family’s livelihood. In order to feed families, daughters are often married off early – as children – a practice that takes girls out of school, perpetuates the cycle of poverty, and increases gender-based discrimination. The effects that climate change has on women and girls are insurmountable; these repercussions impact girls’ education, poverty, and child marriage. Without knowledge or the option of sustainable consumer development, gender equality cannot be fully achieved.

Globally, youth are addressing climate change and sustainability, as well as the numerous intersections such as poverty, education, and gender equality. Take a stand against environmental injustice and check out some global initiatives by youth to address climate change, as well as numerous events taking place around the globe to celebrate International Youth Day.

To Learn More:

  1. Ms. Magazine
  2. Anna Kaijser & Annica Kronsell (2014) Climate change through the lens ofintersectionality, Environmental Politics, 23:3, 417-433, DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2013.835203
  3. UN International Youth Day 2016
  4. Youth in action on climate change:
  5. Poverty, Gender and Public Policies by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D and Stephanie Roman (The Institute for Women’s Policy Research)
  6. UN IYD World Calendar of Events