This week, the United Nations marked the International Day of Women and Girls in Science with the theme being “Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth.”According to the UN, Science and gender equality are vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Over the past 15 years, the global community has made a lot of effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science. Yet women and girls continue to be excluded from participating fully in science.
According to data compiled by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at present, less than 30 per cent of researchers worldwide are women. Long-standing biases and gender stereotypes are steering girls and women away from science related fields. As in the real world, the world on screen reflects similar biases—the 2015 Gender Bias Without Borders study by the Geena Davis Institute showed that of the onscreen characters with an identifiable STEM job, only 12 per cent
Gender equality has always been a core issue for the UN. Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution not only to economic development of the world, but to progress across all the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN says.
Looking at the positive side of the role women play in green growth, we need to reflect on the incredible and extraordinary story of Stella McCartney, daughter of the famous Beatles leader Sir Paul McCartney and animal rights activist Linda. According to the Guardian Newspaper, British Fashion Designer Stella McCartney (OBE) has announced a UN fashion industry charter for climate action. It was launched at last December’s climate talks in Poland.
The designer hopes the charter will “ring some alarm bells” while making a business case for sustainable fashion, setting out a path for collective action to enable low-carbon production methods to be scaled up, improving economic viability. There are signs consumers are driving a move towards responsible consumption. A report by the fashion search website Lyst, which tracked more than 100million searches over the past year, shows a 47% rise in searches that combine style and ethics, such as “vegan leather” and “organic cotton”.
“We really don’t have long now, to change things. But I honestly believe it’s doable – I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t believe that,” said Ms. McCartney. “There is so much guilt and fear attached to talking about sustainability and that’s not helpful. What is essential is for the industry’s big players to come along with me, because that changes the price point.”
Support for the charter has so far come largely from high street brands. “Fast fashion is responsible for the lion’s share of environmental impact, so they are the most important element in effecting real change,” said Ms. McCartney.
Another amazing example comes from Sweden. According to the Guardian, following Sweden’s hottest summer ever, teenager Greta Thunberg decided to go on school strike at the parliament to get politicians to act. Why bother to learn anything in school if politicians won’t pay attention to the facts? This simple realisation prompted Greta Thunberg, 15, to protest in the most effective way she knew. She was on strike, refusing to go to school until Sweden’s general election to draw attention to the climate crisis.
Her protest has captured the imagination of a country that has been struck by heatwaves and wildfires in its hottest summer since records began 262 years ago. Every day for two weeks, Greta sat quietly on the cobblestones outside parliament in central Stockholm, handing out leaflets that declare: “I am doing this because you adults are shitting on my future.” Greta herself is a diminutive girl with pigtails and a fleeting smile – not the stereotypical leader of a climate revolution.
In Sri Lanka also, we hope girls and women will take more to the science stream and work like Stella McCartney or Greta Thunberg at creative enterprising and imaginative measures to curb climate change and global warming which could have catastrophic consequences if urgent and effective measures are not taken.