Empowering women and girls results in greater gender equality and stabilizes population. If every other family in the world had one less child, we would move Overshoot Day 30 days by 2050.
Addressing population size also has many social benefits. Educating girls and providing access to safe, affordable, and effective family planning are high leverage opportunities. In addition, empowering women is essential for sustainability. When women are respected as equal partners in the household, at work, and in the community, better social outcomes for their families, including health and educational achievements, and lower reproductive rates invariably ensue. Given resource constraints, countries with slowly shrinking populations may have a competitive advantage over countries with growing populations.
If the average family size is half-a-child smaller in the future, i.e. if every second family has on average one child less, there will be one billion fewer of us in the world than the 9.7 billion that the UN expects by 2050 – and four billion fewer by the end of the century. Given increasing longevity, the end of this century is within the expected lifetimes of children born today.
Reducing family size at this rate is equivalent to moving back Earth Overshoot Day by about 30 days, or one month, by 2050. Long-term benefits are even more striking. This continued reduction in family size would result in 50% more biocapacity per person in 2100. More biocapacity makes it easier to have thriving lives for all within the means of the planet.
Investing in smaller families through the empowerment of women is also consistent with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 5 Gender Equality calls for ending all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere. Targets include:
Read more in our blog post “Empowering women for a world that works for all.”
Read more about the impact of population size on carbon emissions.
Climate change has a greater impact on those sections of the population, in all countries, that are most reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods and/or who have the least capacity to respond to natural hazards. Women commonly face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change in situations of poverty. Women’s unequal participation in decision-making processes and labour markets compound inequalities and often prevent women from fully contributing to climate-related planning, policy-making and implementation.
One of the most powerful yet overlooked opportunities for tackling resource constraints and mitigating climate change is girls’ education. Read more about Camfed’s inspiring story.