When we think of peace building, we usually think about countries that are currently at war or that have recently emerged from conflict. But in fact building peace is something that must happen continuously and in all countries.
How can we help foster peace around the world? We can do it by helping reduce extreme poverty. Because competition for limited resources can boil over into violence, poverty is one of the root causes of conflict. Our contribution to peace and security can be through sustainable choices made every day that help individuals earn a decent living and provide for their families.
You may be wondering: What is a sustainable choice? It can be defined as any food item, clothing, household item or furniture you purchase that can be recycled and reused and that is produced without harming the environment. Sustainability also means that the people involved in making the products earn fair wages and work under safe conditions.
Why I choose sustainable consumption
I was aware of the impact of sustainable consumption at the age of five, watching my mother run a manufacturing plant producing clothing from sustainable yarn. I would visit the factory during my holidays and after school. Most of the workers were women, and I looked forward to discussing my day with these ladies during their break time, while they enjoyed their tea and I enjoyed my snacks.
During the 1996–2006 civil unrest, many young women from poor families joined the ranks of Maoist rebels. With the civil war coming to an end, over 4,000 ex fighters were discharged with few prospects for jobs, due to their lack of qualifications. My mother seized the opportunity to expand her knitting department, providing these young women with training and jobs to secure an income and a future.
The 2015 earthquake in Nepal was a major setback for many of these women. But with the reopening of the plant, they were able to rebuild their homes, get their children back to school and provide for their loved ones, rebuilding stability in their families and communities.
“My house was destroyed in the earthquake, we had to live in tents without good sanitation and sometimes without food for days, but with the reopening of the factory, I am able to rent a home and provide meals for my family of eight.” — Gyan Devi, 35
Tackling poverty starts with equal opportunities
How can we tackle extreme poverty? It begins with providing women equal opportunities to women. In South Asia, the gender gap in the labor force causes a loss of 19 percent in national income. Addressing this starts with access to jobs and work for women, who often lead the poorest households.
That’s why UNDP in Nepal works with women-run organizations like the group of micro entrepreneurs who work with Himalayan nettle. The women make beautiful fabrics from a plant that is usually seen as a nuisance, but like many others in Nepal, they lost everything in the 2015 earthquake.
They recovered their losses through hard work and with the support of UNDP’s Rapid Enterprise and Livelihood Recovery Project. The women produce clothing, bags and blankets, and after training with UNDP, they discovered the huge potential to market wild nettle as organic, vegan fabric, opening up new avenues of income.
‘We did not know that yarn of this wild nettle has a market as well, this was almost unbelievable news for us’ — Sanchheki Sherpa, 21
A sustainable choice ripples through the system and contributes to economic development in any country. Therefore, we ought to realize it is not only through participating in anti-war forums that we can have an influence. Our daily life choices impact the lives of others around the world and help build lasting peace.
Want to help? Support UNDP’s work to build peace in the most vulnerable communities worldwide.