What might we achieve if we shifted to shared male/female governing--koinoniarchy--in all levels of our lives: homes, communities, states, nations? As it turns out, many real-world examples illustrate what women’s influence might do and has done to move us to a better future.
Consider poverty. The non-profit Heifer International gives income-producing livestock, like a cow or a hive of honeybees, to people in poverty. When the animals produce offspring, the recipient must pass this gift to a neighbor. HI was among the first to confess openly that best results were achieved when they gave to a woman. She was more likely to use the gift in a way that benefitted her family, but also her community. Finding that men resented stress on “giving to women” and felt “left out,” the project subsequently played down gender preference, shifting to encouraging women and men to share in deciding how to manage the resource.
Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel Economics Prize for giving micro-loans to poor people, also discovered that women were more likely to successfully create businesses; perhaps not surprisingly, too often men tended to spend on things that immediately increased their social status: like frequently paying for all the drinks at the local coffee house or buying a car. Women, in general, were also better at repaying loans. (Esty 2014)
In their book, Half the Sky, Kristoff and WuDunn tell stories from across the world that unequivocally demonstrate that if a woman is given education or financial means it regularly leads not only to pulling her family out of poverty, her efforts spread to her community’s benefit. (Kristoff & WuDunn 2009)
Another reality with wide applicability is the effect of educating girls. Boys often leave their community, frequently to find work. If there is war, they’re commonly pressed into military service and may die, never to return. Girls are more likely to stay (at least until they marry) and they go home from school and educate their mothers. Over time the mothers grow reluctant for their sons to be dragooned into being soldiers. They begin to see other, positive prospects for both girl and boy children. The educated women begin to lift the entire community. The education of girls has charmingly been called the “girl effect.” A Google search will reveal a number of groups that have adopted this cause.
In the late twentieth century, books began highlighting positive effects of women as leaders — in government, business, and communities (e.g., Fisher 1999, 2005; Freeman 1995; Wilson 2004, 2007; Myers 2009; Kristoff & WuDunn 2009; Potts & Hayden 2010; Hudson et al. 2012; Sandberg 2013; Ngunjiri & Madsen 2015). Cross-cultural research has been done to compare different kinds of societies on things like internal and external rates of violence, peace building, governmental corruption, and giving public goods. For example, one study compared social giving in “matriarchal” vs. patriarchal cultures in India. It found, somewhat surprisingly, that men contributed more to public goods in the matriarchal societies than in patriarchal ones. (Andersen et al. 2008) Perhaps because the men can anticipate or trust that their contribution will be put to good use?
Other works examined the level of female empowerment, judged by things like levels of women’s education and numbers of women in leading positions in government and business. (Caprioli 2005, Melander 2005, Gizelis 2009, Hudson et al. 2012) They all document positive effects when women’s preferences are influential in shaping social priorities and choices.
Primed to create nurturing communities in which to raise children, women, not surprisingly, have also profoundly influenced environmental and conservation issues, despite operating inside patriarchies that were busily exploiting the environment for personal profit. (Pierret 2015, Rogers 2010) Rachel Carson, a biologist, wrote Silent Spring, a book that alerted the world to the environmental effects of pesticides. (Carson 1962) Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for taking up the cause of deforestation, resulting in the planting of 51 million trees by a movement that has outlived her. The primatologist Jane Goodall has made it her life’s work to protect endangered species and endangered habitat. Marine biologist Sylvia Earle, activist for gender equality, brings focus to preserving oceanic diversity. Julia Butterfly Hill lived for 738 days high up in an old-growth redwood tree to save it from being cut down, a high profile resistance that raised awareness of the need for sustainable forest management. Search the Internet for Laurie David, Peggy Shepard, Lois Gibbs, Frances Beinecke, Winona LaDuke, Vandana Shiva, Mei Ng, and Marina Silva. These and legions of other women labor in efforts to create healthy and environmentally sustainable communities. A 2014 quote from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who knows human societies and who was addressing economic growth, business performance, peace agreements, and social issue legislation, provides a succinct summation: “equality for women means progress for all.” (Ban 2014)
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