Sustainability for Teenage Girls

_87163528_de27-2Catalyse Change CIC is a new Bristol-based social enterprise supporting teenage girls to develop sustainability skills and knowledge for ‘healthy, happy and green’ communities, careers and planet.

Our mission is to ‘ignite the ambitions of girls with the skills and belief to catalyse the change they want to see in the world.’

We are developing a pilot programme to work with young women to be change agents for sustainable development, through; inspiration, awareness, education, mentoring and practical skills.  We aim to fill the gap in the sustainability advice and skills currently being offered to teenage girls in schools. Whilst also providing practical tools to help them be more confident and better manage stress and anxiety. 

Why Women & Girls?

sdg-goal-05Women around the world do not have gender equality, this is extremely stark within much of the developing world, however even in Western Europe – where during the last 100 years women have been given the vote and their own legal, property and other human rights – there are still many discrepencies. Goal 5 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is to ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’ whilst it is widely accepted that the other 17 goals cannot be achieved without realising this one.

By the year 2030, this agenda aims to end poverty, combat inequalities and promote prosperity while protecting the environment.  “Women and girls make up more than half the world’s population — and they are on the frontlines — often more deeply impacted than men and boys by poverty, climate change, food insecurity, lack of healthcare, and global economic crises. Their contributions and leadership are central to finding a solution.”

 Gender in the workplace

In the UK there is a gender pay gap of 9.1% for full-time work and men continue to make up the majority of the highest paid and most senior roles, for example there are just seven female Chief Executives in the FTSE 100.  For us to achieve real sustainability we need gender equality, as women not only comprise 50% of the population but have unique skills, insights and roles, which need to be part of the debate and decision making.

However they are not currently fairly represented in the political and economic areas where much of the critical decision making is taking place.  In the words of Mary Robinson, former Irish president and now climate change campaigner: ‘When you have a male world, you have male priorities.’

Vandana Shiva at Fronterias do PensamentoVandana Shiva, respected Indian scientist and environmental activist, states “I don’t think true sustainability is possible without gender equality. The two go hand in hand. Because the same paradigm, the same mind-set that treats women as the second sex. One defines nature as dead matter to be exploited, the other defines women as passive as non-creative and non-productive.”

Sustainability & Green Careers

download-6Sustainability in the ‘real’ world – across all sectors – often seems very remote from the young people who are our future and key to its success.  In our research with teenage girls there is little understanding of what sustainability really means and the range of career options which could be open to them within it. According to Women In Science and Environment (WISE), females make up just 12.8 % of the workforce in jobs that require science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) skills. And the lack of female visibility could lead one to assume that it is not a profession for women.

Entrants to environment careers have historically come from Stem areas however the profession is diverse enough to attract talent from a range of backgrounds. In addition the most effective change programmes also require the ‘softer’ sustainability skills of communication, collaboration, consensus and behavioural change which women often naturally excel at.  

investigate-naturalStepAt Catalyse Change we want to focus on ways we can inspire and skill teenage girls to be the next generation of change-agents. By providing them with inspiration and knowledge ‘to be the change they wish to see’ in the world.  We will do this by raising awareness through social media and schools and through practical programmes to translate sustainability principles and tools, such as the The Natural Step – an effective science-based sustainability framework – to a young female audience.  In addition it is also vital to encourage young women to have the personal confidence and tools to believe that they can make a difference in many ways, including through entering male dominated professions, if that is what they choose to do.

Skilling & Capacity Building: What are the Tools?

images (1)Catalyse Change training will be designed and co-created by young women – as part of the pilot programme – based on what they want and what works best i.e. most inspires and empowers them to have the personal capacity and skills with which to work in sustainability roles and projects.  

There are some established and effective change programmes – with proven tools and techniques – which we aim to adopt and adapt as appropriate. What we want is a Catalyse Change programme which is both relevant, inspiring and effective for teenage girls.

The programme may include: Community engagement, facilitation spt1208_02skills for working with groups, a personal mentor who is a trained coach or sustainability practitioner, tools that enhance personal resilience, direct access to change-makers, understanding the sustainability challenges of the 21st,  project management, partnership building, communication, story-telling and fund-raising.

We are working closely with sustainability practitioners and other stakeholders to ensure the work is effective and complementary to what is already offered in schools and elsewhere.  If you would like to offer your support, skills or other resources – we would be extremely pleased to hear from you.


Connect with us @CatalyseCh @TraciLewis79