Can we create an economy that prioritizes the welfare of all living beings and the sustainability of our planet? In this globalized world, it has become increasingly evident that our current economic frameworks demand a profound transformation. The relentless pursuit of endless growth and material wealth has left a trail of exploited natural resources, widened social inequalities, and marginalized vulnerable communities.
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, confronting these concerns necessitates conceiving an economic framework that prioritizes life and well-being. This requires going beyond traditional notions of economic success and embracing the principles of ecofeminism. Ecofeminism recognizes the interconnectedness of ecological and social systems while emphasizing the need for gender equality, social justice, and environmental sustainability.
Traditionally, economic frameworks have placed significant emphasis on narrow metrics like Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and material accumulation. They are considered as the benchmarks of advancement. However, this fails to address the broader well-being of individuals, communities, and the planet. It also overlooks the intersectionality between economic, social, and environmental dimensions.
In order to address this, a paradigm shift is necessary; one that places life and well-being at the heart of economic decision-making processes. This is where the concept of an economy centered on life and well-being comes into play, as it emphasizes the need to reassess our priorities, redefine economic success, and embrace a holistic approach that integrates the guiding principles of ecofeminism.
The principles of a life-centered economy align closely with the principles of ecofeminism in several key ways. Both frameworks acknowledge the interconnectedness of social, economic, and ecological systems; advocate for a departure from hierarchical and exploitative systems; and prioritize nurturing relationships with nature and each other.
Firstly, both ecofeminism and a life-centered economy prioritize the value and respect of all living beings, be they human or non-human. They challenge the prevailing paradigm of viewing nature and women as objects to be dominated and exploited for profit and power. Both frameworks prioritize the well-being and sustainability of communities and ecosystems over short-term economic gains.
Moreover, ecofeminism and a life-centered economy advocate for decentralized and participatory decision-making processes. They also stress the importance of giving voice to marginalized and vulnerable groups, including women and indigenous communities, who have traditionally been excluded from decision-making spaces.
Lastly, both frameworks promote practices that emphasize regeneration, reciprocity, and circularity. They call for a shift towards more sustainable and regenerative forms of production and consumption that operate in harmony with the natural environment. This includes valuing and restoring ecosystems, promoting sustainable agriculture, and embracing the principles of circular economy.
The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) and Bhutan's Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index challenge the narrow focus on economic indicators like GDP, which often neglect the well-being of people and the environment. Both indicators prioritize the pursuit of sustainability, social equity, and ecological balance. All of which are central to ecofeminism and a life-centered economy. Societies can shift their focus towards more comprehensive and inclusive approaches to progress and well-being if these alternative measures are incorporated.
GPI aims to assess economic progress and well-being by accounting for social, economic, and environmental factors that GDP fails to capture. It considers indicators such as income distribution, environmental quality, volunteer work, and the value of household labor. By incorporating these broader measures, GPI aligns with the principles of ecofeminism and a life-centered economy by recognizing the interconnectedness of social, economic, and ecological systems. It acknowledges the importance of equitable resource distribution, community well-being, and the protection of natural ecosystems.
Similarly, Bhutan's GNH Index measures progress based on principles such as sustainable development, environmental conservation, cultural preservation, and good governance, rather than solely focusing on economic growth. The GNH Index aligns with ecofeminism in that both value the holistic well-being of individuals and communities – this includes their relationships with nature and their cultural heritage. It also recognizes the interconnectedness between human well-being, environmental sustainability, and social justice, which are foundational principles of a life-centered economy.
In the dynamic and ever-evolving landscape of the MENA region, the role of youth in reshaping economic frameworks has never been more crucial. Youth have the power to drive a paradigm shift towards a more inclusive and sustainable future.
We must actively participate in reshaping the economic frameworks that have perpetuated inequality and environmental degradation. It starts with advocacy; using our voices to raise awareness and demand sustainable change. Our collective voice can resonate far and wide, inspiring others. But advocacy alone is not enough. We must also take action by joining youth-led movements and organizations that value the principles of ecofeminism.
We need policies that recognize the interconnectedness of ecological and social systems while emphasizing the need for gender equality, social justice, environmental sustainability, and fair distribution of resources. Our demands should echo the principles of ecofeminism, embracing the intrinsic value of nature and the need for a harmonious balance between human activities and the planet.
Shahd Almahameed is an ecofeminist and a Climate Action Programme Officer at Generations for Peace.
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.