The title of this article is referring to the title of the song ‘She Is Beautiful’ by Anouk1 from her album ‘Paradise and Back Again’.

The Buddhist worldview, where interconnectedness and relationships are of prime importance, highlights the progression of human consciousness from egocentric to worldcentric. Compassion-in-action for all sentient beings and diminishment of ego are seen as essential to sustainable development.

I find that beautiful.

Individual consciousness does not, of course, exist in isolation; it is embedded in collectively shared values, beliefs and worldviews about, for example, gender equality.

Ken Wilber (2000)2 researched developmental psychology theories and found within a lot of conflicting views a remarkably consistent story of the evolution of consciousness: a) a similar tale of the growth and development of the mind as a series of unfolding stages or waves; and b) development goes through three general stages: 1) preconventional or egocentric conventional or 2) ethnocentric, postconventional or 3) worldcentric.

With each developmental wave and the move from one stage to the next, there is a decrease in narcissism (ego) and an increase in one’s consciousness or the ability to take into account other people (read if you like: women and girls) and things into account and thus extend the care to each. This has remarkable similarities with Buddhist practice, where meditation and compassion in action are also to lead to decline of the ego and a compassion for the whole.

The characteristics of each development stage of a given society, as well as the diversity of stages of the people in that society, can inform both capacity development (Visser, 2009) and gender equity approaches.

As human ignorance is more profound than we like to acknowledge, our actions should be aimed at continuous learning. The ‘sustainability revolution’ will have to be a collective transformation based on the best of human nature, rather than the worst. Our preoccupation with economic problems needs to be replaced by patience and compassion with ourselves and others as we deal with change (and resistance to change) and as we see ourselves as one interconnected global society.

I find that beautiful.

It is important to realize that any human born in a society, will have to go through each of the stages on its development of individual consciousness (about, if you like, ensuring and promoting gender equality). The society will provide the collective system and a context for this individual development process, which will also to an extent influence to which stage most individuals are able to grow to.

People who are continuously learning, adapting to change and creating a vision widely shared (combined, of course, with the action based on the vision, because vision without action is useless) whether that be of sustainable agriculture or empowered women, motivate people, inspire action and generate innovations (Shibley, 2006).

I find that beautiful.

Learning, from action and experiment: The depths of human ignorance is more profound than we like to acknowledge and our actions should be aimed at continuous learning. Learning goes hand in hand with going slow, making mistakes, being accountable, patience and forgiveness. Finding the balance between patience and the need for urgent action will require compassion, humility, truth telling, clear headedness, honesty and love.

Loving, is often ridiculed in a world where individualism and short-sightedness rules. But the sustainability revolution will have to be a collective transformation based on the best of human nature, rather than the worst. Our preoccupation with economic problems needs to be replaced by the real problem of human relations, of creation and behaviour and religion. Also here there is a need for patience and compassion with yourself and others to deal with change and resistance and a need to see ourselves as one interconnected global society.

Our world is perceived to be deeply unfair (UNDP, 2014). The dynamics of power and exclusion have left many people, groups, communities and whole countries behind. Some 80% of policymakers in 15 developing countries have described addressing income inequality as a ‘high’ or ‘very high’ priority (UNDP, 2014). Most agreed that inequality represented a potential threat to their country’s long-term social and economic development. The potential for instability and setbacks if gender and other inequalities are not significantly reduced is increasingly recognized by the world’s political and business leaders (Brandes, 2014).

While our sustainable development ‘institutional framework’ touches upon issues of political economy, it doesn’t squarely capture them. We cannot continue to separate politics from development, and politics from economics and politics from gender. Political ideology is integral to development. We know that political processes and interests are major factors in determining development outcomes. Political issues thus need to be addressed up front in any work aiming to help bring about gender equity (Khilji, 2012).This is not to suggest that we need “regime change”, but rather, also at these levels, promote values, consciousness and encourage practices that truly address the vast global (gender) inequalities.

In summary, gender equity is fundamental not only to human dignity and happiness but also to sustainable development.

Equity, dignity, happiness, and sustainability are fundamental to our lives but absent in current GDP measurement matrices. The path of learning through reflection and compassion in action, the need to understand the truth of our identity and emotions, the destructive lifestyles our ego promotes and the suffering this causes (if you like, for women in girls in particular) isn’t always beautiful.

Compassion and caring will bring us closer. And it seems to me that for “true” sustainable development (if you like, for equal rights and opportunities for women and girls) to happen our personal attitude and actions can make the difference.

That I find beautiful!

[1] Listen to the audio of the song ‘She Is Beautiful’ taken from the album ‘Paradise And Back Again’ via