Women demand bigger say in U.N. climate talks
United Nations climate change talks should do more to incorporate women’s concerns into negotiations on a new global pact, environmental and women’s groups said last week.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said poor women in developing countries would be affected most by climate change because of its impact on agriculture, food security and water management — traditionally women’s tasks.
It also said they are more likely to be killed in disasters caused by extreme weather — girls in some cultures do not learn how to swim or climb trees. Despite this, most of the debate on climate change at U.N. talks has been “gender-blind”, it said.
“As women, we look for water and firewood — we understand the environment better. And as women, we believe gender issues must be incorporated in all decision making on climate change,” said Rejoice Mabudafhasi, South Africa’s deputy minister for environment and tourism.
GenderCC, an international network of non-governmental organisations, called on governments at the Dec. 1-12 talks in Poland to adopt a resolution on gender justice and set up a group that could make formal inputs into the negotiations.
It also proposed around a third of funds to help countries adapt to the effects of climate change should be earmarked for local work that builds women’s resilience.
“We need new funding instruments beyond market-based mechanisms, otherwise women and their endeavours to mitigate climate change will not benefit,” said Dorah Lebelo of the Greenhouse Project in South Africa.
Lorena Aguilar, IUCN gender advisor, said the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change was the only international convention without a mandate to address gender issues and should develop a strategy to change this.
Women at the Dec. 1-12 talks said they were disappointed at the lack of interest in their proposals from the U.N. climate change secretariat and government negotiators.
Women should not be sidelined in climate change policies because they have environmental knowledge that could help protect people, the groups argued.
Mazoe Gondwe, a small farmer from Malawi, said her community was already adapting to unpredictable rains by planting mixed crops, using irrigation and digging crop rows closer together to boost production. But they needed better technology.
“Women are not just helpless victims — they are powerful agents of change, and their leadership is critical,” IUCN’s Aguilar said.