Paris climate talks: Why women?
LE BOURGET, France – Why women?
One must wonder why gender equality advocates are joining the call for a new climate agreement in Paris. Are women’s rights advocates taking it too far, clouding over issues not their own? No, far from it, advocates say.
Climate change affects everybody, especially poor families since their food security and livelihood are badly affected by droughts, typhoons, and floods. The greatest burden, however, falls on women who are usually tasked to feed families – a practice that cuts across cultures.
In Africa, women spend over 40 billion hours just to gather water. This is just one of the several tasks taken on by women around the globe. With climate change already happening, these obligations become harder and harder to do.
Despite such difficulties, women still continue to act as guardians not only of families but also of environments, especially among indigenous communities.
“We have to put gender at the center of these issues,” Segolene Royal, French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, said on Tuesday, December 8, designated as Gender Day at the Paris climate talks.
Women, however, should not be seen as mere victims of climate change but as “actors of change,” the French minister stressed. The inclusion of women in decision-making processes on climate action is vital in achieving success, according the United Nations.
Unfortunately, the world of climate negotiations is still dominated by men, Royal argued.
This is reflected in the draft climate agreement, she said, in which mentions of human rights and gender equality are still at risk of being dropped.
“The absence of gender equality throughout the mitigation section is a major omission,” said the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
On the bright side, the current draft has some existing gender references such as calls for climate policies to be “gender-responsive” – which means policies and programs must address the needs of all.
But women’s rights advocates are not resting their feet until the final outcome of the Paris climate agreement is conceived by the end of the week.
"We should work hard to keep gender equality in the [climate agreement] text," Royal said.
If your government does not support women's rights during the climate negotiations, appeal to them, urged Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International's executive director.
In 2007, women's rights advocates were snubbed during the climate talks in Bali, Byanyima recalled. There was no constituency that time, the WGC was only established two years later.
Advocates have been pushing for a gender constituency for the climate negotiations for years, but former UNFCCC executive secretary Yvo de Boer kept saying "no," Byanyima shared, thinking there is no room for women since the talks are purely "political and technical."
Advocates proved him wrong.
Today, women from all over the world are pushing for 3 main things in the Paris climate agreement:
- Equal participation of women in climate policy-making.
- Gender-responsive climate policies.
- Tackle underlying power relations in society.
This week, all eyes are on Paris as world leaders wrap up their motives to save the planet. But will women's voices be heard in Paris? One can only hope for now. – Rappler.com
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