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Women pushing it so hard in Lima!

An article about the Women and Gender Constituency in Lima

10.12.2014 |



Written by Asha Sitati

Diane Mariechild, the author of ‘Mother Wit and Inner Dance’ once said that “A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.” Indeed this is what women are exactly doing in Lima during the COP20. The first week of the COP20 saw a proposal on Gender and Climate change Work Programme go through the negotiations. Based on this proposal, a COP decision would be made to establish a two-year work programme for promoting gender balance and achieving gender-responsive climate policy, which is one of the priorities for the COP20 President as outlined in his opening statement.

Women have been in the forefront pushing their voices through the often powerful forces at the negotiations. The members of the Women Gender Constituency (WGC) have been calling for “an effective, equitable and just new climate agreement that respects the human rights and gender equality, including the rights of future generations”.

During the opening sessions, Mrinalini Rai, on behalf of the WGC reminded parties that including gender equality in the text was crucial, recognizing the role that women play in contributing to climate action and adaptation. She also reinstated the idea that recognizing gender equality in areas such as capacity building and finance is very important.

    “This is the right moment to set the bar high and ensure that future climate policies take into account the rights, needs, perspectives, capacities and expertise of women and men alike, in order to achieve truly sustainable development and avert the climate crisis” –Mrinalini Rai

Ms. Gertrude Kenyangi from ‘Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment’ in Uganda, further added the importance of implementation that would support women living in and around communities and ecosystems most impacted by climate induced losses.

The battle
The first week of the negotiations saw a heated debate over two words,  ‘Gender equality‘. Saudi Arabia challenged ‘gender equality’ throughout the week.

But what would you expect from Saudi Arabia when it comes to such a topic? A background check on Saudi Arabia’s gender inequality reveals that it is one of the top 10 ranked countries in the world that nurtures a culture of gender inequality according to the Gender inequality index of 2012. For instance, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving!

“Girls and women are forbidden from traveling, conducting official business, or undergoing certain medical procedures without permission from their male guardians

Further, the Law seals this nonsense (?) by not guarantying gender equality and considering girls and women to be legal minors!

In terms of emissions, the Climate Change Performance Index released on 8 December by Germanwatch has ranked Saudi Arabia as one of the worst countries in terms of taking ambitious actions on climate protection and having best-practice climate policies in place. Saudi Arabia should therefore focus more on reducing emissions and less on trying to define texts. Undermining women in climate change matters will never lift Saudi Arabia high up on the rank of the performance index.

Gender and Climate change
When it comes to climate change, the women’s level of vulnerability need not be doubted! The analysis of gender roles in society clearly points to a situation where women carry the heaviest burden in terms of work load-they are the last to go to bed and the first to wake up in the morning. They go beyond their own strengths to manage resources while often single-handedly working to take care of their families. For instance, the largest percentage of women in rural homes in Africa is involved in agriculture.

Women have also been seen to be the most vulnerable to climate change impacts during extreme climate events. My own research across four counties in Kenya, shows that women continue to suffer in the face of climate change. In Turkana, the Northern region of Kenya, women who have been pastoralists for a long time, are now struggling to diversify their livelihoods and build resilience in the face of prolonged droughts.

Each day they walk for miles looking for water. They queue for the longest time waiting to receive donations and food relief in order to feed their families. One woman admitted to often going without food for days so that she can be able to feed her family on the little food available.

The other side of the picture reveals that as these women go through all the struggles, their men expect to find food when they get home. However, it is of importance to note that not all men in rural areas do not work as much as women do but a hig. This is everyday scenario in many rural homes in Africa.

If you ask me, women and men do not ‘stand on the same ground’ when it comes to matters of climate change. Their voices have always been unheard in the process.

In Doha, countries adopted a decision on promoting gender balance and improving the participation of women in UNFCCC. The WGC has been trying to ensure that gender equality and human rights are recognized in all climate agreements in order to achieve climate solutions that would involve mitigation and adaptation, as well as addressing loss and damage.

but we know that at the UN, everything is a fairy tale until it is implemented.

We are still waiting on a two-year work programme to promote greater gender balance and develop gender-responsive climate policy. it is hoped that the ‘long wait’ will ensure gender equality is integrated in the climate change process. Such a policy would motivate women and catalyze actions towards the fight against climate change. After all, aren’t we all children of ‘mother-earth’?

If Lima can’t make it happen, then there is no way that women in Saudi Arabia will fully unleash their potential and work towards a reducing climate change. The rural woman in Turkana, Kenya will never be free from the struggles brought forth by the prolonged droughts.

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