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Why Climate Change is a Woman’s Problem

On October 2009, members of the broad coalition, Women for Climate Justice (GenderCC) reiterated the need to include women more comprehensively in the outcome documents of the ongoing meetings on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

As Felicia Davis of GenderCC-USA asserted, “It is time for the women to be recognised as equal partners. There can’t be climate solutions without women’s empowerment.” Moreover, Titi Soentoro of NGO Forum on the ADB stressed UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s previous statements on the importance of women’s role on this process. “That was a very important message, that we hope all the delegation will reflect. As of now, [the mentions of] women are fragmented and they still risk disappearing with the cleaning of the texts,” she remarked.

The Women’s Caucus, a broader group composed of women’s rights advocates from the governments and civil society organisations such as GenderCC are pursuing the inclusion of the following language in the Shared Vision, which serves as the outcome document’s preamble:

“The full integration of gender perspectives is essential to effective action on all aspects of climate change, adaptation, mitigation, technology sharing, financing, and capacity building. UNFCCC processes must ensure compliance with existing women’s rights standards and best practice as enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 [Women and Peace- Building]. The advancement of women, their leadership and meaningful participation and engagement as stakeholders in all climate related processes and implementation must be guaranteed.”

Asked by reporters how exactly women are affected by climate change, Ana Pinto of the Centre for Organisation Research and Education (CORE) emphatically responded: “It is a problem for women because we provide for the entire community including men. When women are demanding that our voices be heard, we are not doing this for ourselves but for the community we take care of. So we are asking on behalf of the world.”

“If the children are born with asthma, women take care of them. Men can run away, migrate for work. Of course they are not happy with it. Very often they do not send money back home. But women have to stay to care for the children, the sick and the elderly,” she further pointed out.

Soentoro, who worked in Aceh, where 77 per cent of those who perished in the Tsunami were women also cited the disproportionate impact of disasters on women and children. “Underwear, milk for breastfeeding mothers, separate bathroom and others are the basic needs for women but governments do not think about them. Women also have specific thoughts and solutions, their own imagination of the world.”

Gotelind Alber of GenderCC likewise stated that women are hardest hit by carbon-trading mechanisms. “They have been harmful to local communities for example in landfills. Women also do not have access to markets,” she said.

In a dialogue with UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer, members of the Women’s Caucus raise the miniscule attention given to women and gender issues on the working documents. De Boer suggested that a more practical approach can be adopted, citing as example the proceeds for women’s projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). “Make sure that you get it essentially than some sentences in the preamble. Build on practical things,” he said.

De Boer has helped enable the participation of women as a “possible constituency” in the Bangkok meetings. He initially expressed skepticism over the inclusion of women and gender in the Shared Vision. When pressed further by Davis, who cited the mere mention of women among vulnerable groups and women as constituting half of the world’s population, de Boer remarked, “Maybe I have become cynical over the years.”

During the press conference, the “Declaration of Women in Asia on Climate Change” were distributed. Created by over 70 women from indigenous peoples (IPs), peasants, fisherfolk, labour and other sectors in the feminist and social movements, the Declaration reiterated among others: free, prior and informed consent from IPs on development projects, equal rights on security of land tenure, opposition against carbon market-based solutions and privatisation of water, and the recognition of historical and ecological debt.

 


Declaration of Women in Asia on Climate Change

We, indigenous, peasant, fisher, labour, rural and urban women, face the bulk of negative impacts of climate change and the false solutions to the climate crisis proposed by governments and so-called experts. Women continue to produce and provide food; work inside and outside homes to augment our family incomes and are often the principal income earners; and through our productive and reproductive labour, we ensure the welfare of our families and communities.

However, we are still not recognised by governments, and national and international institutions as contributors who sustain lives in our families, communities and societies, and therefore, we are systematically excluded from decision making about our lives, environments and natural resources. Particularly in relation to the climate crisis, we are identified as “victims”, but not as decision makers in determining how to tackle climate change and contributing solutions based on our wisdom and knowledge.

We, over 70 women from many parts of Asia with various backgrounds –indigenous, peasant, fisher, labour and from different networks and social justice movements, met on September 28 to 29 2009, in Bangkok, Thailand. We exchanged experiences with our sisters and discussed the impacts of climate change in our communities and on us, the women, from these communities. We discussed strategies and solutions to bring our voices and thoughts into the discourse on climate change and shape solutions to tackle the climate crisis. We also resolved to continue our own education about climate issues, educate other women and policy makers, and build alliances and coalitions to work towards genuine climate justice with the principles of gender justice.

We recognise that the climate crisis is complex and far reaching, and we need to act urgently in order to put into place systems that can address the climate crisis in long term and sustainable ways. For this we need real solutions that will tackle the roots of the climate crisis rather than mechanisms that allow corporations to profit from the crisis and allow the wealthy to keep consuming and depleting resources, and polluting the atmosphere.

We want our children and future generations to live in a world that is just, healthy and capable of sustaining lives. Therefore, we declare our following positions:

As indigenous women

  1. Respect and uphold the right to self-determination as women and as members of indigenous communities.
  2. Women should be integral to the process of obtaining genuine free, prior and informed consent from indigenous communities on development projects within their traditional territories.

Agriculture

  1. Promote and fund sustainable agriculture, organic and agro-ecological farming.
  2. Notosubsidiesandsupporttoindustrialagriculture and agri-business corporations.
  3. Recognise the rights of women farmers, and the contributions of women in agriculture.
  4. Oppose carbon trading and Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMs) in agriculture.
  5. No to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
  6. No to free trade agreements and export-oriented agriculture.
  7. Defend security of land tenure for small-hold farmers, and equally for women and men.
  8. Decisions about how to use and preserve local ecological resources should be made by local communities, with equal rights to women and men.

Fishery

  1. Call for all governments and international agencies to enforce and protect fisherfolk rights.
  2. No to market-based solutions on marine eco-systems regarding climate change.
  3. Involve fisherfolk communities and organisations in building community resilience to climate change based on local knowledge and capacity.
  4. Protect, promote and fund fish sanctuaries and mangroves based on local, fishery-based community rights, that are proved to be low carbon by local government and international agreements.
  5. Regulate fish trade and enhance domestic markets towards food security and building community resilience.

Forest

  1. Exclude forests from carbon markets and as source of emissions offsets.
  2. Recognise the rights of Indigenous Peoples and their rights to territory, especially Indigenous women’s rights.
  3. Uphold the roles, interests and rights of women in using and protecting forests.
  4. No to mining in forest and ecologically sensitive areas, including coastal areas; subject mining activities in all areas to strong and legal environmental and social regulations.
  5. No to Reduction of Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). Health Recognise the rights of women to healthy and safe environments; governments must ensure the delivery of basic health services in adaptation measures that benefit women, children and low-income communities.

Energy

  1. No to nuclear power, coal-fired power, large-scale hydropower and incinerators.
  2. No to agrofuels, geo-engineering and false solutions proposed by International Financial Institutions (IFIs), governments, Transnational/Multinational Corporations (TNCs/MNCs), the UNFCCC and others.
  3. Decentralise power production and distribution, with regulations that prioritise small scale power utilities. Promote and fund community-based renewable energy.

Water and Sanitation

  1. No to privatisation of water and sanitation services.
  2. Protect water as commons.
  3. Promote sustainable sanitation.

Financing for climate change adaptation and mitigation

  1. Governments must make commitments for reparation and restitution in ways that do not create new debts for developing countries.
  2. Recognise the historical and ecological debt of the North to the South.
  3. Make financing commitments free from policy conditions or restrictions.
  4. Ensure that financing commitments are not managed by IFIs but by independent bodies that include the participation of civil society; these could be through the UN or an alternative process.
  5. Cancel existing debts of developing nations.
  6. Ensure gender sensitivity and accounting of women’s unique economic, socio-political and cultural needs and priorities in all financing arrangements.
The Declaration is an open document that is expected to evolve in the coming years. As of press time, it has more than a hundred signatures. Parties who wish to support the Declaration may contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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