News > News > of interest / discussions and opinions > Climate: gender sensitive – you must be joking!|
By: Lesha Witmer, Chair Standing Committee on environment & sustainable Development BPWI. (March 2009; based on background paper of the women major group 2006 and earlier publications)
Climate change is on the forefront of everybody’s minds these days; it is all important to link adaptation to climate change e.g. in water management, sensible introduction of sustainable, renewable energy and energy saving, food security in the broadest sense and the importance for and involvement of (business) women and gender sensitivity policies. These issues are equally important (being it in different ways) for the women in the developing and developed countries
Climate change is effecting all of us – some more than others though. Governments are either blind to “gender-biased” effects or simply act like they have no power left for change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated in 2001 that, “climate change impacts will be differently distributed among different regions, generations, age classes, income group, occupations and genders. The impacts of climate change will fall disproportionately upon developing countries and the poor persons within all countries, and thereby exacerbate inequities in health status and access to adequate food, clean water, and other resources.” People living in poverty are more vulnerable to environmental changes.
The gender-poverty links show that 70 percent of the poor in the world are women and their vulnerability is accentuated by race, ethnicity, and age.
So far, the critical issues of who is responsible for CO2 emissions and through what activities, of how social, political and planning conditions affect emission reduction, and of the role played by gender in increasing or curbing emissions, have scarcely been identified, much less really debated.
Climate change has many gender-specific characteristics: (i) women are affected differently, and more severely, by climate change and natural disasters because of social roles, discrimination and poverty, (ii) women are still underrepresented in decision-making about climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation/mitigation, and (iii) there are gender biases in carbon emissions. Women should be included because they are most vulnerable but far most because they have different perspectives and expertise to contribute. Gender is a significant dimension to take into account when understanding environmental change. Perspectives, responses and impacts related to disaster events are different for men and women, as men and women have different social responsibilities, vulnerabilities, capabilities and opportunities for adjustment and unequal assets and power relations.
Because of women’s marginalized status and dependence on local natural resources, their domestic burdens are increased, including additional work to collect water, food and fuel. In some areas climate change generates resource shortages and unreliable job markets, which leads to increased male-out migration - as was recently debated for the first time during the World Water Forum in Istanbul.
Having said that, training – if and when part of the program – is aimed at and management is given into the hands of men, instigated from a traditional role-perspective in many countries. After the training the men leave the village or are not managing because they consider it the responsibility of the women - who have not been trained. That is disinvestment!
Lack of control by women over natural resources, technologies and credit add to the problem. Just as the problem of lack of communication tools – something addressed by women time and again during the WSIS (world summit on the information society) - and women therefore being less likely to receive critical information.
Tapping women’s interest in disaster mitigation and preparedness has led to improved community welfare during and after disasters and in prevention. Ensuing strategies, including gender-sensitive target group analysis, are crucial.
Sustainable energy sources are not available for women. Therefore they are often forced to use unsustainable energy sources. Thus one important challenge is to provide women and men with sustainable energy. This will not only improve women’s situations and situation of the rural poor, but also help to improve their living standards and to help to mitigate climate change.
More technology and technological solutions are needed. The challenge is to develop or adopt these technologies to be suitable, usable and affordable for SME’s, civil society and mainly women, being the main future users especially in developing countries.
Technology is an important factor in providing basic services (energy, water, health care, food and education) to women (and their families) all over the world (including reaching the MDG's). However, without capacity development in the broadest sense, vocational training of women and change of behavior, this technology will not do the “trick” and will stay unsustainable. BPW women have a lot to offer in all these fields to others. As was the women’s caucus slogan during CSD 15: “If you energize a women, you energize a community.”
Another consequence of gender inequality is that women are often perceived primarily as victims and not as positive agents of change. However, women can be key agents of adaptation to climate change. Their responsibilities in households, communities and as stewards of natural resources position them well to develop strategies for adapting to changing environmental realities. For example, We have seen time and again that communities fare better during natural disasters when women play a leadership role in early warning systems and reconstruction. Women tend to share information related to community well being, choose less polluting energy sources, and adapt more easily to environmental changes when their family’s survival is at stake.
Women's perspectives to climate change matter!
Governments so far have not picked up on their task to provide vocational training in non-traditional occupations for women, implement policies to at least create a critical mass of 30% of women in decision-making and expert roles and not use gender mainstreaming as an excuse to do nothing about glass ceilings and - walls that prevent women from playing an active role. A rights-based-approach will set the defaults of present private enterprise “blind spots” right. Apart from some exceptional countries in – mainly – the developing world, most countries so far have lacked the courage to decide on their approach to these issues.
The standing committee of BPW can and should play an important role in creating awareness, exchange knowledge and experience and lobby and work together with other Standing Committees (e.g. UN advocacy and Agriculture) and Taskforces (water off course!) and our sister organizations for women’s solutions.
BPW has been involved in these issues e.g. through participation in WSSD and e.g. CSD 14/15. Also for a long time now BPW works "unofficially" together with gender cc, a large group of women and women's organizations working on climate change issues.
Recently BPW supported the statement and recommendations made by Members of Climate Justice Alliance – a worldwide alliance of more than 160 organisations, convened by Kofi Annan - after the UN climate negotiations in Poznan.
Also based on the resolution of Congress in Mexico in 2008, BPW SC is planning to get involved in the Copenhagen Climate change conference in Copenhagen in 2009.
We can not cover all ground, but together we can do more – there is influence in numbers;
your suggestions and comments are most welcome.
Laatste bewerking op 2 november 2009 |
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