Women demand more inclusion in climate change decisions, actions

A women’s environmental activist group met for a march for climate justice in Dakar ahead of the 27th annual UN climate conference (Cop 27) that is ongoing in Egypt. Feminist groups at the event are fighting to be included in all areas of climate change.

Photo credit: Photo | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Gender activists want increased action to meet climate change goals focusing on the specific needs of African women and girls.
  • Activists from countries in all five regions of Africa put forward 27 demands on climate justice.
  • The people of Africa, especially women and girls, are often hit the hardest by climate impacts.

In Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt

Gender activists have called for increased action to meet climate change goals focusing on the specific needs of African women and girls.

The more than 150 activists from countries in all five regions of the continent put forward 27 demands on climate justice at the ongoing 27th Conference of Parties (COP27), the United Nations Climate Change Conference being held in Egypt.

Five women from different parts of Africa, including Kenya, represented the African Feminist Task Force and voiced their interest in equity, representation, and financing, and their hope to have COP27 deliver on pledges to African women and girls.

While the gender agenda is not a cross-cutting theme in all topics to be discussed at the COP27, the feminist groups are fighting to have it included in all areas of climate change.

The Kenyan delegation had said in a past closed-door virtual event that they will prominently bring to the fore gender issues on climate change with a key focus on the implementation of the Gender Action Plan.

According to Anne Songole, the Climate Change Coordinator at Femnet Kenya, the 27 demands represent the 27 years since the first COP. The gender caucus highlighted six key areas of concern, including climate finance, an equitable energy transition, agriculture, and debt reparations and cancellation.

Ms Songole also complained about inaction regarding the implementation of the Gender Action Plan, which focuses on ensuring that women get influential spaces on climate change that lead to impactful decisions.

“We want to see climate finance and justice contextualised to our needs as African women and girls and we want these demands to be committed, not because of anything else but because we did not cause the crisis. Why then should we continue to suffer for it?” she asked.

While Africa accounts for the smallest share of global greenhouse gas emissions, at just 3.8 per cent, it is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change, with women bearing the brunt of the impacts. In the past year alone, Africa has seen major climate disasters such as drought, floods, and food insecurity.

“There is a historic and ongoing lack of support and compensation for the victims of climate change, who are disproportionately women,” said Priscilla Achakpa, a Nigerian environmental activist.

Also speaking during the session was Gertrude Kenyangi, representing Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment in Uganda, who said that despite women being affected most by climate change, when it comes to ownership of land, African women are left behind.

Mwanahamisi Singano, Senior Global Policy Lead for the Women’s Environment and Development Organisation, said it is time for leaders to prioritise the lives and needs of the people of Africa, especially those of women and girls, who are often hit the hardest by climate impacts.

African climate advocates say inadequate financing, and lack of support to fully address loss and damage and reparations for historical environmental injustices continue to mark the principal ways the climate negotiations have failed to meet developing countries’ needs.

Last year, the proposal for a dedicated funding mechanism for loss and damage was at the top of the political agenda, but was blocked by rich countries like the United States and members of the European Union.

While addressing the issues affecting the youth, Nada Elbohi, an Egyptian feminist and youth advocate, said: “When we talk about representation it is about more than numbers; it is meaningful representation and inclusion. It is bringing the priorities of African women and girls to the table.”

A report released by the United Nations in June this year shows how differently climate change affects men and women.

Child marriages, gender-based violence, and loss of economic empowerment due to climate change affect women more than men.

“In Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Kenya, for example, child marriage is a way to secure funds or assets and recover losses experienced due to climate-related disasters, such as drought, repeated flooding, and more intense storms,” said a UN statement.

It added: “Adapting to climate change can result in opportunities for women to access more resources and participate in decision-making due to shifting gender norms, which is why taking a gender-responsive approach to developing climate policy is crucial.”

This story was produced as part of the 2022 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews' Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.