September 24, 2014

‘Create our future by design, not by accident!’

Written by Liz Fortier, Girls' Globe blogger

Last night, I attended the UNGA event, Leader’s Forum on Women Leading the Way: Raising Ambition for Climate Action, hosted by UN Women and the Mary Robinson Foundation.

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, addressed the attendees through video, and called on the group, on the eve of the Climate Summit, to forge a new agenda with bold and transformative action, and listen to the voices of women when creating a universal climate agreement for 2015.

The discussion from the event will be presented at the Climate Summit today.

Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, opened the discussion by remarking that women are ‘bearing the brunt of climate change’.

Women, who are the farmers and fishers, and who rely on the land for their livelihood, become more vulnerable with climate change.

The keynote speaker Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, mentioned that women are 14 times more likely to be affected by natural disasters and, post disaster, women become more vulnerable to abuse and violence. In times of natural disasters, women are the care givers leaving themselves at higher risk. She explained that women play a central role in the world in our agriculture, water, and food systems. Women represent 65% of those who raise livestock. Women are not just affected by climate change, but have an understanding of the impact of climate change on the rest of the world.

The panel, moderated by Mary Robinson, included Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator; Christiana Figueres, Climate Change Secretariat, UNFCCC; Rachel Kyte, World Bank; Noelene Nabulivou, Pacific Partnerships to Strengthen Gender, Climate Change Response and Sustainable Development; Linidiwe Sibanda, Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network; Leena Srivastava, The Energy and Resource Institute University; and Riddhima Yadav, The Global Education and Leadership Foundation.

Attendees included Queen Rania Al Abdullah, of Jordan; Nadine Heredia de Humala, First Lady of Peru; Graça Machel, member of The Elders; and former Heads of State:

  • Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia
  • Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland
  • Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland
  • Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi
  • Gro Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway
  • Aminata Touré, former Prime Minister of Senegal

Some current approaches by women for curbing climate change include ‘promoting green investments, developing energy-efficient technology, managing small-scale irrigation projects, engaging in efficient waste management systems, and boosting efforts to increase awareness and mobilize action.’

Panelist Rachel Kyte suggested that decisions about climate change should not only be decided by environment ministers, but other sectors, such as the economic sector. She said we need to reinvent how the decisions are made. For example, taxes could be determined according to impact on the environment. Women around the world balance their family’s money. They often work multiple, low-paying jobs, and they see the effect of climate change on their income on a daily basis. Climate change is closely related to the economy.

Other members of the panel stressed including and empowering women in decisions, measuring the effects of climate change accurately, and using data to prioritize short term and long term goals.

Eighteen-year-old Riddhima Yadav was the last to speak. She explained that she understands economics, unequal distribution of wealth, and the realities of climate change; however, what she cannot understand is gender inequality, and why women around the world have to fight everyday for education and literacy, face trafficking, abuse and humiliation, and domestic violence. She asks,

“Despite all of the technology we have access to and the progress we are making, are we doing enough?”

Her final message to our leaders was to collaborate on climate change, and “create our future by design, not by accident.”

Christiana Figueres, ended the panel discussion with her summary of Riddhima’s comments. Ms. Figueres said that to her, Riddhima is telling us,

“This generation is not taking any crap!”

Ms. Figueres remarked that her generation took a lot of ‘crap’ as if it was normal. She called on the women leaders in the room to commit to leaving not one seat behind them to women in their respective decision-making rooms, but to be sure to leave five.

Climate change is one of the biggest human rights issues of our time. Development cannot happen if climate change is not halted. Our generation has a challenge ahead of us. We need to include the voices of women who are most affected by climate change, and who can find the right solutions.

Follow all the action surrounding the UN Climate Summit happening today!

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