This morning, I attended ECOSOC’s special event, “Achieving the MDG’s and coping with the challenges of climage change.” It was of course interesting, as I usually find most things related to climate change, but what I found particularly moving were the comments spoken by the delegate from Belgium (who did not speak on behalf of Belgium, but for the committee for CSW). He outlined how climate change disproportionately and negatively affects women, and spoke about how women can acts as agents of change in the mitigation of global warming.
Of course, this year’s 52nd session of the CSW chose as it’s emerging issue “Gender perspectives on climate change“, where we learned that women’s lives are effected in large part due to their domestic responsibilities. As the moderator’s summary stresses,
In Africa, for example, women have primary responsibility for food security, household water supply, and the provision of energy for cooking and heating. Conditions such as drought, deforestation and erratic rainfall have a disproportionate negative affect on their ability to carry out these duties. As climate change causes African women to work harder to secure these basic resources, they have less time to secure an education or earn an income. Girls are more likely than boys to drop out of school to help their mothers gather fuel, wood and water.
The unequal effects that climate change already has, and will likely continue to have, along the lines of gender, are rarely mentioned. As we move towards mitigation and adaptation to climate change, we must do so with a lens that prioritizes women as the large majority of those greatly affected by climate change.
The moderator’s summary, however, does not only stress women’s role as victims of climate change:
Women are not just victims of climate change; they are also powerful agents of change. Women have demonstrated unique knowledge and expertise in leading strategies to combat the effects of climate change, as well as natural disaster management, especially at the grassroots level… Women play a vital leadership role in community revitalization and natural resource management. Overall, however, women tend to be underrepresented in decision-making on sustainable development, including on climate change, and this impedes their ability to contribute their unique and valuable perspectives and expertise on the issue.
There is much work to be done to combat climate change, as was stressed in the ECOSOC chamber this morning. However, EW is always happy to see women recognized in their power and ability to be positive agents of change at the United Nations.