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U.S. withdraws from Paris Accord, and the impact on women

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Yesterday, U.S. government officials announced their decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, an agreement endorsed by almost all countries in the world. This agreement expresses a unified commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change.

A key question we are asking at WEA: What will this mean for women?

It’s no secret that women are often the most devastatingly impacted by climate change and environmental degradation — and this likelihood increases for women who face compounded issues of poverty and other socioeconomic disadvantages. In 2009, the United Nations Population Fund explained this dynamic in its “State of the World Population” report:

“Women — particularly those in poor countries — will be affected differently than men. They are among the most vulnerable to climate change, partly because in many countries they make up the larger share of the agricultural work force and partly because they tend to have access to fewer income-earning opportunities. Women manage households and care for family members, which often limits their mobility and increases their vulnerability to sudden weather-related natural disasters. Drought and erratic rainfall force women to work harder to secure food, water and energy for their homes. Girls drop out of school to help their mothers with these tasks. This cycle of deprivation, poverty and inequality undermines the social capital needed to deal effectively with climate change.”

The Paris Climate Accord, while not legally binding, is a key step down the path of outlining a plan for the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the most significant driver of climate change. Specifically, participating nations pledged to reduce their emissions by different amounts and report back on their progress. Under the Obama Administration, the U.S. committed to a 26-28% decrease in emissions by 2025.

And while the Accord sadly lacks a full gendered lens and analysis, the preamble does call for increased equality and women’s empowerment as necessary to combatting climate change. As Cathy Russell, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, stated, ”improving the lives of women and girls is ‘mission critical’ for saving the planet.

WEA was built to address this “mission critical” piece of the puzzle. As a global community, we cannot comprehensively address our world’s most pressing issues — of food, land, water, energy and, yes, climate change — without centering the importance of women’s agency. Women are the backbone of the community — they are the family caretakers, the food and fuel providers, and those who most often go without so that their children don’t need to. They are best positioned with the solutions that will see us through these challenging times.

Are we troubled by our government’s recent decision and current view on climate change? Yes, deeply. As this article shares:

“Refusing to acknowledge climate change’s detrimental effects on the world also means a refusal to acknowledge the ways it puts the lives and livelihood of many women around the world at risk. Removing the U.S. from the international agreement to combat harmful emissions not only proves the environment isn’t a priority for the Trump administration, it proves women aren’t a priority, either.”

That’s why we believe it’s a moment to double down on investing in our world’s grassroots women leaders. We look to our partners, to the grassroots women leaders around the world whose work on the ground for their communities, the earth, and future generations never retreats. We cannot wait for our governments to follow through on pledges of gender equality and environmental commitment. More than ever, we need to counteract global warming, environmental injustice and nationalistic separatism with creative investments in bridge-building, grassroots movement-building, and women.

Here is a roundup of a few articles addressing the impact that the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord will have on women:

 

WEA and WISE’s Clean Cookstoves Training gets national coverage in Nigeria!

Project: WISE Women's Clean Cookstoves Project

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This past April, WEA and WISE (Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Environment) kicked off a series of two training intensives as part of our joint WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves Training in Kaduna, Nigeria. These trainings aimed not only to provide women in Nigeria with access to life-saving clean cookstoves, but also to equip them with the skills, tools, networks and resources they need to start and scale their own clean cookstove businesses, causing a ripple of clean energy impact throughout their communities.

Why is this so important? Because clean cookstoves saves lives. According to a study done by the World Health Organization, 98,000 Nigerians — mostly women — die annually as a result of smoke inhaled while cooking with firewood. If a woman cooks breakfast, lunch, and dinner for her family with a traditional cookstove, it is the equivalent to smoking 3 to 20 packets of cigarettes a day.

WEA Project Lead and Founder/Director of WISE, Olanike Olugboji, had a chance to talk to some media outlets at the close of the project’s second week-long training intensive at the end of May, and shared with them her own insights on the critical need for this work and women’s entrepreneurial and environmental leadership.

WEA and WISE’s Clean Cookstove Training participants

“This project, according to Olugboji, would help to curb deaths resulting from inhalation of smoke from firewood, which she puts at more than [98,000] death annually in the country. She explained that the second phase of the training, which would end on Friday, was designed to strengthen the women’s marketing strategy in promoting the use of clean cook stove…Similarly, a resource person, Ms. Happy Amos, described clean cook stove as “a social enterprise”, not only for its financial gains, but also for its social and environmental impact.” —  Nigeria News Network

We’re incredibly honored to be involved in this project, and are so inspired by the continued effort and commitment of the women who participated in the training and are now entrepreneurs in their communities!

We’ll be sharing updates with you as we hear back from training participants on the launch of their own businesses, but until then, here’s a roundup of articles that covered this groundbreaking training:

 

Empower Women and Save the Planet

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At the core of WEA’s work is our conviction that to truly and holistically address the issues women face and the issues our environment faces, we must work from an intersectional foundation. This is why we develop trainings for women in environmentally threatened regions around the world to regenerate water, food, and clean energy for their communities. Our trainings equip these women with technical, entrepreneurial, and leadership skills (in topics such as solar cooking, water protection, sustainable farming, clean cookstoves, seed saving and more), so they can protect their environment, generate income, and improve communities from the inside out.

This article featured in the Huffington Post speaks to this intersection.

…[M]utually-aligned advocacy exposes a vital truth that many in both movements have long known: empowering women is crucial to a range of environmental concerns, including climate change. After all, women are the workers, agricultural laborers, and farmers who toil under the weight of current environmental policies… and they are the ones most immediately affected by both quick-acting and slow-acting environmental disasters…

The grand solution is to empower women—it is our moral and political right. It also has the benefit of “saving the planet.” We should be able to act collectively upon the alignment of these two related deeply related issues. Environmentalist should address gender inequality; women’s rights advocates should incorporate environmental concerns. We need to work collaboratively across these issues not just because it makes sense strategically, but because these causes are related at the deepest levels.

Read the entire article here.

WISE Women’s Clean Cookstove Training Retreat Gaining National Attention

Project: WISE Women's Clean Cookstoves Project

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The WISE Women’s Clean Cookstove Project, partnership between WEA and Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE) in Kaduna, Nigeria, just completed its first of two week-long training retreats and The Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves featured the project its newsletter this month!

This [training] will help empower fellow women leaders in their communities, and break the structural barriers which limit the success of renewable energy initiatives around the world. This initiative is highly commended by the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

We are honored to have this work highlighted by an amazing organization, and one whose own work is so inspiring, like the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves! Read the entire article here.

The 15 cookstove teams are now back home, gathering information to build their business models during  the final training retreat at the end of May!

 

 

63 million people in rural India are living without access to clean water.

Project: Together for H2OPE

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Here, the day after World Water Day, comes a report on the state of world’s water from Water Aid. In its’ summary of the report, The Hindustan Times underlines how the water strain in India is especially damaging to country’s rural communities.

This report is a reminder that water conservation efforts and the efforts of those working to bring underserved communities access to clean water has no specific day or active season. Our project, Together for H2OPE will help to ensure clean water to over 6,500 tea farmers in Assam state, India. For our amazing project partners on the ground and people fighting all over the world to bring this essential life resource to every person, every day is World Water Day. The time is now, yesterday and tomorrow!

Samir Jama/ HT Times file photo

 

Lack of government planning, competing demands, rising population and water-draining agricultural practices are all placing increasing strain on water, said the WaterAid’s report.

Without access to clean water, 63 million people are living in rural areas in India. Diseases such as cholera, blinding trachoma, malaria and dengue are expected to become more common and malnutrition more prevalent, it said.

Rural communities dependent on farming to make a living will struggle to grow food and feed livestock amid soaring temperatures, and women — typically responsible for collecting water — may have to walk even greater distances during prolonged dry seasons, the report forewarned.

Read the full article here, and find the report here.