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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:

 

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.

Women bear the brunt of climate-forced migration

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In a recent article, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) stated in 2014, “Environmental migration is a gendered process, but discussions within public, policy, and academia regarding environmental migration are often gender-neutral, few studies making the link between migration, environment and gender.”

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A family from Panama, Sri Lanka is driven out of their home by floodwaters during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Photo: Mangala, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

According to the IOM, “vulnerabilities, experiences, needs and priorities of environmental migrants vary according to women’s and men’s different roles, as do responsibilities, access to information, resources, education, physical security and employment opportunities.”

However, “The struggles of women environmental migrants have been documented but there is no statistical data to formulate effective policies.” What is known is that the IOM’s 2016 Atlas of Environmental Migration, “the latest and most exhaustive study on the subject, claims that in 2015, 19 million people were newly displaced due to climate disasters globally. This figure does not even include displacement from drought and slow onset environmental degradation. Overall, one billion out of the planet’s 7 billion people are presently on the move, either within countries or beyond borders.

Read the full article at Eco-Business here.

 

Women Scientists and Environmental Activists Fight Back Against Climate Change Deniers in D.C.

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women scientists march
Photo: Julie Dermansky for desmogblog.com

A lot is happening this week, but a few things have remained the same for us here at WEA: 1) Facts are facts, 2) climate change is happening (we see the impacts in our work everyday), and 3) women continue to stand up for the earth and their communities.

We’ve been inspired by the thousands upon thousands of women who have joined together to ensure their voices are heard as our nation and global community debate key issues that will determine our future, such as the dozens of female scientists who met in front of the National Air and Space Museum for the Women’s March on Washington. They are part of 500 Women Scientists, who warn: “Our planet cannot afford to lose any time.”

Read the full article on DESMOG here.

Indigenous women in Peru use seed saving and traditional knowledge to combat climate change

Project: Planting Seeds of Resilience in Southern India

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Throughout the 10 years of WEA’s work, we’ve seen how women are often those preserving traditional knowledge and shepherding intergenerational knowledge transfer within communities. This is true of both ecological and cultural knowledge, and those two things more often than not are intimately linked.

Seed saving is a wonderful example of this link, and we have learned so much about the preservation of seed and cultural/gender identity through our work with Vanastree, a women-led seed saving collective in Southern India, and our partner in our Seeds of Resilience Project.

This is why we’re so excited by this article from UN Women, which highlights the importance of traditional knowledge farming techniques such as seed saving in Indigenous communities in Peru.

Magaly Garayar works on her farm in Laramate, Peru. The indigenous women of Laramate use ancestral farming techniques intended to yield more nutritious and weather-resistant crops than modern methods. Photo courtesy of CHIRAPAQ
Magaly Garayar works on her farm in Laramate, Peru. The indigenous women of Laramate use ancestral farming techniques intended to yield more nutritious and weather-resistant crops than modern methods. Photo courtesy of CHIRAPAQ

The indigenous farmers of the Laramate district in Peru know what climate change looks like. They saw their crops shrivel in drought and rot under untimely rain and frost. The production suffered and their children were malnourished, until the indigenous women of the farming communities of Atocata, Miraflores, Patachana, Yauca and Tucuta turned to their ancestral techniques of choosing and conserving the seeds and cultivating the land.

The result has been astounding. The fields are now lush with potatoes, olluco, corn, vegetables, fruits and grains, such as kiwicha. The yield is higher and more diverse, the crops are more resilient to frost and drought, and the products are more nutritious.

The women select healthy seeds, rotate the crops to recover soil fertility and irrigate the land more efficiently, using the methods of their ancestors. Since they no longer use agrochemicals, their products taste better and last longer.

“Our land is the only legacy we have. We take care of it as our ancestors would…” says 37-year-old Magaly Garayar, resident of the Atocata community[.]

Read the full post here.