COP21: Time to Put a Cap on Global Gender Inequality

Topics: , , , ,

By: Katie Douglas, WEA Intern

COP21 (1)

“I will ensure this… the climate battle must be fought for, and with, women,” stated Laurent Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development. These words are Fabius’ bold commitment for the 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP) which starts today in Paris, over which he will preside as President. For WEA and our global allies, his declaration is a real opportunity for world leaders to highlight and recommit themselves to addressing the intersectional relationship of women and the environment on an international level. The only question is whether Fabius and other decision-makers have the gumption to follow through on such promises made months ago? Or will COP21 be yet another international meeting that renders gender equality irrelevant to climate change, and creates an environmental protocol without the mechanisms to enforce it?

COP began as an international response to climate change with the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. COP21 represents a chance for representatives from over 190 countries to cooperatively create universal agreements, all in the aim of keeping our climate below 2°C or 3.6°F. The U.S., the European Union., Russia, China, and India will largely negotiate the next 50 year agenda, as they are all among the highest emitters of greenhouse gases. However, in the past these powerhouse countries have failed to prioritize the critical role of and impacts on women in the global environmental movement.

One of the many reasons women are so incredibly impacted by the effects of climate change is due to the vital role they play in securing the natural resources that their families depend upon for survival, such as clean water, food, and fuel. Around 70% of women work in agriculture in low-income food-deficit countries, though generally women own less than 10% of the land. These women are already forced to mitigate the effects of climate change that drive soil erosion, drought, and food scarcity, and through traditional methods and knowledge these women are able to adapt successfully. The2014 Copenhagen Consensus stated that agriculture research is the single most effective way to invest in fighting malnourishment. Combine this with the fact that agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to pollution, and the answer is straightforward: Invest in women as keepers of traditional knowledge and stewards of natural resources, provide them with the support and networks necessary to develop their community-based, sustainable solutions, and witness how the ripple of their efforts become a wave of transformation.

But one of the biggest challenges in constructing an effective international protocol is designing the mechanisms to enforce it. Past COPs have only created legally non-binding frameworks for treaty negotiations, such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. So long as countries can opt out of ratifying treaties that might actually impact their emission levels, there seems little prospect for any sort of enforcement on pollutant control. However, at COP21 there is hope for change as the conference’s main goal is to, for the first time, create a universal, legally binding agreement with which to effectively combat climate change. A global accord where individual countries are actually held accountable to their actions is an opportunity to create environmental protocols that invest in the women leaders who are already adapting to these changes.

For WEA and our allies around the world, we can only hope that this rare opportunity for change will not overlook women—who are critical agents in any long-term plans for our earth and future generations—and that those world leaders like Laurent Fabius will hold true to their words. Because it’s time for a protocol that doesn’t merely cap our emissions, but asks us to restructure our world to a more sustainable way of life. So let’s make a change and invest in women to invest in a sustainable future.

___________________
Further Reading:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurent-fabius/taking-climate-action-for-and-with-women_b_6819596.html
http://ecowatch.com/2015/07/06/carl-pope-paris-climate-talks/

A Gendered Perspective: Reflections on the MDG and the potential of the SDG

Topics: , , , ,

By: Katie Douglas, WEA Intern

katies mdg

A woman closes the door behind her and sets off into the early light of dawn. It’s the pre-monsoon season in India, and the air is thick with heat as she walks to her small kitchen garden. What began as a grant of seeds, has transformed into fertile beds of earth that are all her own. From her garden she can produce crops to both feed and financially support her family. From her garden she has been able to build alliances with other local women’s collectives around the importance of organic farming and how to improve their own self-sufficiency. From her garden her future is now one of abundance and opportunity.

This is our vision for the world because, we believe that when women thrive, communities thrive. When women are supported and resourced, they are able to lift their communities out of poverty, increase economic stability, and provide countries with sustainable practices to address and combat climate change. In light of this, the member states of the United Nation’s have been awarded a rare opportunity. As they reconstruct the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that will be adopted in September, these nations and participating NGOs have the potential for being the spark that makes the WEA vision for the world—a world where grassroots women leaders are heard, and their knowledge is honored and uplifted for the betterment of us all—a reality.

In 2000, the eight MDG were established by the UN to target global issues identified as being some of our world’s most pressing concerns. Over the past fifteen years, great strides have been made towards accomplishing these goals. The percentage of those living in extreme poverty has been reduced nearly by half, from 1.9 billion to 836 million. More girls than ever are now enrolled in schools, and gender equality in secondary schools in 36 developing nations is no longer just an aspiration, but a shining reality. Access to clean drinking water has also seen an increase for up to 90% of the global population. But while this incredible progress represents important steps toward creating global equality, the work of the MDG isn’t finished. We cannot regard this progress as a landmark triumph while millions of people—particularly women and girls—continue to face severe poverty, basic human rights insecurity and deep inequity.

07-01-mdgs-07

In this way, the MDG have come up short in shedding light on the intersectionality of the original goals, especially with regard to gender. In the final progress report the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki Moon, noted that of all the goals, gender equality and woman’s health were the most neglected. Even with an advanced education women around the world continue to earn 24% less than men. Less than 20% of government leaders in the world are women. And women in developing nations are fourteen times as likely to die as women in developed nations. When we look at this reality, we can clearly see how issues of climate change, food security, and environmental degradation continue—these are interconnected challenges existing in an ecosystem that is our world, and one challenge cannot be addressed while ignoring another.

Come September, all countries that participated in the MDG must re-evaluate and submit new goals, which will become the SDG. Of the seventeen SDG declared so far, one goal directly focuses on women, while many others have the potential to impact gender in positive and critical ways. Goal #5, the aim of achieving gender equality and empowering all girls and women, is only one of many and yet impacts almost every other issue at stake. In fact, a 2014 study by the Copenhagen Consensus Center providing guidance on which of the drafted SDG targets were the best investments rated those aimed at gender equality among the highest. Still, many governments fail to invest in the leadership and capacity-building of women, they fail to increase resources to address violence against women or to ensure access to reproductive health care, and they fail to recognize the disproportionate financial and environmental burden women bear as food producers and providers, community caretakers, and natural resource stewards. The global success of women represents our greatest hope for a reconciled world, and this is something that must be taken seriously by the SDG and world nations.

SDGs

The Millennium Development Goals gave us a glimpse of a world where change is possible. Through WEA’s vision of recognizing essential women’s rights, and building global networks of empowered female leaders, the Sustainable Development Goals have the potential to create a world where change truly is sustainable.
************************

Further Reading

http://iwhc.org/resource/10-red-flags-for-the-zero-draft-of-the-post-2015-development-agenda/
http://www.refinery29.com/2015/07/90279/united-nations-goals-report-gender-equality

Everything Connnected to the Land is Connected to our Bodies

Project: Shedding Light on Environmental Violence in North America

Topics: , , ,

The links between land and body have never been more apparent than in recent years, with extractive industries drilling, mining and fracking lands on or near traditional Indigenous territories, providing economic benefits to transnational corporations and national economies at a cost impacted communities are still grappling to understand. A cost most deeply felt by Indigenous women and young people.

This is why WEA is currently working in partnership with Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN) to explore this critical intersection and ways to support the leadership of young Indigenous women who are resisting environmental violence in their communities.

To learn more about this work, please visit our website.

This beautiful piece was done by WEA Intern, Katie Douglas, for WEA’s initiative on environmental violence.

 

Violence_on_Our_Earth

 

From the artist: Each day that I spend interning at WEA teaches me more on the intersectionality that binds women’s rights, indigenous communities, and the environment. While the natural symmetry of these three elements is beautiful, the reality of their existence in our world is often one of destruction and injustice. As the greed of industry spreads, it is impossible not to see the direct correlation between detrimental environmental practices and their impacts on women with regard to health, culture, and actions of violence. From this, I was inspired to create an image that could begin to express humanity’s violation of the Earth as a parallel to humanity’s violation of the women’s bodies.

The open copper pit mine of the her belly shows that humanity is not only extracting Earth’s resources, but also that by plundering straight from her womb we are destroying any chance of future life. An oil well symbolizes the pollution that degrades the environment of so many native communities, while the flag is a symbol of the widespread domination of the Earth, indigenous peoples and women. Deforestation and waste are represented by the stump and can, and placed on her breasts to show our extreme dependence on these non-renewable resources. Despite the bleak outlook of the image, the ball of light in her hand represents my feeling of hope. Because if WEA has taught me anything, it is to trust to in the immense and impenetrable power that women hold in our hands to change this world for the better.

Keystone XL Pipeline: The Effects on the Environment and Indigenous People

Project: Coordinating Advocacy to Protect Native Lands and Rights

Topics: , , , ,

“I urge our allies to stand with Native people, heed our call for systemic change to how we create and utilize energy and the policies that regulate both, support our right to self-determination, and join our movement to protect the territorial integrity and sacredness of Mother Earth.”                    

 –Dallas Goldtooth

11b13485-3124-4e28-a0d4-f6802022808d-2060x1236

Dallas Goldtooth, the Keystone XL Campaign Organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, wrote a fantastic article concerning the devastating effects the 1,179 mile long oil pipeline would have on drinking water, tar sand development, carbon emissions, and especially the indigenous people. As an Oceti Sakowin, he cannot remain silent with the possibility of his people’s traditional knowledge and teachings totally being disregarded. WEA’s comments to the State Department on the Environmental Impact Statement for the pipeline, along with the collective effort of indigenous people, helped to delay the approval of the pipeline project.

WEA’s New Partnership to Address Environmental Violence

Project: Shedding Light on Environmental Violence in North America

Topics: , ,

We are so proud to be in partnership with The Native Youth Sexual Health Network on a community-based research and advocacy initiative to address the environmental violence Indigenous women and  youth face as a result of extreme extraction.

Everything that impacts the land in turn impacts our bodies.

Visit the link below to learn more about this initiative, how it aims to address the impacts of extractive industries on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of Indigenous communities, how you can get involved or share your knowledge, or other ways you can support.

safe_image-1.php_-400x208