After being at COP22 for several days, I wanted to highlight some of the awesome and inspiring women I have met and listened to, and their gender-just climate solutions that have been presented here!
You may be wondering, what is a gender-just climate solution? Why does it even make sense to talk about gender and climate change together? When we talk about climate change, we must recognize the fact that clean energy and solutions to GHG emissions should not oppress or place more burdens on women. The truth is everyone wins when women are empowered and educated to pursue clean energy climate solutions in their communities.
On Monday I attended the Gender-Just Climate Solutions Awards that were put on by the Women and Gender Constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Before the awards were presented, they laid out the criteria:
One of these awards went to The Mohammad VI Foundation for Environmental Protection in Morocco, for their work in promoting and implementing ecostoves in communities. Ecostoves are an easy solution that reduce carbon emissions from the burning of biomass for cooking and improve public health. Three billion people around the world use the burning of coal or biomass for heating and cooking. It is estimated that 25% of the world’s black carbon emissions come from the burning of biomass for these purposes. Each year 4.3 million people die prematurely from diseases associated with household air pollution as a result of inefficient cooking. Women are most often affected by the negative health consequences of traditional cooking methods because they do the majority of the cooking.
I studied away in Oaxaca, Mexico for a semester last year, and while there I was first exposed to the idea of ecostoves and how they have a direct, tangible, positive impact on women. My Spanish language school shared a building with an organization called En Vía, which provides microfinance loans to women in rural, mainly indigenous villages so that they can start or maintain a small business. Recently, En Vía had gotten engineering students from Mexico City to come and install ecostoves in many of the women’s homes because of the health risks that they were facing.
Ecostoves prevent smoke from burning biomass from staying in the home, and also decrease the amount of biomass that needs to be burned for these purposes because of increased efficiency. This is a great example of a gender-just climate solution that advances and directly benefits women, while also helping to reduce emissions and combat climate change.
Besides helping to raise awareness of gender-just climate solutions, women at COP22 are angry, and they have a right to be. On Wednesday I attended a panel hosted by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) that featured women from around their world and their perspectives on climate justice and what they are doing on the frontlines in their communities to combat inequalities and climate change. A woman from Bolivia spoke about how a massive hydropower project was going to destroy and leave entire indigenous communities underwater in the name of clean energy and sustainable development. Other speakers touched on the fact that 50% of environmental activists that are assassinated are indigenous. Many are women. This event was among the most energized I’ve attended, and each panelist spoke with a huge sense of urgency.
At the Gender-Just Climate Solutions Awards earlier in the week, there was also a sense of urgency, but there was hope too. Awareness of gender equality in the context of climate change is increasing. More people are realizing that true climate justice cannot be accomplished without the participation and involvement of women in their communities around the world and the democratization of energy.
After each woman/organization received their awards at this event, the host, a very passionate Nigerian woman, asked us to sing a song with her. It’s been stuck in my head since Monday.
“So sing a song, for women everywhere! Equality, development, and peace!”