When are we going to seriously consider gender?

Written by Sarah Huang

I am writing this blog post firstly as a woman attending COP21. As I have been attending various events in the Climate Generations space, I have become very attuned to the ways in which various events and speakers incorporate a conversation about gender in relation to climate change.

After attending some events during REDD+ day at Rio Pavilion, I became really disheartened after the same perspective on gender was once again displayed at a prominent event funded by United Nations Development Programme. The man came across his slide on gender perspectives and actually said that we didn’t need to talk about this slide because it was self explanatory and then proceeded with his presentation.

The consideration of gender equity and gendered policies within climate change should not be an afterthought, nor should it just be another item on a checklist for addressing climate solutions. Women and indigenous peoples are affected most by environmental change and climate change. Rather than aligning gendered policies with only women, we must understand that gender is an incorporation of all gendered identities, and not just male and female. We must also understand the ways in which women and LGBTQ are disproportionately impacted by climate policies that do not take into account the ways that these people are left out of the conversation, left out of protection, and left out of recognition for their roles in communities.

There are many conversations about the ways in which women are closely aligned with nature, natural resources and thus the protection of children, families and Mother Earth. There are also conversations about how women hold very specific knowledge to the use of these resources. But as one woman from Kenya put it, we need to stop valorizing women’s contributions and provide them with resources to conduct action.

This perspective emphasizes the campaign for women’s rights in a way that calls for recognition of the role of women, but also for the call to action that provides women with resources and tools to implement change in their communities. This is also a perspective that is seen in the many women’s movements surrounded around environmental justice, climate justice, and grassroots activism. Women are on the ground implementing programs in their communities, fighting for their rights at the forefront, but oftentimes it is just their bodies that are represented at the front lines and not their voices.

I will close with this last thought: we must recognize that gendered identities, are not meant to be a box on your checklist of peoples that are included in your organizational programs and projects. Gender identities and the right of women fighting for climate justice is a movement and mobilization of strong women allied in their fight for recognition and access to resources, land, and the tools to continue their work. But what is really needed is the recognition of women’s voices within policy, within negotiations, within their communities, and lastly within the COP. Let this be the moment where we actually seriously consider women and gender smart climate policy where women are at the table, where their voices are the ones implementing policies that will directly impact their communities, livelihoods, and environments. So I ask, what does the actual inclusion of gender and women’s rights in climate policy really look like and what steps can we take to get there?

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