Since 2015, based on 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN started investing on overcoming the gender gap and supporting institutions that work for gender equality and women empowering in a global, local and national scale.
The climate change specific goal (SDG13) has, nowadays, a more detailed focus on women impact and their role as actors for change that includes gender issues on climate matters. This effort is clear on 23rd Climate Change Conference (COP23), that brought awareness initiatives and an agenda that approaches this theme specifically. Also during the conference, UNFCCC intends to conclude the Gender Action Plan,with specific actions to guarantee women representativeness in COP23 decision trials.
Climate change affect women and men in different ways. Gender social constructed roles, assigned to girls and boys since a very young age, reproduce inequality. For example, in many communities, women are the main producers for food and water, carrying greater responsibility for the families well being.
To understand that climate change impact men and women in distinct ways is fundamental for the construction of climate policies that touch gender issues, considering women diversities and needs out in the world. This was the theme of the “Assuring rights and gender equality in climate actions” painel, during COP23 second day.
“When there are eight white men in the world with the same amount of resources and production access as 50% of global population, it means we have to radically rethink the way we are going to invest in human rights, gender, social and economic equality”, said Noelene Nablulivou, Human Rights activist and consultant for the UNFCCC program Diverse Voices and Action for Equality, in Fiji.
“Every time you question local systems, that you stop to question and dialogue, there will be those people who will try to shut your mouth. In the time we’re living, trying to keep us safe inside our bodies and in our environment, we need to be together in solidarity and guarantee that women may move on”, concluded Noelene.
Embracing gender debate in COP23 negotiations
The debate on women participation in negotiations processes in COP started in 2001, during COP7. Since then, representativeness has risen from 30% to 36%, reaching its highest point in 2014. In the last three years, however, the number has been decreasing.
“This decrease is predictable. Gender inequality is not something that can be solved by creating international public policies. It must be fought in national levels”, said Bridget Burns, co-director of the Women’s Environment & Development Organization, and also one of the speakers during the panel.
Therefore, gender issues must be understandable and direct to all stages and processes of negotiations in UNFCCC. Nevertheless, one of the biggests challenges is to assure a basic understanding of gender in the context of COP and climate change. “People must perceive gender as a lense for power analysis, as a group of social rules that were constructed and assigned. When we talk about gender, we’re not talking only about women.”
According to Bridget, representativeness is still a challenge in negotiation rooms and in decision processes. “It’s not a problem only in the way decisions are made, but also in who is talking about it. When you take part in decisions of issues related to gender and climate change, you will notice that there are no women debating.”
Thus, one of the strategies adopted by UNFCCC to combat gender unequality in negotiation processes is to promote a reflection between decision makers, government representatives and civil society about the different ways that communities and people are impacted by climate change, considering their social duties.
From education and sensibilization of the agents involved in the process, it is possible to include gender debate in researches and public policies making relative to environment. In 2016, Global Gender and Climate Alliance published the document “Gender and Climate Change: a Closer Look at Existing Evidence”, with concrete data about the relationship between gender and climate change.
The document has been used as a tool in public policies making and as theoretical basis for projects on the theme. According to Bridget, investment in research is one of the social organizations strategies for working with gender and climate change.
In order to Gender Action Plat be effective in fighting gender unequality, the involved organizations advice that UNFCCC creates, among other things, climate policies related to gender, provides data on sex and gender in a separate way and also finances the action plan.