Women must be heard in climate decision-making - Hindustan Times
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Women must be heard in climate decision-making

Dec 30, 2023 10:13 PM IST

The government must support the voice of women in the response to the climate crisis through increased participation in policy design

As we look back at 2023, it is the year that discussions on the climate crisis intensified, in the lead-up to COP28 in Dubai. It was also a year of extreme weather events that affected people across the world, more so women and girls. Traditionally discriminatory practices mean that women are more affected by the climate crisis and have the least resources and skills to cope with it. India, which has taken the lead in many aspects of the climate crisis, should focus on giving women and girls a voice in climate decision-making. The government must support the voice of women in the response to the climate crisis through increased participation in policy design, and establishing opportunities for meaningful engagement in climate processes.

Women shout slogans during a protest for climate justice and a cease fire in Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, during the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 9, 2023. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky(REUTERS) PREMIUM
Women shout slogans during a protest for climate justice and a cease fire in Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, during the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 9, 2023. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky(REUTERS)

India, with its vigorous Panchayati Raj system which has seen robust participation from women, is ideally placed to lead the way in fostering gender equality in climate processes in the Global South. The success of involving ASHA workers in the Covid battle was a result of their adaptability and resilience. They are ideally suited to spread awareness of the climate crisis, especially in rural areas. The government must allocate additional resources to generate awareness of gender equality and to create platforms for women to engage with climate movements.

Annapurna Vancheswaran, CEO, The Nature Conservancy, says, “While there is a sincere effort to empower girls and women to benefit from climate action, much more is needed in this direction. Successive COPs have attempted to advance knowledge of gender-responsive climate action, which one hoped would have snowballed into actionable work programmes that directly reach out to women and girls in developing countries, but sadly it remains an action plan still.” This is worrying as women and girls, the most affected by the impacts of the climate crisis, need to be able to frame responses to extreme climate events. Researchers say that by 2030, the financial cost of loss and damage for developing countries is estimated at between $290-580 billion annually. By 2050, the cost will reach about $1.8 trillion. Extreme weather events affect physical and mental health, they impact safe drinking water, adequate nutrition and shelter, putting women’s safety at risk. Women face challenges in accessing reproductive and other health services, all of which ultimately lead to inter-generational poverty and marginalisation.

Despite vigorous efforts by women’s groups and activists, only 38% of delegates at the COP28 were women, a mere one per cent increase over COP27. It was, however, recognised at COP28 that women need more economic power as countries begin their shift to low-carbon strategies.

Christopher Nial, climate expert and senior partner at Finn Partners, who attended COP28, says, “Women are still underrepresented at climate negotiation forums, a stark contrast to the disproportionate impact the climate crisis has on them. Women are often at the frontline of climate-related challenges, so their voices are essential. COP28 made strides in weaving gender perspectives into climate discussions, but there’s still a significant gap. Initiatives like the Gender-Responsive Just Transitions and Global Climate Action Partnership highlighted the need for women’s meaningful participation, yet this and other similar efforts weren’t fully integrated into key outcomes like the Marrakech Partnership. To ensure women’s voices shape climate policy, dedicated financing for gender parity is crucial but not sufficient. Integrating diverse voices will lead to more comprehensive and effective climate policies.”

Vancheswaran adds, “The success of self-help groups shows that gender equality and empowerment have yielded greater returns to economic growth and sustainable development. As gender awareness grows, we can be bullish and see more financial institutions commit to setting gender-related targets.” That at least holds out some hope, if serious efforts are made, for a greater voice for women in climate issues as we begin the new year.

The views expressed are personal

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