One speaks of gender rights and environmental rights. Speaking of them in combined mode, and that too on the UNFCCC track can be a challenge, but not necessarily one that is over burdening given its due importance.
Women play a key role in day to day life, and are those who are most burdened by issues pertaining to climate change. Nevertheless it be seen that it is on women that the focus remains lacking. In Decision 36 of COP 7 in 2001, the need to focus on gender and women has already been highlighted. On referring to the Beijing Declaration of 1995, the Decision goes to lay down the importance of the inclusion of women delegates in the UNFCCC process, and other form of entities that take action on climate change. This is based on the need for effective communication of women’s needs which can be most clearly stated by those who are affected due to their absence.
Furthermore articles 3,4,5, 15 and 16 of the Beijing Declaration stress on the need of women’s inclusion in development and equal treatment of men and women in development. In addition article 27 of the same provides that in the development of developing countries, the inclusion of the women in the process is needed, and highlights the need for participatory development where women are not side-lined by their male counter-part.
If one wonders what the relevance of all this is to “climate talks” or the UNFCCC process as one may call at one’s choice, the relevance lies in the fact that women are key victims of the impacts of climate change. They are the most vulnerable and are affected by climate disasters. Furthermore in agricultural communities affected by climate change, women walk for many kilometres in search of water. In Africa and certain parts of South Asia, in regions hit by droughts, women not only suffer to find water, but also combat the scarcity of food in feeding their children. Maternity makes those vulnerable more vulnerable to climate change, health-wise as well as financial wise. In many coastal communities livelihoods are affected, agricultural communities are impacted with loss of crops due to sudden changes in the climate. The mother of the family bears all of it, while struggling to adapt to changes in circumstance, while at a loss of livelihood through harsh changes in the climate.
Not only the aforementioned, the lack of awareness and lack of education among women regarding the impacts of climate change does affect their ability to react to what they are in the process of confronting. The seasons may change, the crops may be damaged, and the rains may fall harsher, but the lack of knowledge on what impacts their life, makes the woman unable to adapt to the situation as appropriate. Hence the need for more focus on Article 6 and education. Girls in societies where they are deprived of access to education render them vulnerable, and deprive knowledge to forth coming generations, where mothers would play a key role in shaping the lives of the children. As chich¬é as it may sound, that be the reality, and one can do but to acknowledge , if needs to be taken sane that education of a woman is the educating of a generation.
So what is needed? More inclusion of gender (I do see many women in the process of the UNFCCC, so may be focussing on highlighting the cause of women and their rights in combating climate change could be the next step for those who walk the corridors of UNFCCC – including the writer, that being me of course). So time to suit up, buckle up, and call for climate justice, several “pinches” of gender included.