Archive for the ‘gender and climate change’ Category
Two amazing conferences are coming up that will have some excellent speakers AND are affordable. I’ll be live blogging hopefully from both and of them and also will hopefully see you there!
The first is the Feminism and Climate Change conference at Barnard College in NYC on February 27th. One of my favorite environmental leaders, Majora Carter, will be giving the keynote address. For Barnard students, the conference is free but for everyone else the suggested price is $50.
The second is the annual Reproductive Justice Conference from April 9-11 at Hampshire College. It will be my first time attending, but friends of mine that have gone in the past say it’s an unbelievable experience.
Women’s groups all agree on one thing about the earthqauke disaster in Haiti: to rebuild successfully, start with the women.
When relief is distributed by women, it has the best chance of reaching those most in need. That’s not because women are morally superior. It is because their roles as caretakers in the community means they know where every family lives, which households have new babies or disabled elders, and how to reach remote communities even in disaster conditions.
Unfortunately even before the earthquake, women were struggling in Haiti. Now, with no resources, they are left open to violence and hunger. The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) is “cautiously optimistic” about a new plan that distributes rations to the female head of the household.
The programme, launched yesterday, provides women with coloured and dated vouchers that can be exchanged for a 25-kilogram (55-pound) rice ration at one of 16 centres in Port-au-Prince – including at the Sylvio Cator Stadium, which before the earthquake was the country’s national soccer stadium and now houses a tent-city of displaced Haitians.
Both Madre, AWID and other women rights groups remain adamant that helping women will result in a faster rebuilding process for the rest of Haiti. For more excellent analysis on the ongoing crisis in Haiti check out the AWID’s new section devoted to earthquake relief.
Every week I will post a short biography from The United Nations Who’s Who of Women and the Environment. This week is featuring Mei Ng from China:
From meeting rooms to pollution hotspots, from lobby platform to legislative chambers, from recycling sweatshops to landfills, from congested streets to country parks, from consumer wasteland to green homes, from kindergartens to university lecture halls, from freezing air-conditioned offices to wind farms in southern China, from urbanized Hong Kong to unsustainable villages and drought plagued provinces in developing China, Mei Ng’s green footprint has travelled far and wide. In the last 15 years, her effort to promote awareness and transfer NGO experience has helped to catalyze the budding green movement in China since 1992. Mei Ng’s green message has travelled 26500 km to 15 provinces and touched over 860,000 people.
Mrs. Mei Ng is the Director of Friends of the Earth (Hong Kong). She was elected to the UNEP Global 500 Roll of Honor in 2000. In the same year, she was appointed by the State Environmental Protection Agency as China Environment Envoy. In 2003, Mrs Ng was decorated with the Bronze Bauhinia Star by the Hong Kong SAR Government for her environmental contribution to Hong Kong.
Mrs. Ng has actively participated in environmental policy development and community mobilization. She was appointed to the Advisory Council on the Environment (ACE) since 2001 and invited as an advisor to the Hong Kong Sustainable Industry Council.
Leading a dedicated team to catalyse sustainability thinking, environmental governance and public participation, her priority campaigns include responsible consumption, renewable energy, community participation and sustainable development through women and youth empowerment.
Her millennium vision is to mobilize women folks to safeguard their environmental and quality of life. Turning pig waste-to-energy in China’s arid western region to halt logging and desertification and raising awareness of women factory workers in Southern China’s pollution hotspots, Mei Ng believes in lighting a candle rather than curse darkness.
As a sustainability pathfinder, Mei Ng has been lighting small candles in Hong Kong and China. She believes in Do-It-Yourself Environmentalism in keeping with the spirit of Sustainability.
For Shannon Hayes, a writer for Yes Magazine, this question also involved the impact her decision would have on the planet. She doesn’t believe in conforming to gender roles, but the sustainable benefits of having her AND her husband stay home with the kids outweighed any negatives. After doing some research she also discovered that it was only after the industrial revolution took over America that taking care of the household was deemed “women’s work”
A search for the origin of the word housewife traces it back to the thirteenth century, as the feudal period was coming to an end in Europe and the first signs of a middle class were popping up. Historian Ruth Schwartz Cowan explains that housewives were wedded to husbands, whose name came from hus, an old spelling of house, and bonded. Husbands were bonded to houses, rather than to lords. Housewives and husbands were free people, who owned their own homes and lived off their land. While there was a division of labor among the sexes in these early households, there was also an equal distribution of domestic work. Once the Industrial Revolution happened, however, things changed. Men left the household to work for wages, which were then used to purchase goods and services that they were no longer home to provide.
Hayes had the notion that she was not alone in her new profession which she deemed “Radical Homemakers” and went across America to study other families like hers.
By virtue of these skills, the Radical Homemakers I interviewed were building a great bridge from our existing extractive economy—where corporate wealth has been regarded as the foundation of economic health, where mining our Earth’s resources and exploiting our international neighbors have been acceptable costs of doing business—to a life serving economy, where the goal is, in the words of David Korten, to generate a living for all, rather than a killing for a few; where our resources are sustained, our waters are kept clean, our air pure, and families and can lead meaningful lives.
Read the rest of Hayes testimonial to Radical Homemakers here
Since I was away and wasn’t able to keep up with all the great reflections from women on Copenhagen I’ll provide you with a list of just that from the Feminist Peace Network:
Activist Naomi Klein kicked off the Klimaforum, the alternative people’s gathering being held in conjunction with the Copenhagen Climate Change talks by pointing out that the official talks had official corporate sponsors, which says it all when it comes to integrity:
Naomi also had critical words to say about Hopenhagen and its branding extravaganza. “The globe has Siemens logo on the bottom and the whole event is sponsored by Coke. That is a capitalization of hope but Klimaforum09 is where the real hope lies,” she said.
“Klimaforum is not about giving charity to the developing world its about taking responsibility and the industrialized countries cleaning up our own mess,” she concluded.
In a followup article, she writes,
A highlight of my time at COP15 so far was a conversation with the extraordinary Nigerian poet and activist Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International. We talked about the fact that some of the toughest activists here still pull their punches when it comes to Obama, even as his climate team works tirelessly to do away with the Kyoto Protocol, replacing it with much weaker piecemeal targets.
If George W. Bush had pulled some of the things Obama has done here, he would have been burned in effigy on the steps of the convention center. With Obama, however, even the most timid actions are greeted as historic breakthroughs, or at least a good start.
“Everyone says: ‘give Obama time,’” Bassey told me. “But when it comes to climate change, there is no more time.” The best analogy, he said, is a soccer game that has gone into overtime. “It’s not even injury time, it’s sudden death. It’s the nick of time, but there is no more extra time.”
Global Sister has an excellent article up called, A Feminist Focus on Climate Change which points to a fascinating study by BRIDGE that looks at linkages between gender and climate change, well worth the read.
UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid has this to say:
“Women should be part of any agreement on climate change — not as an afterthought or because it’s politically correct, but because it’s the right thing to do. Our future as humanity depends on unleashing the full potential of all human beings, and the full capacity of women, to bring about change.”
Women, Water, and Climate Justice—Cameroonian Human Rights Activist Asaha Elizabeth Ufei Leads the Way posted by the NAACP Climate Justice Iniative provides an excellent analysis of how the impact off climate change on water supplies influences women:
As the climate conditions worsen, women are finding it harder to provide food and water for their families. The once reliable and nearby water sources are drying up or contaminated; and the crops aren’t producing enough. So we are faced with questions: How many more miles must women have to walk to provide basic life-sources? What other ways can women sustain their families when the traditional agriculture and craft materials are gone? How many women will have to uproot their families and migrate to other places—that may be hostile to immigrants—because they can longer find food and shelter in their communities? How many more women and girls will be pushed into survival sex work because there are fewer economic opportunities? How many more people who speak up about human rights and organize for change will be severely punished, coerced to leave their countries, or forever silenced?
Dr Sue Wareham, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons’ (ICAN) Australian board member discusses whether nuclear power has a place in how we address climate change in this Q&A with IPS:
IPS: Is nuclear power, being carbon-free, the panacea for climate change problems and should it be a substitute for coal-fuelled power stations?
SW: We don’t agree nuclear power is a sensible way forward in response to climate change. Nuclear power cannot address the issue of climate change. There are physical limitations to the number of nuclear power stations that could be built in the next decade or so.
Even if there is further development of nuclear power, it will be far too slow because it takes 10 to 15 years to get a nuclear power plant at a point of producing electricity. We need action faster than that.
Particularly important also is the links with weapons. We know there are definite links between the civilian and military fuel cycles, and that is a particular problem that will remain as long as nuclear power is there.
There is also the problem of nuclear waste to which no country has a solution yet. We regard it as unacceptable that this generation should leave our waste to future generations. The technological and practical reality is that we don’t have any way of separating nuclear waste from the environment.
Our message is that the world really needs to put serious and significant funding into further promotion, development and implementation of renewable energies—solar, wind, geothermal and biofuels, which have been underused and under-resourced.
In this thoughtful piece, Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai discusses what poorer nations need to combat climate change:
Unless the poor countries commit to development, they will continue to be under-developed and they will not be able to improve the quality of life of their people. Yet, any path that continues to encourage growth and use of fossil fuels will generate disquiet. It is for this reason that these poor countries need financial help, capacity building and transfer of not only available, but also affordable technology.
And towards the end of COP15, Maathai presented the People’s Orb to world leaders:
Maathai told politicians that while “They cannot negotiate with the environment they can negotiate with each other.”
Maathai’s call reiterated that of the UN Secretary General’s, who told heads of state attending the opening, “Our job here and now is to seal the deal … a deal that is in our common interest. For three years I have sought to bring world leaders to the table to solve climate change. Now they are coming. Three years of effort have come down to three days of action.”
In her address, Maathai said it was up to the developing world to convince the developed world that the threat of climate change is real, calling on nations to invest in the preservation of forests as a first line of defense against climate change.
Maathai directed the attention of her audience to a metal Orb placed near the head table, saying, “There is an Orb at the end of the table. This orb contains stories, images, voices and messages collected from around the world to create a global mandate for action. It is the sound of the collective spirit which should bring together all the efforts of all major climate campaigns from civil society this year.”
Vandana Shiva speaks to protesters in Copenhagen:
And Democracy NOW’s Amy Goodman reports on Shiva’s thoughts about U.S. responsibility when it comes to financial responsibility for fighting global warming,
Afterward, I asked her to respond to U.S. climate negotiator Jonathan Pershing, who said the Obama administration is willing to pay its fair share, but added that donors “don’t have unlimited largesse to disburse.” Shiva responded, “I think it’s time for the U.S. to stop seeing itself as a donor and recognize itself as a polluter, a polluter who must pay. … This is not about charity. This is about justice.”
Sister Joan Chittister in remarks at Copenhagen,
From where I stand, several strains were clear: Whatever agreements come out of Cop15, enforceability is key. Classism-poor against rich-is a danger. Multilateralism that does not support those nations who stand to be as smothered by the effects of national agreements that deny them economic development as they are by the effects of achieving it through the energy sources of the past will become a major political problem in the future. And, finally, this is only the beginning of a real struggle to resolve it.
“Where there is biodiversity, where there is wealth, where there is culture, that’s where corporate interests flock,”(Norma) Maldonado, deputy head of Ecumenical Services for Christian Development in Central America (SEFCA), an organisation working with women and young people for community development and political effectiveness, told TerraViva.
Special U.N. Advisor on Water, Maude Barlow talking about the water crisis at the Klimaforum:
I won’t be posting for about a week or so because I’m taking a vacation in Sri Lanka…so today I will leave you with a few wonderful links to make up for it
The first I’m a little late in posting..but if you live in a time zone where it is not yet December 10th then please check out this awesome auction supporting the Women Action and Media conference. Among the prizes are a chance to meet with the talented Canadian sister band Tegan and Sara, have the wonderfully poignant Sarah Haskins record your voicemail and have lunch with Jessica from Feministing. All the bids go towards promoting gender justice in the media. I went last year to the conference in Boston and it was a seriously inspiring event with some great discussions taking place.
And now on to some news from Copenhagen:
From Yes! Magazine, a 3 step plan on how to ensure climate justice and end the stalemate between the Global North and Global South
Naomi Klein, an activist and writer for The Nation rejects Hopenhagen
The horrible Danish Text Leak that would take power away from the UN, double the allowance of emissions for rich countries, and put the funds allocated for poor countries in need of clean technology and adaptation to climate change in the hands of the World Bank and IMF
Al Gore in an interview with Slate asks this question to climate change skeptics: “What in the hell do they think is causing it?”
And of course, Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen’s quote heard around the world to turn Copenhagen into Hopenhagen.
Native forests in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay are being destroyed to plant new crops of “profitable” trees. Non-indigenous, but fast growing trees like eucalyptus and pine are being planted to produce large-scale wood, pulp and paper production. Along with destroying the forest, these trees also use more water and degrade the soil of these South American countries.
Rural women’s organizations and environmental groups have drafted letters to the forestry companies in protest but have been ignored and pushed out of the way by claims that these “tree plantations” will act as carbon sinks, helping to offset green house gasses and carbon emissions.
Among the many negative aspects of the “unsustainable” development model followed by the forestry industry, [the women] denounced that companies pressure families into selling their farmland, that the industry creates few jobs for women, that tree plantations are depleting water resources, and that these changes have significant social impacts, such as a breakdown in the social fabric, leading to domestic violence and sexual harassment among the affected communities.
Promoting plantations as forests is “misleading,” said the rural women’s organisations and environmental groups, which pointed to the “countless negative impacts” that these projects have on the lives of rural families, and particularly on women, who are “disempowered” by the expansion of these single-crop plantations.
The document the women put forth was signed by the March of Women, The Peasant Women’s Movement of Brazil and the Centre for Environment Studies. It was also backed by GRAIN, Friends of the Earth, The Rural Women’s Movement and the World Rainforest Movement.
These tree plantations are more than just a minor headache. Along with pushing rural families off their land in Brazil, the plantations have ruined the livelihoods of the families as the land suffered severe droughts, abrupt temperature changes, severe loss of biodiversity, food crop reduction, drying up of water sources and degradation of soil fertility.
Two books have resulted from this ordeal, Brazil: Women and Eucalyptus: Stories of Life and Resistance, and The European Union’s Role in the Disempowerment of Women of the South through the Conversion of Local Ecosystems into Tree Plantations.
To understand more about this ongoing struggle, read the full article on Common Dreams
The poorest billion people on the planet contribute only 3% of the global carbon footprint. Those same billion people will also bear the brunt of climate change. Those people tend to be farmers, and they tend to be women.
The UN Population Fund has issued a new state of the world’s population report about the impact of global climate change on women, stating that “Drought and erratic rainfall force women to work harder to secure food, water and energy for their homes…Girls drop out of school to help their mothers with these tasks. This cycle of deprivation, poverty and inequality undermines the social capital needed to deal effectively with climate change.”
In response to the stunning inequality of the impact of climate change, UNFPA calls for measures to improves the lives of women and mitigate the impact of climate change. That includes supporting education for women and girls, expanding access to reproductive health services, and doing better research on gender and population dynamics in climate change. It’s small stuff compared to the magnitude of the problem of climate change. Better, though, than nothing.
By Kathambi Kinoti
This article is the third in a four-part series that explores the gendered impact of climate change. The first article discussed how women are impacted by climate change, while the second examined how women address climate change. This third article looks at how some women’s organizations are engaging with the process leading up to and during the UN Conference on Climate Change to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009.
The Earth Summit, which was held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, established United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which came into force two years later. While the UNFCCC is aspirational, its Kyoto protocol which came into force in 2005, goes further in setting binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.
Since the Earth Summit, parties to the UNFCCC meet every year to negotiate targets for mitigating climate change. This year’s talks will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark in December, and are particularly critical to ensuring that a comprehensive international climate change mitigation framework is in place by 2012.
Neither the UNFCCC nor Kyoto recognise the gender dimensions of climate change, and women’s organizations have been working hard in the lead-up to Copenhagen to ensure that the conference’s outcome document is gender responsive. One of the organizations at the forefront of this work is the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO). Cate Owren, who co-ordinates WEDO’s gender and climate change work, spoke with AWID about the participation of women in the Copenhagen conference and their hopes for the outcomes.
AWID: What has WEDO been doing in preparation for the Copenhagen conference?
CATE OWREN: WEDO has been working on climate change for several years now in a variety of capacities: by conducting research and analysis, broadening and strengthening our network of women’s organizations around the world, and engaging in targeted advocacy at the national and global levels, WEDO seeks to raise awareness about the gendered dimensions of climate change, advocate for gender, and make project implementation more effective for both women and men. In 2007 at the Bali Conference of Parties, WEDO co-founded – together with UNDP, IUCN and UNEP – The Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA) . Now comprised of 38 UN and civil society institutions, the GGCA works toward a mission of ensuring that all climate change policies, decision-making processes and finance mechanisms are gender-responsive.
AWID: What concerns do women have firstly about climate change in general, and secondly about the content and process of the Copenhagen conference in particular?
CO: Women are caretakers and managers of natural resources around the world, so stress to or changes in the natural environment have a direct impact upon women and their families and wider communities. Women still make up the large majority of the world’s poorest, as well, which puts them at great risk. There are countless ways in which women, unfortunately, remain in the “most vulnerable” category. But what is far more critical right now – especially in the lead up to and outcome of Copenhagen – is that women’s capacity to act and contribute to climate change solutions at all levels is fostered and ensured. Women are innovators, teachers, caregivers, leaders, organizers, providers, and more. Their experience and expertise must inform all aspects of climate change decision-making and implementation.
AWID: What advocacy opportunities exist for women’s organizations within the Copenhagen process?
CO: Civil society participation has strengthened and expanded in the past few years – certainly in alignment with increasing global recognition of the gravity of climate change as a major crisis of our time. Women have participated in numerous ways and this year a major achievement was made: the Gender and Women Constituency was given provisional status. Finally, women and gender equality observer organizations have a formal opportunity to work together to input into the process.
For WEDO, and as part of the GGCA, we work with member institutions to work meaningfully with Parties to secure effective places for gender text in thenegotiating documents.
AWID: What outcomes do you hope for from Copenhagen?
CO: First and foremost, we are hoping for a strong, comprehensive agreement. Ideally, gender equality language would be reflected in each area: Shared Vision, Adaptation, Mitigation, Technology, Capacity Building, and Finance. Throughout this year, gender language has been in each of these areas! But as negotiations continue, language is streamlined, and the specific references have fallen out in most places. We are hoping that the momentum will not be lost and that a gender-sensitive strong outcome is indeed possible. We continue to work with our partners and with governments to find ways to make this happen.
Latrice Davis of Women’s News reports that even though there are efforts to get clean, safe drinking water to the women who need it most, it is unlikely any of the programs working toward that goal will have much of an impact.
Here’s the full story:
Improving water quality and access can help lower maternal mortality rates, say advocates. Now a new fellowship program is being launched to explore various solutions to the maternal health problem in the world’s poorest nations.
(WOMENSENEWS)–Knowledge has long been cited as the tool most needed to lower maternal mortality rates, but Global Water, a volunteer organization based in Oxnard, Calif., says what women in developing countries also need to combat this problem is water.
“Not having the proper amount of water on a daily basis puts stress on the body, which affects a woman’s life span,” said Ted Kuepper, the organization’s executive director, in a telephone interview. “It also affects their ability to further their education and break out of poverty.”
To help disrupt this cycle, the New York-based international reproductive health organization EngenderHealth is launching a fellowship program with Ashoka, an organization of social entrepreneurs with headquarters in Arlington, Va., to focus on improving maternal health in the world’s poorest nations. The initiative will concentrate on parts of the world with the highest maternal and child mortality rates, says Tim Thomas, senior advisor of the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth.
“The rates are highest in Africa and South Asia,” he said in a telephone interview, but added that “we’re not committing to any particular countries at this point.”
That’s because EngenderHealth and Ashoka–who plan to recruit 32 candidates through its Changemakers online competition–are seeking proposals that focus on applicants’ areas of interest. Those selected for the program will spend nine months working on a tangible solution to a specific maternal health challenge, starting in September 2010.
Water Use Soars
Water use has grown at more than twice the rate of the world’s population over the past century, mostly for agricultural purposes, according to the 2009 United Nations Millennium Development Goals Report. This has left 884 million people at risk for–or already facing–a water shortage. The situation poses a huge threat to maternal health, but Thomas said it’s not the only contributing factor.
“There’s a panoply of factors that contribute to maternal mortality–everything from (the drug) misoprostol not being available to treat postpartum hemorrhage to the insufficient distribution of magnesium sulfate for preeclampsia in rural clinics,” he said. “This is where research is needed to coalesce and bring consensus, and that’s one of the jobs of the task force.”
Grace Lusiola, director of the EngenderHealth office in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, works in conjunction with the government on strategies like the One Plan, a federal campaign unveiled in April 2008 to reduce maternal and child deaths. The campaign’s contributions to policy development include providing post-abortion care.
“Unsafe abortion is the leading cause of maternal death in Tanzania,” Lusiola said in an e-mail interview. “We’re increasing the number of facilities at the community level where women who have had unsafe abortions can go for medical care. Being able to get emergency care locally and not having to travel (long distances) saves lives.”
Another way to improve maternal health is through building latrines and hand-washing stations. Global Water assembles such facilities for elementary schools in rural areas, working with the Peace Corps to promote good hygiene and halt the spread of waterborne illnesses such as cholera, diarrhea, hepatitis and typhoid fever. On one visit to a village in Guatemala, Kuepper said, volunteers taught children about hygiene–despite lacking the basic tools.
“Those schools didn’t have any water, so they had the students pretend to wash their hands and brush their teeth,” he said. “It was an amazing sight.”
Still, good hygience practices are not common in many countries. A 2009 study published in the journal Health Education Research found that only 29 percent of 802 women surveyed in Kenya washed their hands with soap after using the bathroom, often due to lack of time and energy. (Washing one’s hands with just water is the norm throughout the country.)
“Key motivations for hand washing were disgust, nurture, comfort and affiliation,” wrote lead author Valerie Curtis of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Fear of disease generally did not motivate hand washing,” as 43 percent of the women polled felt that diarrhea “is a normal part of growing up.”
Contaminated water is also commonplace in developing countries. The World Health Organization, or WHO, and the United Nations Children’s Fund issued a report in 2004 that found the definition of “safe water” varied from region to region. WHO has issued guidelines for maintaining water quality around the world since 1982, but leaves it up to each country to implement their own standards. Such inconsistency is why Global Water bypasses the government when it comes to installing water treatment systems.
“We’re trying to fill a void that’s been created by the leaders of the developing world themselves,” Kuepper said. “There’s a real lack of concern among these leaders to take care of their own people.”
The U.N. Millennium Development Goals Report indicates that at the global level maternal mortality rates fell by less than one percent annually between 1990 and 2005–far below the 5.5 percent annual improvement needed to reach the world body’s 2015 target. Of the eight Millennium Development Goals–U.N. benchmarks to reduce poverty and improve health–originally set in 2000, it’s the area that has seen the least amount of progress.
“Women’s health and empowerment is at the heart of all the development goals. I don’t think any of them can be achieved unless we scale up a full range of reproductive health services and policies for women in every part of the world,” Thomas said. “There’s such great momentum around maternal health because the crux of women’s reproductive health and rights is the saving of lives of women who are dying needlessly because of pregnancy or childbirth.”
Improving women’s access to clean water is directly linked to increasing their life expectancy. For example, a 2006 WHO survey found that women in countries such as Tanzania were only expected to live to the age of 51; one of the causes of death was consuming excessive levels of fluoride found in contaminated water. Those who do survive in countries with unsafe water have to deal with side effects like stiff joints.
“The body acclimates to some degree to accommodate the level of contamination in the water,” Kuepper said. But he pointed out that such adaptation only applies to microorganisms like bacteria and viruses, not minerals like fluoride and arsenic. Since water contamination remains an environmental hazard to women and children in the world’s poorest nations, he doesn’t envision the development goals being fulfilled within the next six years.
“I don’t see anything on the horizon to fix the problem. There’s not enough funding efficiently being spent in water-short areas of the world,” he said.