By Ed King
An increased role for women in climate and sustainable development talks is vital to ensure we do not have a repeat of the stalled Rio+20 negotiations according to a panel of world leaders.
Women make up 50% of the world population, account for 80% of household consumption decisions – but all too often lack access to transport, energy and control over their financial affairs.
Currently 20 women hold Presidential or Prime Ministerial offices around the world, but there are still deep concerns that major texts focusing on climate change and sustainable development do not take into account the role, needs and importance of women.
One recent example is the Rio+20 final document. Former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland said the text was a “step backwards from previous agreements” because it did not mention women’s reproductive rights.
Speaking during a podcast for RTCC and the Rio Conventions, the former Presidents of Finland and Ireland, UNFCCC chief Christiana Figueres, WWF President Yolanda Kabadse and Liberian Minister Julia Duncan-Cassell outlined their vision of the role of women in future talks.
PODCAST: Listen or download the full discussion via RTCC Soundcloud
Mary Robinson, Ireland President 1990-1997
“We have to create during COP18 more opportunities for women who know about the issues and give them access to those who are at the table – because they will raise those issues of gender and women’s empowerment and bring out the differential impacts and reasons why it is often much tougher on women for reasons that we all understand”
WWF President Yolanda Kakabadse
“To change we need more men in this room. In many of our societies and cultures men have taken over deciding our legal frameworks and institutional frameworks and unless we change their minds we will have a much tougher battle before us. I do conflict management – and always when you are dealing with a conflict you see that women have a different vision of where and why they want to go to a solution….women are much more creative when they are on the edge of the precipice … they can’t give up … they would never take the next step forward, they would always fight for change and improvement”
Julia Duncan-Cassell, Liberian Minister for gender and development
“The most affected by climate change in Liberia are women and children. They have to fetch wood and water. Yes gender is male and female – but our focus mostly on the women because they are the most vulnerable. We need strong women like the ones we have on this panel.”
Tarja Halonen, Finland President 2000-2012 Co-Chair of the UN High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability
“I’m happy that for the first time gender has good visibility (in Rio). Women know how difficult it is to make food when you do not have enough, or use water when you have run out. But I think there are more and more women in science, politics and economics…there is an under-representation – but what we need to do is show people around the world that women do it well. And that will encourage both men and women to ‘take a risk’ and choose a women. I often say that ‘the situation is so bad…why not try a women’”
UNFCCC chief Christiana Figueres
“An important part of leadership is to inspire people to go beyond where they think they can – and motivate them to think outside the box. A critical nexus is energy, water and food…and when you look in the middle of the triangle – what’s there? Women! My vision is that we should have 50-50 participation in all decision making, 50% women and 50% men.”
RTCC VIDEO: Gambia’s Minister for Foresty and Environment Fatou Ndeye Gaye on why the empowerment of women in her country is so important.