At a Big Tent Digital event yesterday (23 November 2020), panellists from CARE International UK, ActionAid UK, Plan International UK, Women’s Environment Network (WEN) and the Centenary Action Group explored the importance of female leadership in the management of the climate crisis, looking at the intersectionality of empowering women, minorities and local communities.


Chaired by Faeeza Vaid MBE Executive Director, Muslim Women’s Network and CAG Steering Group, the Big Tent session’s participants asked hard hitting questions around how UN frameworks can be redesigned to support equal participation, the role of local communities within national and international climate change policy and the ways in which barriers can be removed to empower more women in the climate change debate.


Salka Sigurdardottir, International Climate Negotiator, COP Unit, Cabinet Office explained how she has been working with the UK Government to ensure that women and girls, particularly those from the most marginalised communities, have a voice and feel empowered to help meet climate change goals.


“Policy makers shouldn’t be afraid to admit that layers of discrimination exist and need to acknowledge the need to do more. The UK is committed to gender responsive climate action and using our Presidency role to do the same. We need more voices and opinions to make COP26 a success.”


The UK Government will host the G7 and COP26 in 2021 and will therefore have a crucial role to play in supporting women and girls, in all their diversity.


Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Coordinator of the Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous Peoples of Chad, explained how she feels the need to physically attend climate change negotiations at the COP to have her voice – as both a woman and as an indigenous female – heard.


“People always asked me why I was making a point to attend COP meetings in person, but the reason is simple: women and the marginalised need to literally be at the table. We need to be there physically to express our experiences and points of view and be able to discuss – they cannot exclude us if we are there  claiming space. Indigenous women are particularly marginalised as we are in a patriarchal society that overlooks minority views. We need to work in solidarity with other minorities.”


She added: “The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) needs to be rethought. Power dynamics can have an impact in these negotiations and the decisions are made informally behind closed doors where they can then exclude and avoid interpretation. This needs to be tackled first – we need transparency and openness.”


Meera Ghani, Policy Coordinator, ECOLISE, and previous delegate to UN climate negotiations echoed Ibrahim’s thoughts around communities and taking on local insights and solutions:


“My main objective is to develop a space for regional solutions and initiatives to be recognised. I truly believe people at a local level understand their issues and needs best. While I see why climate change initiatives need to be addressed at an international level, I truly believe that the people   can provide ideas and solutions that best fit their communities to tackle challenges from the ground up.


Bridget Burns, Director, WEDO added: “The good news: there are more and more studies that show that women are participating in climate change negotiations. The bad news: women are gaining their share in roles that have less power, in terms of the decisions being taken.


“There is a trend towards tokenism – clearly we don’t want that. What we want is an investment in feminist organisations. We need to build power and solidarity. Women shouldn’t be a tick box, we need a mandate. Policies need to be designed by women for women, but that cannot be done overnight.”


Ghani concluded the session with a rallying call to female leaders of the future: “Stand in your truth but support others to stand in their truth. You are the leaders, you have the solutions for what needs to happen”.


Further resources from the partners organising this event on women’s leadership and climate change can be found here

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