Pacific Civil society stressed the need to strengthen national and regional responses to gender and climate injustice “as women are the ones who are at the forefront of the climate crisis.”

For the first time, this year’s 66th Session for the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66) will look at “Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes”; indicating a global shift in the conversation, particularly in this UN Decade for Action on Ecosystem Restoration, the final decade of the SDGs and in the middle of the five-year Gender Equality Forum (GEF) global Action Coalitions (2021-5).

There is growing acknowledgement that work for climate justice does not stand independent of gender justice and that the nexus between the two is incontestable. There is an urgent need to integrate gender responsive frameworks into creating, funding and implementing policies and programmes to urgently mitigate and address climate change, and its associated losses and damage. 

Noelene Nabulivou, Executive Director of DIVA for Equality said that:

“There are limits to adaptation. Pacific women’s human rights and environmental defenders and our communities demand climate justice and restitution from industrialised countries to address current and future loss and damage, and to see this properly reflected in CSW66 Agreed Outcomes and at UNFCCC COP27. We must recognise and address women’s unpaid care, domestic and communal work, address gender and food sovereignty, water and sanitation, work for an end to the epidemic levels of violence against women, and more. We must strengthen overall national and regional responses to gender and climate injustice, including national focal points on Gender and Climate Change as already in place in 90 countries, but none yet in Pacific small island states. We look forward to this and more in 2022.”

The Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN) also recognises that Indigenous women, particularly from the Pacific, have long protected the Commons – the air, ocean, waterways, land and biodiversity that continue to nurture, protect, buffer and support the living planet and are simultaneously affronted by the impacts of the climate crises, extractive capitalism and violent patriarchy. This recognition has in turn informed the need to centre and amplify the voices, views and perspectives of Indigenous and local women whose generational knowledge, skills and practices provide innovative solutions to environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, climate change and its impacts. 

Vice President for the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change (PISFCC), Belyndar Maonia Rikimani says that:

“Today the Pacific is faced with battling the worst effects of climate change and COVID-19 in our communities. Women are finding it very difficult to cope with the increasing impacts of climate change and the unexpected outbreaks of COVID-19 as there has been very limited healthcare facilities and equipment to cater for the population. Climate change has really had a massive impact on the food security, fresh water supply and many communities are now faced with the scarcity of resources. Yet women have turned out to be strong and resilient through these crises by the use of creative and innovative traditional knowledge and food preservation knowledge in ensuring that their families have sufficient food, clean water and basic needs are provided. This shows that our Pacific women have excellent adaptive capacity because they have managed to sustain their families through these disasters that have passed. Therefore, it is very important that we have a strong recognition for Gender and Climate change here in the Pacific as our women are the ones who are at the forefront of the climate crisis”. 

Processes like CSW66, the UNFCCC COPs and the recent devastating IPCC reports continue to reinforce the importance of recognising that approaches to gender justice and climate justice cannot be siloed. Women and girls in all their diversity need to be seen as experiencing some of the greatest impacts, and also as important leaders of climate-just solutions that can reframe the climate change landscape. International Women’s Day, March 8 2022 reminds us yet again of the massive, urgent changes that we need to make toward a safe future for all Pacific islanders and the world, including women and girls in all of their diversity.

This story was originally published at PICAN on 08 March 2022, reposted via PACNEWS.

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