In anticipation of an international climate change meeting to be held in the United Nations headquarters
this week today, some social and environmental activists are campaigning for the increased consideration and participation of women in environmental policy-making decisions. Often, it is women — especially those who are struggling economically — who are most vulnerable to natural disasters stemming from the extremes of climate change, whether they are in the developing world or in New Orleans, USA.
For many of the groups working for the equal involvement of women in climate change issues, the deliberations on climate change are too narrowly focused on the politics of emissions reductions, rather than the long-term social and community initiatives that could underpin a real shift in a global consciousness or more effective practices of post-disaster rebuilding.In a statement to the U.N. General Assembly in July of this year, executive director of the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), June Zeitlin, points out: "Women have always been leaders in community revitalization and natural resource management. Yet women are so often barred from the public sphere and thus absent from local, national and international decision-making related to natural disasters and adaptation."
"This business as usual is not acceptable," said Rebecca Pearl of WEDO. WEDO, along with the Council of Women World Leaders and the Heinrich Boell Foundation will be co-hosting a roundtable event on Friday to be led by former Irish president Mary Robinson and ex-Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland — intrepidly described as the "the first ever global gathering of high-level government, U.N. and civil society organizations" on climate change issues.
There already are a number of studies that present evidence that gender differences in disaster death rates are directly linked to the unequal social and economic rights of women — and in the case of natural disasters, can be further aggravated — as is the case with a study last year done by the London School of Economics, which analyzed disaster data from 141 nations.
A recent U.N. survey of environmental ministries worldwide showed that only four or five countries actually included gender and economic inequality concerns in their climate change policies, despite the warning from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the impact climate change "will fall disproportionately upon developing countries and the poor persons within all countries."
Image: The Ecologist