Women seek common voice pre-COP 17

17 November 2011

Women from rural areas in KwaZulu-Natal will be able to share their own challenges on climate change at an international conference for grassroots women just before the start of COP 17.

GenderCC-Women for Climate Justice will host the conference on 24 and 25 November, together with the Land Access Movement of South Africa.

The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change takes place in Durban from 28 November to 9 December.

Women in rural areas worldwide generally lack knowledge on the dangers posed by climate change.

Women can play key roles

Many living in poverty are the most threatened by the dangers that stem from global warming, but they can also play key roles in ensuring their communities’ ability to cope with and adapt to climate change.

The conference will focus on how grassroots women can take part in the global movement towards achieving a fair, just and legally binding international climate change agreement.

Dorah Marema, chairperson of GenderCC International, said that over the past decade, the relationship between climate change and poverty in countries where people’s livelihoods depended on natural resources and environmental services had increasingly become a developmental issue.

“This relationship between climate change and people’s livelihoods is seen to have strong linkages to poverty.”

Women from various world regions and representatives of development organisations, NGOs and other groups working on the issues of gender and climate change are expected to attend the conference.

Gender-sensitive climate policy

Marema said the event would also highlight the key needs of grassroots women, particularly in terms of climate financing, while exploring opportunities for advocating gender-sensitive national and international climate change policy.

Women will also be able to strengthen and rejuvenate grassroots women’s movements and networks, as the delegates will be coming from diverse communities.

“As countries prepare for COP 17 and work on their negotiation positions – which in most cases do not consider gendered impacts of climate change or gender-sensitive strategies for mitigation – it is time for grassroots women to come together and strengthen their voice,” said Marema.

A list of common demands coming out of this conference will be presented to climate change negotiators at COP 17. The minimum demands will also form the advocacy campaign of GenderCC for the following year.

Grassroots voices ‘not being heard’

Marema believes that the voice of grassroots communities, particularly women, is not being heard when the world nations meet on a yearly basis to tackle climate change issues.

“Their voice has been overshadowed by the corporations with their strong lobby and as a result, their environmental, economic, social and cultural rights receive very little or no attention on the UNFCCC agenda. While there have been some attempts to bring in this voice, this has been very minimal.”

She said women were also powerful agents of change, who played a key role in energy consumption, deforestation, burning of vegetation, population growth and economic growth.

Yvette Abrahams, Commissioner on the Commission on Gender Equality, will deliver the keynote address at the conference.