Women’s Voices: Drowned Out in the Climate Change Talks?

by Preeti Mangala Shekar

Climate change is profoundly affecting women, especially in many parts of the global south where natural resources like water, food and fuel are scarce. But the situation is dire on many islands, such as in Fiji, where many communities have evacuation plans because sea levels are rising at alarming rates. Last week, I interviewed Noelene Nabulivou with Women’s Action for Change, a grantee partner in Fiji that has been organizing on climate change in the Pacific. (Scroll to 40 mins)

Women's Action for Change: woman holds sign saying 'Mother Earth says balance'

Yet gender is one of the least prioritized views amid the volumes of blogs and organizing around the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen (COP15). The closest official analyses was the recent UNFPA report on how climate change will impact women; though its lens focused more on population impact with nominal feminist perspective.

But another heart-warming fact (pun unintended!) is that strong women are leading the protests at Copenhagen, like Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist who recently spoke at a summit protest. Some of the most interesting conversations in Copenhagen are indeed happening outside of the formal COP15 talks, such as the People's Assembly on Climate Change. Civil society groups, including women's groups, will vote to ratify a "People's Protocol on Climate Change."

Women, as caretakers of mother nature and growers of food, have sounded the alarm bells for decades. At the Global Fund, we’ve known for some time how women fare in the aftermath of environmental disasters, such as tsunamis, floods and earthquakes. We have been supporting women’s groups working on ecological sustainability, like the Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Centre in the Niger Delta whose "Make Gas Flares History" campaign has raised awareness of the lethal oil extraction practices. They’re also holding a local conference on climate change to parallel the governmental talks in Copenhagen. Also in Kenya, Thika is using its second grant from the Global Fund to train communities to implement rainwater harvesting, water management, and solar cooking technologies. And in the Pacific, women’s groups supported by the Global Fund have been leading local actions as part of the 350.org movement to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

We ignore women’s voices in this crucial debate at our peril!!

Other cool resources on Women and Climate Change:


WEDO’s resources on Climate Change

Read two recent GFW blog posts on Climate Change: Climate Change And the Women’s Movement: Wise Lessons for the Future

Climate Change is a Women’s Rights Issue: Women in Fiji Organize!

Ragpickers comprising 85% women organize in Copenhagen


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