In an event hosted today by WOCAN (Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management), six inspiring women shared their stories of community, loss, and leadership. The panel was comprised of women from diverse and remote regions of the world, including a Native American of the Ponca Nation, a representative from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a Quechua-speaking native of the Ecuadorian Amazon, and several leaders of global non-profit organizations. All of these women came to COP21 with the same message: the voices of women and indigenous peoples are essential to effectively addressing climate change.
Panelists at today’s event, Global Women & Indigenous Peoples on the Frontline of Climate Solutions: Forests & Renewable Energy
Each of the panelists shared shockingly similar stories of their lives and their communities, highlighting their plight against the effects of climate change. Most indigenous communities contribute very little to climate change, yet feel the effects far more profoundly than the rest of the world. Women also face disproportionate impacts from climate change, indicating that this group had tremendous insight to offer from both perspectives. They had faced the direct impacts of climate change and had established innovative methods of addressing the associated problems. In the case of the Ponca Nation and the Amazonian natives, both groups are actively opposing resource extraction in their sacred ancestral lands. Women in Colombia are reclaiming land for traditional agricultural practices after years of protests allowed them to begin saving seeds again. Women in the DRC are creating carbon negative local economies by planting trees. By organizing their communities and utilizing traditional and institutional knowledge, they are developing robust, local solutions to climate change.
Nevertheless, a Paris agreement may not address these groups’ needs or their suggestions. There are currently four binding sections of the agreement that reference gender equality or the rights of indigenous people, and two of those references are bracketed. This means that the rights of indigenous people and women may not be adequately addressed in two important parts of the agreement (purpose and finance). Hopefully, this panel discussion, along with the other events associated with Gender Day, will encourage the negotiators to avoid this absurd result.
This afternoon I attended a side event entitled “Supporting Women Empowerment through Climate Mitigation Projects.” The event was put on by WOCAN – Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture & Natural Resource Management. The event, along with many of the Gender Day COP events, was about ensuring benefits to women and empowering them through projects that help combat climate change, such as REDD+ projects and substituting biogas stoves for the black-carbon spewing cook fires many rural women use.
The panel of speakers presented some great ideas about how to empower women in these rural areas. One such idea, presented by WOCAN and the South Pole Group, paired carbon credits from climate mitigation activities with projects that have a strong focus on gender. The idea is that demand for such projects will accelerate investments into the projects, which in turn will strengthen the delivery of gender benefits. An example of such a project was putting biogas stoves into the homes of these rural women; this would benefit them by giving them more quality time to spend (away from the cook fire) and would also decrease their carbon footprint. Empowers women and helps fight climate change.
Another speaker from Code REDD spoke about repackaging the selling of REDD projects to corporations. Forestry is not usually the highest priority for many corporations, but gender equality is; women are major buyers and users of many corporate products and are the “face” of some very big companies. Therefore, Code REDD has been trying to repackage REDD projects (which usually already benefit women) to sell the “gender factor.”
While sitting through this fascinating presentation, I was wracking my brain to figure out how I could connect what I did today at the CoP to wildlife and biodiversity. And then it hit me: such projects could be used to save species, too. Why not develop projects that both reduce carbon footprints while at the same time creating benefits for the wildlife in the area, like maintaining habitats. One incredible example can be seen here; this biologist, hoping to save orangutans from habitat destruction, rebuilt a rainforest in Borneo. A perfect example of a project that combines fight climate change with helping endangered species and wildlife. REDD projects already work with wildlife groups, such as the Wildlife Conservation Society (which happens to be the NGO I am working with), but I feel like this connection – the connection between saving our forests through creating REDD+ projects and conserving wildlife – could be stronger. Let’s empower our animals through these climate mitigation projects.