By Andrea Vasquez and Niclas Aleff
Yesterday was Gender Day at COP, a topic that is of a lot more importance to the issue of climate change than one might think at first glance. But the question of gender equality quickly leads to and raises general questions of justice in societies and therefore concerns questions that should also be raised at COP21.
After two days at COP and several discussions, side events, and one plenary session that we have attended the amount of new questions that are on our minds by far outnumber the amount of questions that have been answered.
We are starting to wonder what the objectives of these events are. It appears that critical questions are rarely raised and events rather provide a platform to present oneself in the best possible light than to encourage an authentic discussion which addresses the actual problems and issues of those whose voices are highly underrepresented or not heard and recognized in the negotiations at all.
We wonder about the way that those groups most vulnerable and affected by climate change are treated and recognized. Why do those who suffer the least decide the most – is that our understanding of justice, equality, and solidarity in the 21st century?
During Gender Day different organizations organized sessions acknowledging women’s role in global change. The three events I attended portrayed exemplary cases from around the world and how in the UNFCCC languages and negotiations around a more gender inclusive perspective started to appear.
Just in 2007 during the COP 13 in Bali, a group of participant women from different parts of the world, concerned about the strong male biased decisions, perspectives, languages in the negotiations, and programs resulting from the UNFCCCs, decided to do something about it. After presenting the idea to an official to have their own constituency they were told “This meetings are highly political and technical, there is not space for women’s constituency.”
Since then, there is the intention to have more inclusive language; 1/3 of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions – INDCs, recognized the role of women in global change. Also, in the side events we were able to learn about indigenous women’s stories about their specific struggle and resilience in face of global change. The panelists were diverse and distinguished: Vandana Shiva, Mary Robson (Foundation Climate Justice), Winnie Byanyima (Oxfam International), Marie-Monique Robin (film director). I had the privilege to listen to and be in the same room with indigenous women that are on the front lines, those who care about Pachamama and are giving their lives for a healthier future for all of us; Ursula Rakova (Papua Guinea), Mama Aleta (Indonesia), Regine Mboyo (Congo), and Patricia Gualinga (Kichwa).
Indigenous and women: Intersecting voices in the front lines
One of the panellists, Patricia Gualinga, explained how the Kichwa women from Sarayaku (Ecuadoria Amazon) made the decision to be the main actors of their lives and stand strong for a healthier future for their families in face of the drivers of global change. As many other indigenous women from different indigenous territories are on the front lines of the defense of life and directly dealing with pressures from a resource-hungry modern world.
“Many believe that removing the rights of indigenous peoples they are hurting us. You are hurting yourselves because there are invisible threads that bind us among each other and between us and Nature” — Patricia Gualinga
Her objective of traveling long distances is to generate a global consciousness to REALLY address climate change. She encouraged us to look for deep and structural changes and to governments not to criminalize women that have been defending their lands and families:
“Many women from my community have been imprisoned and dragged along the streets” — Patricia Gualinga
How can we, indigenous women, be part of the solution?
Indigenous women are taking the solutions into their hands and those solutions have to be recognize. They are striving to leave coal, minerals, timber and oil on the ground in order to have a healthy forest that enables live instead of death, while putting their bodies on the front lines to save our planet and our species.
“The only arms we need are those that hug!” — Vandana Shiva
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.