International Participation and Leadership of Indigenous Women in Climate Change Action

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Indigenous women are at the forefront of many local climate change adaptation efforts, however, gender inequality in climate change planning and decision making persists at the international level. Gender inequality can be measured by tracking “relative gaps between men and women on health, education, economy, and politics,” as documented in the Global Gender Gap Report 2020. However, adapting to climate change requires systems change; this includes transforming international climate governance bodies to ensure gender equality and Indigenous women’s engagement in all activities to protect Mother Earth.

Participatory processes that inform the development of gender inclusive approaches to climate change adaptation at an international scale include Climate Change Gender Action Plans (ccGAPs) and involves The International Union for Conservation of Nature is an international organization (IUCN) and more than 24 participating countries. The ccGAPs aim to “build on a country’s national development and climate change policy or strategy and identify gender-specific issues in each priority sector.” The ccGAPs have been linked to REDD+ plans or ‘roadmaps.’ REDD+ stands for “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and forest conservation, sustainable management and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.” At a global scale REDD+ roadmaps have played an important role in enabling countries to track the impact of climate change on forests; however, the lack of information, disaggregated by sex, negatively affects the depth of gender analyses to inform REDD+ policies. Advocacy to increase Indigenous women’s participation in REDD+ is ongoing, as are efforts to put the spotlight on Indigenous women in climate change adaptation efforts internationally.

At the World Economic Forum Davos meeting in 2020, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad voiced how climate change is destroying lives and highlighted the impact of climate change on Indigenous people. She noted that “[w]hen they say the forest is burning it’s not just the language of expression. It’s our real home that’s burning…Because indigenous people from all over the world – from Chad, Amazon, Indonesia – we’re depending on these forests. They’re our food, our medicine, our pharmacy, our education.” As Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim explains, climate change is threatening the survival of pastoral people of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, displacing Indigenous communities, and consequently, increasing the role of Indigenous women in developing innovative solutions to food insecurity and water conservation, and in better exchanging traditional knowledge.

Opportunities for Indigenous women to be engaged internationally in climate change decision making have been limited, relative to their male counterparts. When Indigenous women have opportunities and choices to participate in different processes of climate change information sharing and decision making at the international scale, they can draw from, and build upon, the numerous climate adaptation efforts of their Indigenous sisters who continue to have an impact on local communities and regions. Their efforts include protecting land rights, leading projects as waterkeepers, and forging new paths for future generations to plan for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

By Leela Viswanathan

(Image credit: Damian Patkowski, Unsplash)

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