During the U.N. Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on the Beijing+25 Review, ACT Alliance as a faith-based, global coalition of over 150 churches and agencies together with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN Women organized a side event on November 28 entitled “Champions for Climate Change – Women Fighting for Climate Action”. Four women activists from four different countries in Asia presented how their work has contributed to fighting for climate and gender justice.
In his opening remarks ACT’s Regional Representative Asia Pacific Anoop Sukumaran said that climate justice and gender justice are inseparable. “Social exclusion and discrimination are often exacerbated by implications of climate change. All of us have to combat climate change and fight for gender justice”, he stated. Mrs. Åsa Hedén, Head of Development Cooperation-Regional Asia and Pacific of the Embassy of Sweden, reminded that engagements on climate change should not be looked at as an obligation, but as a chance to leave a resilient future to our children. She welcomed speakers and participants saying “Let’s seize this opportunity, we still have it”.
Supporting communities to mitigate the impacts of climate change
Khodeja Sultana, Country Director of Diakonia Sweden (a member of the ACT Alliance) in Bangladesh, described the challenges of working in a country where one third of the population is at risk of displacement due to climate change. “The effects of climate change are not gender blind. They are more hostile against women. In our patriarchal society, women and men perform stereotyped activities, have different roles and responsibilities and different access to resources”, she explained. She continued that at the same time however, breaking gender stereotypes and the walls of gender inequality at all levels was a must – gender equality being a right of its own.
Interconnection between climate justice and gender justice
Ruth Manorama, a dalit activist from India representing the Asia Dalit Rights Forum (ADRF) highlighted how social discrimination and exclusion is exacerbated in climate crisis. She illustrated how caste is an expression of oppression and hierarchy which needs to be challenged. Her work with Dalit communities in combatting caste discrimination and the implications of climate change on exclusion was expounded upon. “Gender, caste and racial discrimination are two sides of the same coin”, the activist stated. And she recorded: “Somebody fighting for gender justice cannot leave climate justice to others. It’s so interconnected”.
Obstacles and opportunities on the way to green economy
Nanticha “Lynn” Ocharoenchai, founder of the climate strike in Thailand, and Sonika Manandhar, a young entrepreneur and creator of Green Energy Mobility from Nepal, represented the new generation of women mobilising people for climate demonstrations on social media and working on new solutions for mobility.
“The problem is trust”, said Sonika Manandhar. Women active in green micro-economy in her country could only get credits at very high interest rates. Therefore, green livelihood also has to come with financing.
Nanticha “Lynn” Ocharoenchai is actually trying to bridge the gap between environmentalists and non-environmentalists. She stated that in general, people would react more if their emotional side was touched and if it was easy for them to be good. She had a positive outlook to the future stating that “having realistic expectations doesn’t stop me from idealistic ideas”.
Targets of the Beijing +25 Conference
The Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on the Beijing+25 Review at the end of November brought together Ministers and senior officials, civil society and other key stakeholders from across the Asia-Pacific region. The targets were to identify key strategic areas and actions required to overcome barriers to gender equality and the empowerment of women, provide a platform to highlight innovative solutions and exchange good practices and lessons learned on strategies for change and increase the engagement of stakeholders of different ages. The ACT Alliance speakers gave a voice to those parts of the population highly affected by climate change. They also showed that gender justice cannot be achieved without climate justice nor without the inclusion of all members of society.