Mary Robinson: Gender balance is essential to the debate on climate change

Mary Robinson: Gender balance is essential to the debate on climate change

History was made at COP18/CMP8 Doha on Tuesday when the UNFCCC’s first ever Gender Day took place.

During the day a list of high-profile speakers, including H.E. Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad Al-Thani, took to the stage to speak about women and the important role they need to play in the fight against climate change.

Speaking at an event called Moving Beyond the Rhetoric, H.E. Sheikha Mayassa said that climate change was now a part of our future. She said: “This evening we are looking at that future thorough the very special lens of women.”

She added: “Every journey begins with a step in the right direction.”

Participants also discussed getting gender on to the agenda at COP18/CMP8 Doha for the first time. Mary Robinson, president of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, who put forward the motion, said: “There is no item of gender on the agenda at COP. The experiences and impacts of climate change on women are usually more severe because they have to find food and water and they have a family who are their primary concern.”

Opening the first discussion of the day, which was entitled Gender and Climate Innovation: Breakthrough Changes For Gender Equality, Cate Owren, executive director of Women’s Environment and Development Organisation, said: “We need to see our worlds come alive and get beyond the rhetoric and see what real action and real change looks like.”

Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, became tearful as she spoke about wanting to tackle climate change for her two daughters and future generations. She said: “A journalist once asked me ‘What keeps you up at night?’ and I said the eyes of seven generations of children looking back at me, at us, and asking ‘what did you do?’ Because the fact is we are the first generation that knows what is happening. The previous generations did not know what they were doing but we do know, and that knowledge gives us a moral obligation to stand up and say ‘we cannot do this’.”

During the discussion, panel members spoke about why women often suffer more from the impact of climate change and also talked about ways in which women can be empowered to take leading roles.

Alcinda Albreu, the Minister of Environment for Mozambique, said: “Gender must be in climate change as a cross-party issue, otherwise we will not succeed in the efforts we are doing to save the planet, to save the world.”

Ms. Robinson quoted Cecilia Kibe from the Kenya Climate Justice Women Champions, who had told her: “This is not about empowering women to disempower men. Real men support women. This is about empowering both.”

Ms. Robinson added: “We want gender balance because the contribution of both is essential.”

The event also included Gender Innovation Hubs, where participants had the opportunity to discuss issues ranging from mitigation and adaptation to climate finance and technology..