As the COP27 Climate Change Conference gets underway in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, the United Nations Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) is making sure the voices of women and girls are represented at the negotiations tables.
The African Feminist Task Force, a coalition associated with the constituency, has issued set of collective demands for climate justice, with specific attention to the needs of women and girls. Al-Fanar Media talked with Yolanda Mulhuini, a climate and gender activist from Mozambique and a member of the task force, about the effects of climate change in her own country and about the group’s demands.
Established in 2009, the Women and Gender Constituency is one of nine stakeholder groups of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Its members currently include 34 civil-society organisations and 600 activists from all regions of the world.
“Unfortunately, climate change is a fairly forgotten topic in Mozambique,” Mulhuini told Al-Fanar Media. “We are only quick to talk about climate change when a severe event occurs, but we can spend a whole year talking about it without taking much action.”
Besides being a member of the African Feminist Task Force, Mulhuini is also the executive director of Mozambique’s Grupo Para o Desenvolvimento da Mulher e Rapariga (Association for the Development of Women and Girls).
At the forefront of women’s climate-justice demands is a call for developed countries to halt new investments in fossil fuels and nuclear energy, and to urgently transition to sustainable practices that focus on the gender-sensitive use of renewable energies.
The association supports efforts to protect women and girls against violence, increase their skills and knowledge, include them in decision-making processes, and guarantee their access to natural resources. In one of the association’s projects, women planted four thousand trees, Mulhuini said.
Women’s Demands at COP27
COP27 is the 27th conference of the parties to the UNFCCC, which is the U.N.’s principal international treaty on climate change and the parent treaty of the historic Paris Agreement, whose central goal is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and preferably to 1.5 degrees, compared to pre-industrial levels.
At COP27, the Women and Gender Constituency is holding activities in the Green Zone, an area designated for civil-society groups. It planned to announce the African Feminist Task Force’s climate-justice demands there on Monday.
At the forefront of those demands, a copy of which was shared with Al-Fanar Media, is a call for developed countries to immediately halt all new investments in fossil fuels and nuclear energy, and to urgently transition to sustainable practices that focus on the gender-sensitive use of renewable energies.
The task force also calls on wealthy nations to commit to supporting the poorest and most vulnerable communities, in Africa, small island states, and countries of Latin America, Asia and the Pacific, through investment in safe and clean energy.
Other activities of the Women and Gender Constituency during COP27 include the celebration of African Girls and Women’s Day on 14 November and the awarding of prizes to the winners of the Gender Just Climate Solutions Awards, which seek to honour, amplify and expand gender-responsive, transformational climate initiatives.
Women and Agriculture
Agriculture and land rights are the subject of one of the African Feminist Task Force’s demands. It calls for expanding women’s access to and control over land, and protecting the rights of women small-scale farmers and food producers from losses and damages caused by climate change, eviction, abuse, and violence.
“Unfortunately, climate change is a fairly forgotten topic in Mozambique. We are only quick to talk about climate change when a severe event occurs, but we can spend a whole year talking about it without taking much action.”Yolanda Mulhuini
“Climate change is largely affecting agricultural activities, and the majority of those working on the land are women and girls,” Mulhuini said.
Asked how women were responding to the repercussions of climate change, Mulhuini said they were trying to cope through various initiatives, but their capacities and resources were limited.
“What we need is to integrate these initiatives into climate change policies to support marginalised and vulnerable groups, such as women farmers,” she said.
Women farmers are betting on environmentally friendly, sustainable agricultural practices to increase crop yields on the already degraded land, she said.
Another of the task force’s demands calls for providing accessible, affordable, and human-rights-centered climate finance as a matter of justice and equity, and for prioritising grant-based funding rather than loans. It urges action to identify the current impacts that front-line communities, including women and girls, face in regard to increasing losses and damage from climate change.
Mulhuini said she hoped the conference would exceed women’s expectations in terms of climate finance, providing more funding that is flexible and accessible to women, and that there would be greater commitment from wealthy nations on the issue of loss and damage.
“We need to adapt to climate change, which will continue to occur,” she said.
A Gender Action Plan
“We also call for the final registration and completion of the Gender Action Plan under the UNFCCC and for its effective implementation,” Mulhuini said.
“What we need is to integrate these initiatives into climate change policies to support marginalised and vulnerable groups, such as women farmers.”Yolanda Mulhuini
The establishment of a Gender Action Plan has been the focus of discussions and resolutions at numerous previous conferences of the parties to the UNFCCC.
At COP7, held at Marrakech in 2001, the first independent resolution on promoting gender balance and women’s participation in the preparation of national adaptation programmes of action (NAPAs) was adopted. COP17, which met in Durban, South Africa, in 2011, adopted decisions on finance and technology that included gender considerations.
COP20, held in 2014 in Peru, adopted the Lima Work Programme on Gender (LWPG) for two years to promote gender balance in advancing gender-sensitive climate policy. This was extended for three years at COP22, in Marrakech.
Women’s groups hope that COP27 will adopt the final registration of the gender action plan and put it into effect.
Mulhuini concluded her conversation with Al-Fanar Media by noting that the Sharm El-Sheikh conference provides the Women and Gender Constituency with a good space for advocacy, lobbying, experience sharing, and learning.
She added: “This is what we are trying to do in every way, and I will continue to engage with the women’s and gender community in our planned activities.”
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Read more about COP27 and climate change in Climate and Environment, an archive of Al-Fanar Media’s reporting on these topics.