"Don't forget men," first women and climate summit advised

by Thin Lei Win | @thinink | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 6 August 2014 16:53 GMT

Balinese women carrying offerings at the Melasti ceremony ahead of Nyepi day, a day of silence for the Balinese new year, in Gianyar district, Bali. Picture March 21, 2012. REUTERS/Beawiharta

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Men hold the purse strings and the power, and their cooperation is needed for women’s advancement

BALI, Indonesia (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Efforts to get more women involved in international climate talks and to raise the profile of female environmental activists will succeed only if men in power cooperate, a man attending the first “Summit on Women and Climate” said. 

The four-day summit in Bali, Indonesia, which closed on Wednesday, brought together some 80 activists and funders from 37 countries, most of them women.  

“If you look at the dynamics of politics in the world, in many places, men are in the decision-making positions so it’s important that they are brought and bought, part and parcel on this topic,” Peter Sinkamba, founder and executive director of Citizens for a Better Environment in Zambia, told Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of the summit. 

 “Whether you like it or not, the men are the holders of power and key to financial resources. Without involving them in conversation, it becomes extremely difficult when it comes to formulating development plans or strategies that effectively address climate change,” he said. 

“If they are excluded then we maintain the status quo, which is not good,” the Ashoka Fellow said, adding that perhaps there should have been more men at the conference. 

Michael Mazgaonkar, an Indian environmentalist who sits on the advisory board of Global Greengrants Fund, agrees on the importance of women activists engaging with men, but emphasises the need for women to hold more of the influential positions rather than rely on persuading powerful men. 

“I do think that 80 percent of the climate talks is among men and more than 80 percent of climate finance is controlled by men, so it is very important that women be given more space,” he said.  

FEW WOMEN AT NEGOTIATING TABLE

Women’s rights groups have said women are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which include more frequent and severe storms, drought and sea level rise. This is especially true for women in rural areas, who rely greatly on the environment for food and work. 

Studies have also shown that in countries hit by disasters where women’s socio-economic status is low, more women than men die in a disaster, and on average die at a younger age. 

The scarcity of women at the United Nations-hosted climate negotiations has been glaring. 

From 2008 to 2012, women’s presence on national delegations at U.N. climate talks averaged around 30 percent, according to Women’s Environment & Development Organisation (WEDO). 

During this period an average of about 19 percent of heads of delegation were women – less than one in five, WEDO said.

Zambia’s Sinkamba say he runs numerous climate mitigation projects back home, with women leading many of them.

“These programmes really excel so we greatly appreciate women’s role,” he said. 

“But it shouldn’t be left at individual arrangements. Whether we’re discussing forest or human rights issues, the partnership between men and women must be at centre stage for whatever measures we’re talking about to be effective,” he added. 

For Mazgaonkar, it is also men’s responsibility to speak up for women. This is starting to happen but not enough, he said.

“Ultimately we have to work hand-in-hand on these issues and we have to be equal. Right now women do not have an equal voice,” he said.

(Editing byTim Pearce; timothy.pearce@thomsonreuters.com)

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