Women at the front of climate change

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Women at the front of climate change

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Women from WECAN International network outside the UN General Assembly in New York City, September 2015. by Emily Arasim

Women are saying around the world, ‘we are not just victims, we are the solution!’, writes Osprey Orielle Lake.

This week thousands of people are in Paris for the United Nations climate conference. World governments will try to get an international agreement for our future. For the earth and all its people, now and in the future, it is so important that we understand that we cannot fight against climate change if women are not at the front.

Women are 80% of refugees who have had to leave their land since 2010 because of climate change. When rivers dry up, or when toxic water or oil comes out of pipelines – women suffer most. This is partly because women’s bodies are more affected by poison. But also, women suffer in society and do not have enough rights. Also, it is more difficult for them to speak out and do something about climate change.

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Women leading reforestation in South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo. Neema Namadamu

In ‘developing’ countries, climate puts more pressure on millions of women. They are responsible for getting food, water, medicine, and energy for their families. Many Indigenous women and women in the Global South rely directly on Nature to survive and for their social and spiritual support. The effects of climate change are greatest for them. Also, in some communities, they suffer sexual violence from the mining and oil industries too.

Climate change has most effect on the poor. Most people who live on less than a dollar a day are women. There are a lot of links between the climate crisis, our economic model and the exploitation of women.

So if we want to solve climate change, bring global peace and change society, it is very important to change the old patriarchy, imperialism and capitalism. These were all mostly based on power over and violence against women and the planet.

But even with the big challenges, women are coming together across the world to say, ‘we are not just victims, we are the solution!’ – and they are right. Women are fighting for the health of their communities and the Earth, from the Amazon Rainforest to the islands of the Pacific.

Women are telling us that we cannot fight climate change in the same way as we got into this crisis – by trying to make money. Women show us how small, decentralized solutions are so important to our survival.

Women start renewable energy projects, look after destroyed lands, organize community groups and help local economies. They get water, medicine and food, and use their skills and passion to protect these.

In North America, women decide 80% of everything that people buy. So they have a lot of power to change to local economies, renewable energy and less buying. Research in 130 countries showed that when there are more females in government, the country is more likely to make to environmental agreements.

After the attacks in Paris and Beirut and other cities, we can see more connections between war, peace, women and climate. A lot of modern fighting is about oil and other resources. For example, the crisis in Syria is partly because of climate problems. If we involve women in building peace, this makes it 24% more probable that violence will end. So we need women at the front.

Women at Paris Climate Talks

Because women suffer from climate change and they are so important as leaders, we must make women the center of making decisions about the climate. Will the Paris climate talks see how important women are?

With meetings and peaceful demonstrations, women will try to get to make the decisions. But we must also see that we cannot argue or buy our way out of the climate crisis. Nature is not waiting for politicians to agree – nor is the people’s movement for climate justice.

Now is a very important time for humans. If we have women as equal leaders we might still have time to create the world we want.

WECAN (The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network) International will be fighting in Paris for climate laws based on equality between women, human rights, Indigenous Rights and Rights of Nature. More information at: wecaninternational.org

Osprey Orielle Lake is from Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International. Follow on twitter @WECAN_INTL

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/blog/2015/12/01/women-on-frontlines-of-climate-change-at-cop21-and-beyond/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).