Hundreds of women and men, friends and family, feminists, activists, and allies, including long-time gender equality champion, former President of Finland, Her Excellency Tarja Halonen, marched together at Sunday’s People’s Climate March in New York City to proclaim that there can be “no climate justice without gender justice”. This sentiment acknowledges that women, particularly in the Global South, have contributed the least to global warming and degradation of the planet and yet they suffer the most from environmental destruction that results from unsustainable consumption and production patterns. It also indicates that any chance at truly combating climate chaos will only be achieved through a paradigm shift in leadership, with women and men equally represented in decision-making at all levels.
Katherine Garcia, Co-President, Metro NY Chapter of the U.S. National Committee for UN Women shared, “While the effects of climate change are felt around the world, women bear a heavier burden. Effects such as drought, flooding, and unpredictable temperatures impact women who are providing food, water and firewood for their families. In the context of climate change, supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment is as vital as ever. The People’s Climate March was an opportunity to show the world how critical and timely the climate movement is right now.”
Alina Saba, Mugal Indigenous Women Upliftment Institute & Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development ( APWLD) stated, “Climate change is essentially a social justice issue. Indigenous women have caused the least harm to this planet. Indeed, those who have nurtured and cared for our environment are the very same people being punished for the excessive consumption and pollution of the obscenely rich. Indigenous women in Nepal are a prime example. With increasing landslides, floods, melting glaciers and unpredictable monsoonal rains there will be no choice for them but to leave their ancestral home, culture and tradition in order to survive. For their sakes we need more than a new climate deal, we need a new global order that finally delivers development justice.”
The ‘Women for Climate Justice’ contingent at the People’s Climate March, coordinated by the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), was supported by groups from over 40 local, national and international organizations and alliances, including large U.S. organizations such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the League of Women Voters, local groups such as the Women’s City Club of New York and international allies and partners such as the Greenbelt Movement-Kenya, 1 Million Women- Australia, Equidad de Genero-Mexico, Voice of Women-Maldives and DIVA for Equality-Fiji. A full list of supporting organizations can be found here.
As part of highlighting the social and gendered impacts of climate change, the contingent brought demands for a new model of sustainable development. They called for safe, people-centered renewable energy systems and a more equitable distribution of power, resources, energy, and wealth between countries, between rich and poor and between men and women.
Noelene Nabulivou of Fiji, Diverse Voices and Action for Equality, DAWN, and Pacific Partnerships to Strengthen Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development shared the importance of taking account of gender equality in climate policy. “Women of the South are particularly tired of hearing politicians and other development partners give one excuse or another for why the strongest and useful climate mitigation target of 1.5 degrees is not possible, why adaptation measures do not concentrate on gender equality, human rights and social justice, why there have not been fundamental changes to our global economic and development systems, why climate finance is not easily accessible, and a loss and damage mechanism is not yet ready. The truth is that we are suffering now, our communities are already dealing with all kinds of economic, social and ecological damage because of the actions of the few, and the impacts on the world majority, indigenous peoples, and people from small island states, among others, are many and immediate. We need urgent national, regional and global action, and this march was to let everyone know, that the time is NOW!!”
Climate change is an issue of justice and inequality around the world and here in the United States. Alicia Grullon, a Bronx based artist and organizer for PERCENT FOR GREEN, added, “I only need to look at Detroit and the South Bronx to clearly understand that the most vulnerable to pollution and human rights violations of natural resources in our country are the poor and working class, who are largely communities of color. The connection between racism, environmental quality, lack of economic and educational resources is undeniable and still persistent for over 600 years. The time has come for action. As a woman of color, a child of immigrants, and parent my responsibility is to be part of the solution.”
Highlighting the importance of a strong women’s presence at the march, Bridget Burns, Advocacy and Communications Director, WEDO, added, “Climate change is the crisis of our times. For too long now, political posturing, greed and complacency in ‘business as usual’ has taken precedent over justice, equality, action and ambition. But change is not something which you wait for, its something that you make happen. On Sunday we marched in a spirit of common purpose with fellow women’s rights leaders, feminists and activists to demand climate justice and ignite a movement for change.”