Agenda 2030 puts gender equality at the core of sustainable and inclusive
development. Realizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls
will make a crucial contribution to progress across all the Goals and targets. The
achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible
if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities.
(UNFPA) Gender must be mainstreamed. Sustainable Development Goal 5
recognized gender equality as a fundamental right in itself, and instrumentally
valuable as a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
Despite this recognition, equality remains elusive.
The brunt of the dual crises of the COVID-19 global pandemic and the economic
“she-cession” has been shouldered by women, with effects exacerbated along existing
racial, social, and economic lines. These crises intersect with the climate crises to
create a trifecta of vulnerability for the most marginalized. It’s the world’s poorest
and those in vulnerable situations, especially women and girls, who bear the brunt of
environmental, economic, and social impacts. Women and girls face greater health and
safety risks, as water and sanitation systems become compromised and in situations
of scarcity, they take on increased domestic and care work.
Through their experiences as early adopters of holistic and regenerative
agricultural techniques, first responders in crises, entrepreneurs of green energy, and
decision-makers at home, women offer valuable insights and solutions into better
managing the climate’s changes and its risks. Despite this, their collective and
individual lived experience and leadership are often overlooked and undervalued.
Building a sustainable future entails harnessing the knowledge, skills, and leadership
of women in climate action. Because women sit precariously at the intersection of
many daunting social problems including poverty, climate change, and violence, it is
critical that they be safe and empowered to reach their full potential. Gender mainstreaming will accelerate progress across all SDG’s. It’s no wonder then that
women’s leadership is explicitly called for in the preamble to the Paris Accord.
Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the
context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and
programs is an urgent multilateral and multi-stakeholder endeavor.
UN Women has identified important priorities:

  1. Enhancing understanding and expertise by all stakeholders on gender
    mainstreaming and the integration of a gender perspective in the thematic areas under
    the Convention, Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Accord.
  2. Enhancing disaggregate data collection and knowledge of the application
    of gender-responsive tools and methodologies to realize gender-responsive
    implementation of decisions.
    Women’s Intercultural Network proposes the following recommendations:
  3. Member states must honor existing climate commitments and implement
    new strategies and policies to enhance results, including stronger engagement with
    the private sector, indigenous peoples, and civil society, with an increased focus on
    gender equality.
  4. Mitigation and adaptation strategies must center a Climate Justice Human
    Rights framework to ensure policies, programs, and initiatives are equitable for
    women and girls, and all marginalized groups. The climate crisis is a transformational
    moment in history that holds the opportunity to transform not only the energy sector,
    but discriminatory structures of governance, and unsustainable economic models.
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    Integrated sustainable projects and programs that advance social, economic and
    environmental solutions must be prioritized.
  5. The creation of a UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate
    change is needed to increase accountability for women’s and human rights abuses
    linked to climate change and to guide governments on addressing climate change from
    a human rights perspective.
  6. Climate Change Education must become a mandatory curriculum at all
    levels, including the development and implementation of educational and public
    awareness programs on climate change and its gendered effects. Curricular guidelines
    provide a solid framework for facilitating and financing the development,
    implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of gender-inclusive Climate Change
    Education. (S. Aibe, K. Gross 2021)
  7. Girls’ participation in local, national, and international climate fora by
    creating guidelines for youth engagement in climate decision-making processes.
    Publicize the critical and intersectional roles that women and girls play in accelerating
    climate adaptation and resilience activities in families and communities, and the
    expertise they bring from their daily lives. (S. Aibe, K. Gross 2021)
  8. Climate solutions must center on both indigenous and women’s leadership.
    Their role in decision-making, protection, and management of resources is crucial.
    Women and girls face a disproportionate risk of food scarcity, water availability,
    violence and climate, and conflict-induced migration. Policies must be informed by,
    and responsive to, their needs. Indigenous communities steward 80 percent of the
    world’s biodiversity. Conservation initiatives and the protection of carbon sinks are
    vital to mitigate climate change and avert its worst effects. Ample evidence shows
    protecting forest-dependent communities, the rights of Indigenous peoples’ tenure,
    ensuring women’s participation in local forest governance delivers major benefits for
    the climate. Furthermore, in cases where women have been fully involved in local forest
    governance that delivers both livelihood and conservation benefits, forest
    regeneration and canopy growth improved. (Human Rights Watch)
  9. Best practices in just climate-responsive legislations and strategies should
    be replicated.
    a. Illinois offers a prime example of transformative legislation at the state
    level. The groundbreaking Climate and Equitable Jobs Act is legislation that
    will bring lessons learned to states across the country that are poised to make an
    equitable transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. The Climate and Equitable
    Jobs Act marks one of the nation’s greatest advancements in climate justice and
    workforce transition, creating integrated solutions that advance equity and
    climate objectives.
    b. Women’s Intercultural Network encourages states, non-governmental and
    the public and private sectors to fund and apply the gender-focused evaluation,
    practices, and metrics outlined in CEDAW to bring this global framework to
    local communities to advance women and girls’ equity and accelerate progress
    across all SDG’s. The sustainable cities initiative of UN-Habitat and the work
    to realize SDG 11 have spurred policies, programs, partnerships, and initiatives
    to address local risk and resiliency. Gender mainstreaming is imperative to
    ensure this work is inclusive, equitable, effective, and sustainable. Women’s
    Intercultural Network has been connecting CEDAW to local action. Since its
    launch in 2014, the Cities for CEDAW Campaign has identified vital links
    between human rights, gender equity, and local public policy. As Resolutions
    and Ordinances have taken shape in numerous localities across the United
    States, it is clear that advocates, both men, and women, see their communities as
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    responsive, organic, and committed to the well-being and empowerment of
    women and girls and families. To date, under the aegis of Women’s Intercultural
    Network and partners, 10 cities have enacted ordinances that incorporate anti-discrimination human rights standards and strategies into local governance,
    modeled by the language of the UN CEDAW Treaty.
    These ordinances demonstrate the growing consensus that CEDAW is a roadmap
    to gender equity, inclusion, and sustainability at the grassroots level. In addition to
    US municipal ordinances, there are currently 10 county governmental bodies that
    have adopted the CEDAW model to identify inequities. The Cities for CEDAW
    Campaign mandates a Gender Analysis to study and address discriminatory policies
    and practices. These analyses provide localized disaggregate data points on
    employment, social services, access, and participation. The resulting data informs
    strategic plans and policy decisions. Adopting a local CEDAW framework provides
    oversight and creates the measurement mechanisms essential to track progress.
    Oversight bodies like Gender Equity Commissions and Task Forces have been
    instrumental in addressing equitable inclusive decision-making, pay equity, work-related imbalances, safety, and violence against women.
    Climate risk is a vulnerability multiplier. Because CEDAW cities are more
    equitable, they are inherently more resilient. Closing the gender gap builds individual
    and community resilience.
    The CEDAW framework is instrumental in advancing the BPfA. It provides
    local governments, in partnership with civil society organizations and the private
    sector, the tools to build a sustainable infrastructure for gender equality. CEDAW
    establishes that climate justice and sexual and reproductive health rights are
    interlinked in the human rights and empowerment framework.
  10. Climate Investments must match the scale and urgency of the problem.
    Prioritizing women in clean energy investments, access to capital, job training, hiring,
    ownership, and new business creation is important in closing the gender gap and a
    necessary step to “building back better.” These mitigation investments must include
    retrofitting buildings to increase energy efficiency; adopting renewable energy
    sources like solar, wind; helping cities develop more sustainable transport: bus rapid
    transit, electric vehicles, and promoting more sustainable uses of land and forests.
    Programs and policies that protect Coastal Wetlands, promote Agroforestry and
    regenerative farming, decentralize clean energy distribution, and fund integrated
    solutions that address adaptation and mitigation will promote resiliency.