Where Are All the Women?

Not only is it a rare occurrence to see women walking down the streets of Doha, but within the negotiations, as well. Out of all of the nations represented here at the COP, only approximately 36% of official delegates and negotiators are female-bodied (a slight increase from the average 17%). Numbers from this specific conference are pending, numbers cited are from COP17 and Bonn/Bangkok Intercessionals. 

November 27 was officially “Gender Day” at COP18. Many sessions throughout the day were centered around discussion about how women are disproportionately impacted by climate change, that there isn’t enough female representation within COP negotiations from each country delegation, and that the voices of women need to be more strongly heard on multiple levels of political participation.

To frame this day, let me give a quick background. I am an Environmental and Feminist Studies double major who focuses on environmental justice. Equity, however you want to define this word, is something that I see to be crucial to creating solutions to climate change. My role, as I see it, at this COP is to learn. For those of you who don’t know much about the UNFCCC, there are currently 7 subsidiary bodies this session. None of these bodies are headed by women.

At an event later in the day called “Gender and Climate Innovation: Breakthrough changes for gender equality” which featured two women whom have inspired me during my time here at COP, Mary Robinson (the first female President of Ireland) and Christiana Figueres (the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC) and the extraordinary Minister Alcinda Abreau of Mozambique.

Gender Innovation Panel.
Gender and Climate Innovation Panel.

At this panel, the ladies (who decided amongst themselves that they were all to be called “Mama”) were asked why they were passionate about COP and international climate change. Mama Christiana said that what keeps her motivated to fight climate change is her two daughters. She said,  “I know that whatever we do or whatever we don’t do will affect their quality of life, their children, their children, and 7 generations after that. What keeps me up at night is the eyes of 7 generations of the future looking back at me and asking what did you do? We are the first generation who knows what we are doing… this gives us a moral responsibility to do something… we cannot continue to do this to the future generation. They did not contribute to this. We need to do this particularly for children in developing countries and those that are most vulnerable to climate change.” This is one of the many reasons why I adore Christiana Figueres.

Later in the panel, a question was asked, “Do you think that COP18 will be known as ‘the gender COP’?” to which the answer was, “I certainly hope not, because then that would mean that there was only one!”

There are many reasons why, however, this COP is making waves and opening new opportunities for women to have more equal representation within this body of the United Nations. This session, the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) approved a draft proposal detailing the implementation of gender balance principles that were proposed at COP7 in Marrakech.  It seems like a long time coming and is definitely a victory for women and climate justice! The work is obviously not over here. Many women can be given a spot on delegations, but will they be the ones to speak? Will they be able to make decisions? Moving forward, this is a great foundation for increasing women’s participation in the negotiation process and I am proud to say that I was a part of making this difference by participating in the women’s caucus here at COP and making suggestions to the draft proposal. This isn’t all that was done, however, but more on that later.

Teaser: Gender Balance Action Post to Come!
Teaser: Gender Balance Action Post to Come!

For now, Aloha from Doha.


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