As the world had its eyes on COP28, women leaders and advocates gathered in Dubai for the “Women Rise for All at #COP28” dialogue on Gender Equality Day. Executive Director of the UN Office for Partnerships, Annemarie Hou moderated this moving discussion which highlighted an important truth: we cannot advance the climate action agenda without women at the table.
Women’s unwavering role
Throughout the conversation, the participants highlighted the characteristics that make women effective leaders for lasting solutions, and answered “Why should we invest in women’s leadership?” Award-winning Senegalese musician and activist, Ms. Oumy Gueye underscored that women have a greater sense of collaboration. “We see it here and we have the sensibility to pay attention to the problem,” she shared.
Ms. Tasneem Essop, Executive Director of Climate Action Network, said: “When we talk about the power of people, it's essentially the power of women. And so that's where we need to invest,” she underscored.
Confronting our current climate reality
Science shows that women and girls are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. “The fossil fuel industry is impacting the day-to-day lives of young women and girls everywhere. So it is not just a battle cry,” said Ms. Ayisha Siddiqa, Member of the UN Secretary-General's Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change.
The COP28 Dialogue opened a space for personal storytelling of how climate change has affected participants who traveled to Dubai from around the world. Oumy told the group, “When I was young, I was playing in my grandparents’ house and the advancing of the sea destroyed the house.” Reflecting on how they felt at COP, some participants expressed a sense of heartbreak and pain, referring to the ongoing situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
In her experience with civil society networks, Ms. Essop shared the importance of facing the tough issues around the climate crisis. “It's very important that we don't set aside conflicts if I can call it that. You put it on the table, you have the hard conversation and then you build consensus.”
A community of women
Throughout the conversation, the participants agreed on the importance of community, and the love, resilience and nurture that provides. Women Rise for All began as an initiative as the world grappled with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as explained by the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed. Today, the solidarity of women protecting lives and responding to crises has not changed, especially when it comes to the climate crisis.
“Women stand at the forefront of the climate battle, whether as scientists, legislators, indigenous leaders, or youth activists. They are fighting to keep the 1.5 degrees Celsius target alive, bringing solutions, saving lives and protecting livelihoods,” said Ms. Mohammed.
Also joining the discussion was Chief Sustainability Officer of Microsoft, Ms. Melanie Nakagawa who reminded the women leaders: “I'm surrounded by change agents here. This is a real opportunity for women and girls to be change agents.”
Inspiring action: What can you do?
You don’t need to attend a global climate conference to advance climate action and be an agent of change. According to Ms. Siddiqa, you can get involved in renewable projects and just transition projects in your local communities and national delegations. “What women and girls can do is what we have been doing, which is advocacy,” she said.
Advocacy can be applied to different spaces, industries and sectors. “The crucial role that we all play and the role that corporations play in the mix as well is to be able to demonstrate where that opportunity lies in driving the solutions forward,” said Ms. Nakagawa.
At the halfway mark of the 2030 Agenda, every step in the path to climate justice is a step in the right direction for the Sustainable Development Goals. “It takes all kinds of voices and we all need to play a role,” said Ms. Annemarie Hou.
Watch the full conversation [HERE]