Climate Change Dimension Added to International Women's Day

GLAND, Switzerland, March 8, 2007 (ENS) - The world's largest conservation organization added a new component today to the annual celebration of International Women’s Day. For the first time, IUCN-The World Conservation Union is incorporating gender equality into the battle against global warming.

Around the world International Women’s Day was marked with events focused on ending violence against women and girls and recognizing the contributions of females to human well-being and environmental protection.

IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefevre said, "If we are to be successful in addressing one of the most challenging environmental and social issues of our time – climate change – we must incorporate a gender perspective in this work."


Julia Marton-Lefevre of Hungary became IUCN director general on January 1, 2007. (Photo courtesy IUCN)
When swift environmental changes and natural disasters come along, she pointed out, it is the women who are poor and landless yet responsible for food production, health and safety of their families and communities are the most vulnerable.

"IUCN is committed to addressing climate change and gender equality hand in hand, and learning from the most positive examples," said Marton-Lefevre.

"In Honduras, an effort to ensure gender balanced participation in early warning systems training saved an entire community during Hurricane Mitch," she said. "During a disaster in Micronesia, a community realized that women’s knowledge of hydrology was critical to survival. And several European countries are exploring ways to promote women’s and men’s equal participation in measures to prevent climate change."

The IUCN today recognized 23 women for their outstanding efforts to combat global warming. From Australia, China, Cameroon, Canada, Fiji, Germany, India, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sudan, Sweden, Tuvalu, and the United States, these women are scientists, activists, community developers, politicians, lawyers, and educators.

They have in common a dedication to releasing the planet and the human community from the bonds of environmental degradation, poverty and global warming.

"Since women form a disproportionate share of the poor in developing regions and communitites that are highly dependenet on local natural resources, women are likely to be disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of climate change," said Rose Abunaw Makia, one of the women honored by the IUCN.

Makia serves as deputy speaker at the Cameroon National Assembly and chairperson for the African Parliamentarian Network for a Climate Community for Central and West Africa.


Deputy Speaker of the Cameroon National Assembly Rose Abunaw Makia (Photo courtesy IUCN)
Participation of women in the international climate change negotiation process has been "minimal" to date, said Makia, but unless women are fully involved in planning and decision making, "the quality of adaptive measures will be limited and their successful implementation will remain doubtful."

IUCN honoree Sukulu Rupeni of Fiji works with marine and climate scientists from the University of the South Pacific to raise awareness in Fiji communities with education and drama.

"We train youth from those target communities on climate and variability change, biodiversity and sustainable development," Rupeni says. "Once youth have acquired these information, we work with them to create plays, songs and traditional dances on the topic. These productions are rehearsed and once ready, they are performed as awareness tools in the communities."

German engineer and sociologist Ulrike Roehr, another IUCN honoree, has been working on gender issues in planning, local Agenda 21, building, energy, climate change, and broader sustainable development issues since the late 1970s.


German engineer and sociologist Ulrike Roehr works on gender and climate change issues. (Photo courtesy IUCN)
"I am certain that, for all policies and mechanisms aiming at climate change mitigation, addressing equity is a precondition for their successful implementation," said Roehr. "Taking into account justice and especially gender justice in climate change debates and policies will lead to a shift from mere technical and economic solutions to integrated approaches, which put livelihood and people in the center."

"To cope with the challenge, we need the experience and competence of women. With all my energy I work towards integrating gender perspectives into mitigation of and adaptation to climate change," Roehr said.

IUCN honoree Lara Hansen works as a climate change scientist with the WWF in Washington, DC. "Everything on the planet is being affected by climate change," she warns. "It's not a problem of the future, it's a problem of now."

The IUCN is uniquely equipped to mobilize action against climate change. A worldwide partnership, the IUCN is active in 82 countries, and works with 111 government agencies, more than 800 nongovernmental organizations, and some 10,000 scientists and experts from 181 countries.

IUCN Director General Marton-Lefevre says, "By understanding how women and men are each affected by climate change and its impacts, and by ensuring that both women and men contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation measures, IUCN will continue to be at the forefront of conserving nature and ensuring equitable and sustainable use of natural resources."