Women still under-represented in climate debate

climateprot.gifOut of 146 national delegations at the UN climate talks on Tuesday, only seven were headed by women. Oxfam says this is an example of how women’s voices are still absent from the debate on climate change and what to do about it, even though – particularly the poorest, most marginalised – women will be worst affected, IPS reports.

Climate Week, Sep. 20-26, was launched Sunday by a “Human Countdown” in New York’s Central Park. Over a thousand volunteers came together to call on world leaders attending Tuesday’s U.N. Climate Summit to take swift action to curb greenhouse gases.

The crowd of New Yorkers, dressed in green sweaters and blue ponchos, formed a human sculpture “the shape of the earth trapped inside of an hourglass with the earth dissolving like sand”.

Among the climate activists here are four women from the “frontlines of climate change”: Uganda, the Cook Islands, Biloxi, Mississippi and the Carteret Islands, whose lives have been directly affected by flood, drought, hurricanes and rising sea levels.

The IPS goes on to report on each of these four women’s stories, including Contance Okollet, chair of the Osukura United Women Network, talking about how three years of drought and flood have affected women in her village in northeast Uganda, and Ursula Rakova from Papua New Guinea who formed an NGO, Sailing the Waves on Our Own, to relocate and build houses for people displaced by rising sea-levels.

Rakova said she is here to speak with her “three sisters with one voice to address our common fate”.

Oxfam NZ has posted a video of Rakova’s story on YouTube (note, I’ve not been able to watch this myself):

It didn’t fill me with confidence, though, that Oxfam’s own blog post about this protest failed to mention gender, or the four women there to represent the “frontlines of climate change”. Constance, though, had a post up on Comment is Free yesterday.

At least there are signs people are talking about this a tiny bit more – it was the focus of a discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative Treehugger reported, although they didn’t seem to come away with much of an idea why gender was being linked with climate change, unfortunately.

There were some minor fireworks when [Exxon CEO Rex] Tillerman attempted to make one of those vague, grand philanthropic statements so common to wealthy benefactors at public events. He said something along the lines of “it’s not how much you spend, but how you spend it,” and was stopped by [Women for Women International founder Zainab] Salbi, who retorted that that couldn’t be the case, since only 1% of funding given to developing countries was given to women. She was met with a round of applause.