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Liberia’s vice-president lauds women’s role in mitigating impact of climate change

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Liberia’s vice-president lauds women’s role in mitigating impact of climate change

Dr. Jewel Howard Taylor says women are key to building a peaceful and sustainable climate-resilient Africa.
From Africa Renewal: 
28 March 2022
Jewel Taylor, Vice President of Liberia.
Jewel Howard Taylor
Liberia’s Vice-President Dr. Jewel Howard Taylor.
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Liberia’s Vice-President Dr. Jewel Howard Taylor has called on leaders in Africa to recognize the critical role women play in mitigating the impact of climate change and building a peaceful and sustainable climate-resilient Africa. 

“Until the world shifts to a position of true gender equality, women will remain the most negatively affected at all levels…unable to use their collective strength in helping to solve issues like climate change and world peace,Dr. Taylor said in her keynote address. 

The Vice-President was speaking at a high-level event on the margins of the 66th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women held in New York in March 2022. It was organized by the African Women Leaders’ Network (AWLN), in collaboration with the Group of Friends of AWLN New York, co-chaired by Germany and South Africa, together with UN Women and the International Peace Institute (IPI). 

The hybrid side-event was held at the Nelson Mandela Hall in the African Union (AU) Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations in New York.  

Under the theme: Women’s leadership in mitigating the impact of climate change and building a peaceful and sustainable climate-resilient Africa, discussions focused on the nexus between climate change, women’s equality and empowerment. Gender equality and the livelihoods of women’s  families were inextricably linked to the environment and climate change. 

There has been some progress on the continent as more women are assuming key decision-making positions and leading strategic ministries such as defense and agriculture . However, many countries are yet to  attain the minimum 30% commitment  (Mexico World Conference on Women, 1975) for women’s representation as stated by Dr. Taylor. 

While it is critical to continue advocating for more representation, several speakers highlighted the need for women leaders to leverage their positions for the adoption of gender responsive policies.   

In attendance, leading the call for integrating gender equality to mitigate the impact of climate change in Africa, were Cabinet ministers from Angola, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Guinea, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and South Africa.

Permanent Representatives of Germany, South Africa, and Nauru, as well as the AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, Ms. Bineta Diop, AWLN pioneers, civil society, and young leaders also attended the event. 

UN Women Executive Director Ms. Sima Bahous said there was need to integrate gender perspective into climate and other policies and programmes.

“Sustainable development and peace are inseparable,” said Ms. Bahous, adding that African women, had a vital role in bringing sustainable development, climate change, and gender equality to the global stage . 

While Africa has enough natural resources to feed the entire continent, the effects of climate change and environmental degradation are impacting food security. Women, especially those in rural area, are particularly adversely impacted by climate change because of their high dependence on the environment for their livelihoods.   

Women’s leadership

Women, like the late Prof. Wangari Maathai, and the growing number of young activists, have been leading climate change responses in Africa. However, the UN Women Executive Director said a lot of times women’s contributions were “under-supported, under-resourced, under-valued and under-recognized.”   

Ms. Antonette Ncube, a youth climate activist from Botswana, reiterated the need to rethink the balance between ‘consultation’ and ‘activism’ to increase support for women’s efforts.  

The kind and nature of support should be clearly stated, and leadership redefined from rural women’s perspective.  These measures will help eliminate barriers to women’s access to services and resources to support food and crop production.  

Climate change priority

While the global discourse on climate change emphasizes reducing emissions, Ms. Jane Dorothy Anika, a youth climate expert from Kenya, highlighted the need for Africa’s narrative to focus on mitigation and adaptation so as to reflect the realities of the situation on the continent.  

Africa accounts for an estimated  4% of global emissions, yet nine out of the ten countries most vulnerable to climate change globally are in sub-Saharan Africa, noted Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, the AU Commissioner for Rural Development, Blue Economy, and Sustainable Environment .  

So rather than “demoralizing women for cooking with firewood” the focus should shift to the effects of using firewood on their health, according to Ms. Chido Mpemba, an AU Youth Envoy.   

The global climate talks, COP 27, to be held in Egypt later this year, will provide a platform to engage national gender and climate change focal points and, once more, highlight the importance of women’s involvement in innovating solutions to mitigate the impact of climate change.   

Youth involvement

Africa has a huge youth population who need be enabled to play a key role in protecting the environment in order to secure their future. Integrating climate governance and sustainable farming into school curricula would teach the younger children to adapt eco-friendly habits at an early age.  

Cabinet ministers from Morocco and Nigeria highlighted the need to leverage technology as a means of reaching young people, many of whom are on social media.  Mainstreaming current climate change activism efforts by young people -- active blogging and  development of short documentaries -- is critical.  

Policy

Political will at the highest-level should provide an opportunity to reinvigorate the dialogue on how to address climate change and promote women’s leadership.  

In addition, an increasing number of countries have signed up to regional and international protocols and have developed national policies and programmes to address climate change.

Several countries in Africa – currently 35,  have appointed national gender and climate change focal points, with some –  Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe, having passed specific laws on climate change.  

Dealing with the complexity of climate change and its wide-ranging impact demands a response that will incorporate women’s unique and invaluable perceptions and inputs at all levels .  

Climate Action is needed ‘now’ because the climate change crisis is endangering the realization of Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the attainment of the SDGs. There is need to prioritize gender equality.  

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