This detailed post is made in honor of Taylor Smith.
Another post from Gender Day at COP19/CMP! Building on the awareness of COP18’s Gender Decision and its impact on COP19 — brought to this blog last week by our colleague, Taylor Smith — I attended a third session today devoted to women and climate change. Entitled Gender and Climate Change: Vision 50/50, it brought together a group of influential women leaders from around the globe, to talk about the important role of women in addressing climate change.
Christiana Figueres emceed the event, which included Bianca Jagger (who chairs a foundation named after her), Tarja Halonen (president of Finland for 12 years), Lakshmi Puri (Deputy Executive Director of UN Women), Mary Robinson (former president of Ireland, now president of a foundation named after her), and Helen Clark (UNDP Administrator and former New Zealand head of state). Figueres set the tone for the next hour of conversation. While we should always “keep our feet on the ground, but raise our eyes to the stars,” today she urged us “let’s together look more to the stars.” She asked each of the women leaders on the panel to “share from the heart and soul, not head,” answering the question: “If we could create the world that we want for the next generation, what would it look like?
Jagger led off, highlighting the invaluable services women provide to ecosystems and the role that violence against women plays in keeping them from succeeding more (and the fact that combatting this phenomenon was left out of the MilleniumDevelopment Goals). She ended her remarks by quoting Rachel Carson’s version of Robert Frost’s Road Not Taken, written in her award-winning book, Silent Spring: “We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”
Before passing the mic to Puri, Figueres quipped: “I like the image of crazy women walking down the path less trodden.”
Puri spoke of her dream of changing the “lived reality” of women. She wishes that women will gain a voice in the household, community, state, and global levels. She gave a nod to the COP gender balance decision, but noted that it is small piece of achieving her dream, just “a means to this end.”Robinson spoke next. She warned about her “disruptive” nature, and then promptly brought up a young woman from the front two rows, to occupy a seat on the dais left empty by Warsaw’s mayor. She described the kind of transformational leadership she’d like to see embraced by the next generation of women leaders. First, it would call out the injustice of climate change’s disproportionate impact on the poor, including energy injustice (open fire cooking whose smoke causes lung ailments and early death, candles and kerosene that cause house fires). Then it would give voice to the poor, and offer new ways to grow through low carbon production and inclusive sustainable development (like leaving the remaining fossil fuel in ground, which Robinson described as being dangerous, like asbestos).
Halonen would like a world without war, civil violence, and domestic violence. She told us that in Finland’s only 100 years of independence, the country has had one civil war and two other wars. She also encouraged the future leaders in the room to make connecting with our dreams a part of the official agenda.Clark imagines a time when gender equality is accepted as “just the way it works.” She observed that while the Gender Decision was a paradigm change, it is but a first response. Now women need to be involved in the economic and financial world, working on sustainable energy and water access. “No decision about us without us,” Clark sang out: “We have to be at the table, and have our voices heard.”
Figueres added that women “have to be at the table AND raise our voice once there.” And then practiced what she was preaching by giving the floor to the young woman in the absent mayor’s seat, who clearly had won the women’s day lottery!
Elizabeth Njoroge, Executive Director of the Art of Mosaic, concluded the session by singing an original song, Vision 50/50 that was written, composed and first performed for this event.