Inclusivity in Climate change: how far have the women come?

Fozia Parveen*

Women’s Day is a reminder for us to look at how the world is shaping around us in this day and age. Pakistan’s average CO2 emissions is 1.05 tonnes per capita compared to the global average of 4.82 tonnes per capita. Regardless of our contribution to global greenhouse (GHG) emissions, we have been declared the 5th country most vulnerable to the impacts of Climate change. Roughly half of the workforce in agriculture comprises of women and they have a major role to play in food security. Women therefore, have a significant role to play in adapting sustainably to the impacts of climate change. 

The first World Women’s Congress (8-12 November 1991) for a Healthy Planet in Miami, Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) brought together more than 1,500 women from 83 countries to work jointly on a strategy for UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). If the peasant women from India could stop cutting of trees and commercial activity under the Chipko Movement in the 1970s, the more informed and more educated women have even bigger responsibilities in saving the planet, especially in this age of information and technology. Despite all the efforts, the women’s agenda 21 was not very inclusive and the following year, UNCED’s agenda 21 did not include many points from the said agenda. However, this still was a very positive step towards making women a part of the process. 

It is well established that women are severely affected by climate change and natural disasters and this impact is created by the prevailing inequality in the society, on top of poverty, discrimination and patriarchy i.e. the inequitable social and cultural norms. It is therefore that we need an ecological accounting system, capable of tracking and promoting climate just economic practices at every level, from local to global and is also inclusive of all intersections of society. This then brings the focus on the concept of globalisation and capitalism. By creating the concept that world is homogenous and economic globalisation is achievable, cultures and identities are being destroyed. The capability of small scale local businesses and their capability of being climate just is being undermined. This also indirectly affects women as most women run very local and small scale businesses. Due to their limited resources they either become prey to bigger business and get very little pay for the work they do or never really reach the consumers that would value their work. The corporate world has in fact jeopardised small and sustainable businesses in general and small and sustainable women businesses in particular.

The corporate world has colonised everything from TV, education and education systems, supporting women initiative, becoming green, universalising consumer and commercialising youth etc. They are involved in all sectors from food to water, food and energy to biotechnology and so on.  The degree of injustice is remarkable as Michael Jordan was paid $20 million for promoting NIKE shoes, which is far greater than the total annual payroll of all the employees in the Indonesian factories that make the shoes (5 cents/hour). Women often stand at the centre of these injustices and their voice therefore matters.

The corporates need to understand that their mandatory corporate social money initiatives are not representative of the environmental damage they pose on the planet. As biggest polluters their responsibilities go way beyond corporate social responsibility (CSR). Women can raise their voice in endorsing the concept of extended producer responsibility (EPR) instead, where the producer is responsible for the extended life of their product. 

More and more women need to come in businesses, and key decision making positions especially at a national and international level so that their sensitive approach can make the planet sustainable and also sensitise people around them.

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