“My rice crops dried.. as if they were burnt with fire… I did not harvest rice the year before too… Last year the rain started well, but it suddenly stopped… Some days we can not find food for our children ...” these plaintive words come from Kadia Samate, a woman farmer from Gwelekoro, Mali. They reflect the devastation being wreaked by climate change on one of the world’s most vulnerable populations: Women.
On 8 March, International Women’s Day, is when we consciously turn our minds to the plight of over 50% of the planet’s population. Today, we salute our mothers, sisters, daughters and wives, our comrades and partners. We must accept that after decades of struggle led by the women movement, injustice perpetuated against women for no other reason than their gender remains. Clearly, much work needs to be done to ensure we can redress these injustices.
Kadia is one of the thousands of rural women all over Africa, and the developing world, who are living the devastating reality of climate change impacts. This Women’s Day, the theme is: Empower Rural Women - End Hunger and Poverty.
Ok, so what does the UN actually propose we do, how will it make progress to “empower” rural women without acknowledging the fundamental threat of climate change on their rights to life, food, water, health, housing, and even the right to self-determination.
Climate change is not an equal opportunity phenomenon; its impacts are far more devastating on women, especially in rural areas and in the “high risk” countries. The increase of extreme weather conditions such as droughts, storms or floods, are affecting directly the livelihoods and well-being of rural women and girls in those countries. If we talk numbers, rural women constitute one-forth of the world’s population, they account for a great proportion of the agricultural labor force, produce the majority of food grown, especially in subsistence farming, and perform most of the unpaid rural care work. Lets not forget that developing countries – and the world’s poorest populations – will be hardest hit by climate change, which means more women than men will be hurt because women are estimated to make up about 70 percent of the world’s poor.
By failing to agree on a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement, our leaders are putting that 70% of the population at grave peril. Many citizens in the world, especially young people, I know my own daughter feels this way, are completely disgusted by how governments lack the political will to establish a solid, time-bound process to address the biggest threat our planet faces.
By failing to do so our political leaders are sleep walking us into a crisis of epic proportions, putting the future and the lives of our children and grandchildren in jeopardy.
We mark this anniversary, by celebrating the memory of Wangari Maathai and all the mothers, sisters and daughters of the world, who continue to make a difference.
For Kadia and all the rural women who do not care about oil prices, profits of CEO’s, and political cowardice, we believe their right to healthy environments must be recognized through The United Nations Human Rights Council passing a resolution for the creation of a special procedure, which addresses the environment link between climate change and human rights, and for this special procedure to evaluate the effect of climate change on those segments of the population who are already vulnerable such as women, especially rural women.