Written by Anna Sipek
On December 3rd, the Tzu Chi delegation dedicated their time at COP28 in the United Arab Emirates to advancing women’s rights, both for the sake of equity and for the sake of climate justice. Women are not only leading the fight against the climate crisis, but they are also disproportionately impacted by its effects. Increased violence, decreased education, and higher death rates all come as a result of our deteriorating environment. This is why, as the climate crisis worsens, it’s perhaps more important now than it ever has been before to protect, maintain, and uphold the rights of women and girls around the world.
Connecting Faith, Feminism, and Climate Justice
Tzu Chi and the Green Hope Foundation came together to host “Interfaith Feminist Climate Justice for the Human Right to a Healthy Environment,” an event exploring the intersection of faith, women’s rights, and climate justice.
“This panel is about feminist faith and how it’s impacting the climate movement and how it should impact the climate movement,” said panelist Rev. Dallas Conyers.
Regardless of what community you come from- religious, indigenous, spiritual, or even secular – nature is likely conceptualized for you as something primal and maternal: mother nature, gaia, etc. This figure is all giving and known for endless warmth, and yet despite this ever-prevailing idea, we all continue to exploit, pollute, and otherwise take for granted our environment. This leads to further gender inequity that disregards women’s human right to a safe society and environment.
Gender Disparities in Health
Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is projected to cause 250,000 additional yearly deaths from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress, having an amplified gendered impact on climate-vulnerable communities with weak health infrastructure.
Recognizing these potential impacts, panelists acknowledged the urgent need for a shift in the status quo. While many are pushing for a more climate friendly future, talk is no longer enough. Swift action is the only way to ensure we limit the already disastrous impacts of the climate crisis. Vegetarian diets, investment in clean energy technology, and policy change all are alternative solutions to if not fix- mitigate the effects of longterm impacts.
Increased Heat and Decreased Education
As the climate shifts, women and girls are often taken out of school or limited in their access to education for a variety of reasons including an increased need for agricultural support in the home and decreased electricity preventing late night reading.
“In most of the African countries we find that 80% of households don’t have access to electricity. If there’s no electricity these young girls go home; they don’t have access to lighting to read, but if we have electricity at school young girls and even boys would be able to learn,” shared Jaqueline Kimeu, Energy and Climate Coordinator at the World Wildlife Fund in Kenya.
Fortunately, there are viable alternatives.
“Renewable energy can keep women can keep young girls in school building their resilience.,” offered Kimeu. This access to education will empower women and girls to reach their full potentials and contribute to climate action.
The solution is simple, we need to listen to the women in our lives and learn to value their experience and perspective in this fight for a sustainable, liveable future.
“It is important to listen to the voice of women and girls to change the world and to save the planet,” said Meifeng Lin, Tzu Chi Germany volunteer.
“Women, we are at the front lines of care. We know what the immediate solutions and steps are to really get past these terrible times we’re in,” asserted Rev. Dallas Conyers, SCEN member. “We also would know how we need to scale this up because the women are usually the foundation of our communities so they could tell you the solutions that our states and governments need to be taking on.”