In the face of a changing climate and the often catastrophic consequences that come with it, grassroots women across the Global South are on the frontlines, leading climate justice work and achieving real, measurable change in their communities. WLP's alliance of women's organizations leads local climate projects that address environmental degradation, economic inequality, and gender discrimination. This Earth Day, we are highlighting the climate action by women across our global partnership, from the international to the grassroots level.
Global Climate Justice Roundtable Reinforces the Need to Support Grassroots Women Leaders
This spring, feminist leaders from across the development and humanitarian sectors gathered in New York for the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women to discuss climate action. Co-hosted by WLP and the Women’s Refugee Commission three years after WLP’s first feminist climate forum, the discussion brought together civil society, academics, artists, and activists to take a global, intersectional, and holistic view of the climate conversation. Despite the diversity of experiences and perspectives shared, one thread unified the discussion: women, while disproportionately impacted by climate change, are effective and creative leaders of climate action, and we must support and amplify their efforts.
Tribal Women in Morocco Gain Access to Collective Land and Promote Sustainable Practices
WLP’s partner in Morocco, L'Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc (ADFM), has seen firsthand how local women make more environmentally conscious and sustainable decisions for their communities after gaining the power to make decisions about the land they live on. Since 2007, WLP Morocco/ADFM has trained thousands of the women who live and work on Morocco’s collective lands, known as Soulaliyates, to lead law reform regarding these lands and secure equal access to the tribal decision-making bodies. In 2019 due to this advocacy, the Moroccan government passed a law declaring that men and women in these communities have the right to resources and access to representative bodies. For the first time in the country’s history, 30 women sit on the decision-making bodies of the collective lands.
As the Soulaliyate women have gained greater access to the communal lands, they have begun implementing sustainable agricultural projects to support the rehabilitation and preservation of these lands. At the 2022 UN Stockholm +50 Forum on climate change, former president of ADFM Markesh and WLP Regional Director Nezha Belkchala shared the inspiring story of the Soulaliyate women. “Women have played a critical role in climate change mitigation and are powerful leaders in the fight against climate change, but social gender roles tie them … [They] don't have any role in decision making, which restricts their power. That is why I want to make the powerful experience of the rural women in Morocco visible.”
Women Farmers Promote Sustainable Practices, WLP Senegal Makes Their Voices Heard
WLP’s partner GIPS/WAR and its leader Julie Cissé have committed to equipping local women with the knowledge and skills necessary to lead climate justice decision-making. Cisse has become a voice of women farmers on the international climate justice stage. Cissé attended the African Union Assembly meeting in Ethiopia this February to bring the visibility of local women farmers to the high-level discussions. When asked about her role in the Assembly, Cissé said, “This is a way for us to make our voice heard and to say that we need policies that are more sensitive to the people, but specifically policies that take into account the specific needs of women.”
The AU Assembly wasn’t the first time Cissé and WLP Senegal have helped carry the voices and priorities of grassroots women leaders to international convenings. Knowing that Senegal’s local women farmers couldn’t feasibly make it to the 2022 Conference of the Parties summit (COP27) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Egypt, GIPS/WAR organized parallel events across Senegal. At these events, Cissé worked with local communities to share climate change mitigation strategies, inform them about the policy discussions at COP27, and record messages from local women and men to send to decision-makers at COP27. “We wanted to be there without physically being there,” Cissé said about the Egypt convening. “Each young person, each young woman there that day recorded a message to say ‘We are in Senegal. This is what we do. This is what we want and need.
WLP Mozambique Keeps Women Farmer’s Needs Represented in Land Policy Reform Process
As we’ve seen in Morocco and Senegal, women farmers' perspectives on land and environmental management play an essential role in the sustainability of their communities. In Mozambique, WLP’s partner Fórum Mulher is ensuring the national government hears that perspective. When the Mozambique government began a review of its National Land Policy in 2020, Fórum Mulher became concerned that the policy review process was weakening women’s access to land and inhibiting women’s participation in land management. A long-time advocate for the voices and perspectives of rural women and women farmers, WLP Mozambique conducted research, published a report on their findings, and met with officials to raise their concerns.
In their meetings with policymakers, Fórum Mulher underscored how the government’s loosening of the regulations has allowed companies to usurp land from rural women and men under the guise of development. Using strategies and best practices from WLP’s climate justice convenings, Fórum Mulher demanded a gender quota for representation in the land policy review process and made the participation of rural women mandatory. While the review process is still underway, Fórum Mulher continues to hold the government accountable and represent the interests of rural women in the decision-making process.
WLP Pakistan Centers Women’s Experiences in Climate Disaster Relief
Back-to-back, record-breaking heat waves hit Pakistan in May and June of 2022, which experts believe may have contributed to conditions that brought heavier-than-normal monsoon monsoons and triggered glacial flooding. Starting in mid-June, Pakistan struggled with massive floods, and by August 2022, one-third of the country was underwater. The Aurat Foundation, WLP’s longtime partner in Pakistan, launched into action to support women in the flood-affected areas.
Over the last 40 years, Aurat has established thousands of Community Action Committees (CAC) to promote citizen engagement and encourage more political participation, particularly by women. In the early days of these CACs, Aurat struggled to find women willing to participate, but after years of community engagement and WLP-supported trainings, grassroots women now lead every CAC. Following the flooding, Aurat engaged all of its Committee Action Committees in affected areas to help assess women’s immediate needs and help coordinate Aurat’s relief efforts. In collaboration with the networks of CACs, Aurat held dozens of sessions with local women, particularly pregnant women, to ensure their voices, priorities, and perspectives on the crisis were being heard and their needs met.
Past Climate Disasters Helped Prepare WLP Turkey for Gender-Sensitive Earthquake Relief
In August 2021, Turkey experienced heat waves that led to the worst wildfires in the country's history. WLP Turkey/KEDV used a smartphone application developed as part of its Resilient Neighborhood Program to determine community needs and priorities after the wildfires in Gaziantep, a province in southeast Turkey that was the epicenter of the following year’s devastating earthquakes. In a Gaziantep training held by KEDV, participants identified climate change-related issues facing local women, developed recommendations to respond to them, and held meetings with local government officials to discuss implementing their recommendations.
This experience centering women’s experiences in disasters proved invaluable to KEDV this year when Turkey faced catastrophe again. February 2023’s earthquakes prompted a swift response from KEDV, who deployed to the hardest-hit regions to conduct an immediate needs assessment. In coordination with the Turkish Disaster Platform and based on the needs assessment, KEDV provided direct assistance to all 78 women's cooperatives in the Simurg Women's Cooperatives Union. KEDV worked to re-establish communication and coordination between cooperatives to ensure local women could communicate their communities' needs with KEDV and one another.
Effective climate justice work must center the experiences, perspectives, and needs of grassroots, indigenous, and local women, but not simply because they are the hardest hit by the consequences of climate change. They are powerful and effective change agents whose work needs to be supported and amplified.
ABOUT WLP’S CLIMATE JUSTICE INITIATIVE:
For the last 20 years and across over 50 countries in the Global South, the Women’s Learning Partnership has worked with our alliance of autonomous women’s rights organizations to strengthen and amplify grassroots women’s leadership and civic engagement. In the last decade, WLP’s advocacy for climate justice has aimed to call attention to how women are leading creative and sophisticated climate action in their communities despite experiencing disproportionate climate change impacts. WLP’s inclusive and participatory approach and the frequent exchanges we facilitate between our partners enrich and strengthen their climate justice work.
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Women's Learning Partnership joins Freedom House and over 450 civil society organizations, policymakers, and human rights leaders from around the world to call for global solidarity for Iran. The joint statement presents six steps that the international community must take to support the movement in Iran for freedom and rights. Read the joint statement below.