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No Climate Justice Without Gender Justice: The Urgency of Engendering Climate Justice

[Isis International, 18 October 2011] Climate change is a reality that is faced by people and countries in various ways. Some of its effects have been the increasing numbers and intensity of typhoons and the long seasons of drought that have challenged food production, sanitation and have caused increasing health problems. The impacts of climate change aren’t gender neutral. Men and women experience and are affected by climate change differently. This is because of existing gender inequalities, which affect all aspects of social life, make their way into the effects of climate change.

Climate Justice is a framework to think about how social justice and equity fit into the climate crisis. It deals with the climate crisis while addressing inequalities, including the unequal power relations among nations. Climate Justice also recognizes the different concerns and situations of women living in cities and those living in rural areas. Under this framework, Climate Justice advocates new, sustainable, and just economic and political models.wacc_yiping

Thus, Climate justice is inseparable from gender justice. Climate change links to other gender issues, such as the division of labour, domestic life, reproductive health, and migration among many others. Because of these links, we must take gender into account while analysing climate solutions in order to avoid heightening existing gender injustices.

In these contexts we are presented with two faces of women’s reality. On the one hand, women are indeed the most affected because of long-standing issues of gender; yet on the other, they are also active agents in addressing immediate and strategic solutions to climate justice.

Communicating Gender Justice and Climate Justice, Strategizing Advocacy

To date, gender issues have hardly figured in the international policy discourse on climate change, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol. One government delegate responded during the climate talks in October 2009, “We know that gender issues are important. Don’t worry, we will include them in the discussion. But right now, we have other priorities, more urgent issues”. Gender is often overlooked in discussions about strategies to reduce the source of greenhouse gases because of the “technical” or “scientific” nature of the strategies. This view ignores that women are mainly responsible for ensuring energy supply and security at the household level. The dominant perspective is that women are seen as victims or members of vulnerable groups, instead of agents of change, leaders and decision-makers. However, this may be changing thanks to feminist lobbying and the increasing involvement of gender specialists in this field.

Women’s experiences of climate change, whether in the family, community or as a citizen of a country has implications to women’s rights. It is important to know how to communicate women’s experiences of climate change based on an approach that sees it necessary to analyze issues from women’s lived realities, particularly from developing countries.

In order to transform the climate change arena, it is necessary to surface women’s experiences of climate change. Consequently, it is essential to create a sound communication agenda that highlights women’s lived realities and their intersections.

Isis International is a women’s organization that believes the access and participation of women to the media and communication can contribute the social justice and empowerment of women in the global south. We are stronger believer that the communication is a key in building a strong people’s movement towards climate justice and gender justice.

Strategizing the use of communication means to make use of both old and new forms of media and communication tools for information sharing, education and social moblization and policy advocacies depending on the availability, accessibility, usefulness and efficiency and needs of your target audiences. In many cases, traditional communication tools such as radio, theatre, video and face-to-face interactions are the most effective for women, particularly in areas where new technologies are not readily available. In other instances, the use of computer and mobile technologies as well as the internet are effective, especially in trying to reach out to a wider and broader audience and getting information disseminated quickly. It is also possible to use both traditional and new technologies in our advocacy, where radio plugs, video documentaries and the like are posted on websites or are circulated via email lists. Another example is evidenced by the reality that while a grassroots women’s organization may not have access to the internet but has access to a digital camera, they are still able to maximize their use of the new ICT through documenting women’s lived realities and creating a database of them for distribution (through CD’s for groups without access to internet, or online). Grassroots women find creative ways to use communications tools to get their messages across.

Tana Toraja is a highland area in the northern part of South Sulawesi Province, Indonesia...The population of Tana Toraja, as an indigenous community, live in and around the forest, making access to information from television and the internet difficult. Printed media such as newspapers and magazine have also not been seen as a viable alternative as many of the people are illiterate, having a more prominent oral tradition. The most effective form of information dissemination for the Toraya has been the use of community radio. It was in this context that we formed Community Radio Swara Tamborolangi in October 2001. It was created with a simple concept in mind — that is to accelerate the effort to revitalise the traditional values and the community sovereignty on natural resources management.

We realised that women especially in indigenous communities, have a very close relationship to the environment. In Indonesian culture, we believe that the environment is the Mother of all other things that surround it. And from mother life begins. The environment is the life-source of indigenous peoples. It is where they get everything they need for their daily life. While we hold this true, gender stereotypes within the indigenous communities do not allow women to take ownership of the environment and have often excluded women from participating in discussions about environmental issues. This is what we wanted to change by establishing Radio Swara Tamborlangi.

Since its creation, Radio Swara Tamborolangi has raised the awareness of women about their role in the community and their relevance to the environment issues. The women, who are concerned about environment protection, take part as volunteer broadcasters to spread information about the role of indigenous women in protecting the environment. Campaign are done through on air and off air programmes. Through on-air programmes like Public Service Announcements (PSA), news, and interactive dialogue, live reports and features, the women broadcasters using the local language to help remind other women.

Rahel Bernad Lewi. (2010) “Advocating and Campaigning for Protection of the Environment through Community Radio”. Women in Action “Converging Communications: Empowerin Women, Transfering Communities”, Isis International Manila. P.13-15.

One of the basic principles of Isis International’s work in the field of communications is to see women not only as receivers of knowledge but producers as well. This principle is carried out in all Isis trainings and activities.

Isis International reaffirmed its commitment by launching the Isis International Activist School for Feminist Development Communications in 2010, which aims to strengthen social movements and advocacies through the strategic use of media and information and communication technologies (ICTs). Collaborating with other partners and networks, Isis has conducted five activist schools in the past year on the theme of migrant’ rights, women and peace building, gender and climate change, gender-based violence, and young feminist leadership. We are looking forward to the continued partnership and collaboration with partners on the various endeavors towards social justice and gender justice.

Excerpted from a presentation at WACC –Asia Region Pre-Assembly Seminar (May 15-16, Yogyakarta)

by Cai Yiping

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