On the sidelines of the 66th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, African women leaders came together to discuss the impact of climate change on women in Africa, and the leadership roles that women are playing in mitigating the impacts of climate change.

African women to play key roles in mitigating impacts of climate change

“Today is an opportunity to address the crucial issue of women’s leadership in mitigating the impact of climate change and building a sustainable climate resilient Africa, focusing on best practices and experience sharing, as well as providing clear recommendation on how to mitigate the impact of climate change,” said Bineta Diop, the African Union Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security and co-convener of the African Women Leaders Network (AWLN).

Africa is one of the continents facing the most severe impacts of climate change, with nine out of the 10 most vulnerable countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Climate change is expected to drastically impact agricultural productivity, increase incidence of disease, poverty and water stress and lead to conflict. It is expected that the African continent will also face more intense and more frequent extreme floods, droughts and coastal erosion. 

“It is not a coincidence that we find insecurity, climate change, and gender inequality intersecting, with women and girls bearing the brunt of the effects, including gender-based violence,” said UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous. “There is no doubt that sustainable development and peace are inseparable, and we must integrate gender perspectives into climate, environmental, and disaster risk reduction policies and programs.”

Ms. Bahous, and other speakers emphasized that it is exactly because of the added burdens women bear from the impacts of climate change, that they are essential in leading climate action in their communities and across the world.

“In spite of their vulnerabilities and the many challenges, it is clear to see that the critical role women can play as powerful change agents to address climate at an alarming skill is minimized,” said Vice-President of Republic of Liberia, Jewel Taylor in her keynote remarks. “As key actors in sustaining families, building community resilience and responding to climate-related disasters, women tend to make decisions for the utilizations of core resources in the interests of our families, our communities and our children.”

The Vice-President went on to emphasize the need to implement the laws, resolutions and other international mechanisms that have been created to support women’s leadership and action.

African Union Youth Envoy Chido Mpemba also called to recognize the economic impacts on women in the face of climate crises.

 “Climate change mostly affects those who depend mainly on natural resources and whose livelihoods are climate sensitive, many of which are marginalized communities, including women in agriculture,” she said. “We need women to be at the forefront, spearheading support for women’s initiatives on sustainable development that help them earn income, especially during unpredictable climate conditions.”