Civil society is important for driving changes in attitudes and influencing public opinion, but cannot take full responsibility. Photo: 2014 Peoples' Climate March NYC 85 by Stephen D. Melkisethian under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 


Feminist perspectives on the climate crisis are needed for a fair future 

Women - especially in low-income countries - are hardest hit by climate change. A report from CONCORD shows the need for a rights-based strategy to strengthen the link between gender equality and sustainable development. Progress has been made through Sweden's feminist foreign policy, but increased cooperation is needed at all levels of society. 

In the report Feminist Policies for Climate Justice For example, the umbrella organization CONCORD has analyzed global efforts to achieve climate goals from a feminist perspective and made recommendations to politicians. According to the organization, there is a great need to explore the climate debate from a gender perspective: partly to see the connections between gender and climate and partly to create climate justice through a rights-based strategy.

According to CONCORD, a rights-based strategy is linked to an ecological perspective. Humans are not above nature because we live in the same ecosystem. Solving the climate crisis therefore requires more than technology, it requires societal change and an intersectional perspective where one looks at how class, gender and ethnicity affect people in different ways. For a fair social and economic transition to a sustainable society, Sweden and international organizations, according to the report, therefore need to create new democratic ways for citizens to participate in the transition, regardless of where and how they live. The report was published in June and received with interest from decision-makers and the media.  

- During the autumn, we will spend a lot of time talking to our Swedish decision-makers about the report's message, which we of course want to give results in the form of concrete political commitments for a stronger feminist climate policy, says Madeleine Windqvist, policy coordinator at CONCORD.  

Women around the world are responsible for clean water, food and care for family members as a result of social and cultural norms. Photo: Guatemala - Rural Women Diversify Incomes and Build Resilience by UN Women Gallery under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
 Feminist foreign policy

This year was the first time Sweden through its feminist foreign policy paid attention to female climate activists who are particularly vulnerable in an increasingly harsh political climate around the world. Figures from Global Witness annual report showing that 212 activists were killed in 2019. At the same time, women who stand up for land rights to protect nature are particularly vulnerable. Female leaders are stigmatized and vilified when they go against gender roles and women are exposed to sexual and gender-based violence that is often not reported. 

- The protection of and support for women environmental activists and defenders of human rights need even more focus and resources, which we hope will be reflected in next year's action plan. It is also well in line with the government's democracy initiative, says Madeleine Windqvist, who believes that it is good that the government now clearly says it wants to focus on stronger protection for this group.

Despite progress, the government continues to play an important role in integrating gender equality issues into the climate debate in Sweden as well as internationally.

- The Swedish government is on the wrong side in many international debates, where Sweden does not have the strong profiling that one can expect from a feminist government, says Dr Linn Rabe from the environmental organization Framtidsjorden.

As an example, she mentions the UN Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the Swedish government does not currently support. And on that issue, the CONCORD report advocates that the government should adopt the convention to support women environmentalists who fight for the rights of indigenous peoples. Another convention that the government has not signed is the Convention on the Rights of Small Farmers. It is important as women own less than 15 percent of the world's agricultural land, while they make up the majority of all small-scale farmers. Through their experiences, women farmers have knowledge of how to deal with climate change at the local level. When climate change makes it more difficult to cultivate, gender equality is therefore part of climate adaptation, he writes The Earth of the Future in the campaign Women's Fight! Klimatkamp!      

 The role of civil society

When entire societies feel the effects of climate change, it is women in low-income countries who are hardest hit, not least because they bear the heaviest responsibility for ensuring that their families have access to clean water and food. The consequences of climate change are also experienced differently by men and women due to a lack of equality in education, decision-making processes and access to resources. In a recommendation to all EU countries 2018, it was stated that gender equality is a direct factor for sustainable development and climate justice.  

 An example of how organizations work with a feminist perspective is to have dialogues with men. The organization MEN works, for example, to engage men in issues of violence and masculinity norms in Sweden and internationally. Among other things, they are working on the project Men in the climate crisis, which aims to get men to talk about the connections between the climate and masculinity norms and how men affect the climate negatively to a greater extent than women regardless of social class. A starting point for the conversations is that studies have shown that men are often less environmentally conscious than women and less likely to change their lifestyle, while at the same time they are more often in decision-making positions regarding how natural resources are used. Through discussion groups, MEN hope to engage more men to change attitudes to the climate and gender equality.

Civil society is important for driving changes in attitudes and influencing public opinion, but cannot take full responsibility, says Linn Rabe.

 - For us to come ashore with this, it is necessary that everyone cooperates. One cannot lean on civil society and believe that civil society should solve the problem alone. Partnerships are needed everywhere. This is an issue that we must work on at all levels in order for us to achieve a fair transition.

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