Climate disruption: Acting for the climate, for and with women

By M. Laurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development 

 – International Women’s Day, March 8, 2015 –

Laurent Fabius
Laurent Fabius

2015 will be decisive for our planet: in December, the goal of COP21 in Paris will be to reach a global agreement enabling climate warming to be limited to 2ºC. On International Women’s Day, I want to emphasize an important point: promoting equality between women and men can contribute to the success of this negotiation, and conversely, success for COP21 would help reduce those inequalities.

Why? First of all, women are the first victims of climate disruption, because people in situations of poverty, who are the most vulnerable, suffer the bulk of the consequences. And women make up 70% of poor people worldwide. So they are and will be the first people affected.

According to the UN, when a natural disaster hits a region, the risk of death is 14 times higher for women, chiefly because they are not priority targets for disaster alert and prevention systems.

Climate disruption also increases the pressure on women, who in many regions are responsible for providing their families with food, water and fuel. The impact of climate disruption on soil fertility, on the availability of water resources, and therefore on food security in developing countries exerts greater pressure on women. Another worrying factor: those pressures create excessive workloads for households, and this often leads to girls dropping out of school.

The conclusion is simple: combating climate disruption also means fighting for women’s rights.

As the first victims of this disruption, women are often the main providers of solutions too. Development experts emphasize that a programme conceived without taking women into account is less effective than the same programme planned with them.

Exactly the same logic applies to actions to combat climate disruption, which constitute development programmes. In Rwanda, the programme set up by UN Women five years ago – which seeks to encourage women’s participation in 15 cooperatives in the Kirehe region – has led to a marked increase in agricultural output and in the spread of particularly climate-friendly production techniques.

Another specific example: the reforestation campaign in Kenya launched, with the support of her country’s inhabitants, by Wangari Maathai – the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize – has shown the importance of the role of women in the transition to more sustainable development.

From all this, I take away one certainty: that women must be placed at the heart of national and local strategies to combat climate disruption, and at the heart of the international negotiations on the subject.

As future president of COP21 in Paris, I shall make sure they are. The battle for the climate is a battle to be fought for and with women.


Further action for gender equality

The French Government will continue to implement its structuring initiatives in 2015 and 2016 in accordance with four key principles.
The French Government has made gender equality one of the structuring principles of its overall approach. The law of 4 August 2014 on true equality between men and women outlines the framework of an integrated equality policy:

Results have already started to emerge. “France has made real progress in terms of international rankings”, explains Marisol Touraine, French Minister of Social Affairs, Health and Women’s Rights. The rate of employment among women, for example, is on the rise, while women’s access to political, economic and social responsibility is also increasing and gender stereotypes are in decline.

This policy ensures that the issues associated with equality are taken into account in all areas of public policy, along with measures aimed specifically at the most vulnerable members of society.

The Government will continue to take action in 2015 and 2016 in accordance with the following four key principles:

  • A public space belonging to everyone, regardless of gender. A series of “exploratory walks” will be held in partnership with 12 towns and cities with the aim of giving women the opportunity to make the public space their own and to make suggestions for improving the urban environment. A number of initiatives will also be put in place with the aim of combating harassment on the street and violence against women on public transportation.
  • Professional equality, as an essential component of social justice and economic efficiency: the Regions of excellence in professional equality trial in particular will be developed throughout the country while the Female entrepreneurship plan will be stepped up with the aim of increasing the proportion of female entrepreneurs to 40% by 2017.
  • Eradicating stereotypes and sexism. This is a task with which the French broadcasting authority in particular has been entrusted with the aim of increasing the representation of women in the media. A number of initiatives will be implemented in the field of sport in order to promote women’s abilities along with access for women to positions of responsibility.
  • Protecting women who find themselves the victims of violence. “1 woman dies every 3 days as a result of violence; we have to take action”, Pascale Boistard, French Minister of State for Women’s Rights, declared. Furthermore, the number of places available in shelters for women who find themselves the victims of violence will be increased and training for professionals who have contact with such women will be improved.