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Climate change is not gender neutral

Current events such as conflict, Covid-19 and intensifying climate emergencies are resulting in increased inequalities and risks for women, according to a United Nations panel discussion in Sydney last month.

Settlement Services International (SSI) moderated the live discussion during its New Beginnings Festival at the Australian National Maritime Museum on March 19 to coincide with the United Nations 66th Commission for the Status of Women (CWS66).

The panel focused on how global communities can achieve gender equality and empowerment for women and girls in the context of climate change.

Carmen Ghaly, International Protection Advisor at SSI, said climate change disproportionately affected communities experiencing vulnerability, often exacerbating existing inequalities.

“Globally, women are more likely to be impacted by the climate crisis,” she said. “Eighty per cent of people displaced by the climate crisis are predicted to be women.”

Torres Strait Islander Solwata Wagadagum and Daureb Kosker woman Regina Turner said, “Right now Torres Strait Islanders are on the frontline of the climate crisis and urgent action is needed to ensure that we can remain on our homelands.”

She said advancing seas were already threatening homes, as well as damaging fresh water supplies.

Betty Barkha, a PhD candidate researching planned relocation and displacement in Fiji, said, “When I was in Kiribati, there was a four-year-old who very joyfully said that, ‘It is so good that the sea is coming closer to our home; we don’t have to go out so far to swim anymore,’ and I just thought the innocence of this joy, not knowing that the sea level rise will take over your home.”

While acknowledging women bore disproportionate burdens when it came to climate impacts, Ms Ghaly said SSI recognised that women also played a critical role in crafting the solutions – in both prevention and response.

“The role of women in leading the discussions on climate change has already seen a great response in increasing the participation of other women to take action.

“We aim to challenge gender inequalities in our engagement on climate change by committing to embrace local leadership and working to support women to participate as key environmental actors; engaging in decision-making processes and advocating for better access.”

The discussion was introduced by South Asian fusion arts company Bindi Bosses presenting the debut of SIGNS, expressing the devastating effects of, and intersections between, climate change, colonisation and rising temperatures in Western Sydney.

The choreography was created in collaboration with Ella Havelka – a descendant of the Wiradjuri people, former Bangarra Dance company member and the first Aboriginal woman to join The Australian Ballet – and was set to spoken word by Boori Monty Pryor, an award-winning multidisciplinary Birri-gubba and Kunggandji author, performer and poet.


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