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These pages and sections capture news of climate change and stories about the groundswell of climate action by governments, companies, cities, the UN and civil society around the globe. To provide feedback, email us at press@unfccc.int Photo©Naziha Mestaoui

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Photo by: Women farmers gathering during morning milk collection session in Bangladesh. IFPRI (Flickr)

This blog was written by the UNFCCC's Gender Action Team on the occasion of International Women’s Day (8 March 2016)

It may not be immediately obvious why, in 2016, we need a day to celebrate women around the world. After all, as Canada’s newly elected Prime Minister stated when asked why it was so important to him to have a cabinet that was gender balanced, he responded pointedly “…because it’s 2015”.

And yet, if you open a newspaper, watch television or movies, look at conference panels, peace talks, the photo of heads of government at COP 21, scientific awards lists, or listings of CEOs of companies around the globe, it becomes clear that Mr. Trudeau’s approach is not yet the norm. Not even in the average home, whether in Europe, Africa, South America or any other continent.

In the Gates’ 2016 annual letter, Melinda Gates highlights the fact that even though girls today may feel that they are not as constrained as their grandmothers by society’s expectations of them, and even though roles are changing so that, for example fathers and sons can, and do, participate more in family life, the reality is that:

“…girls today will spend hundreds of thousands more hours than boys doing unpaid work simply because society assumes it’s their responsibility. Unpaid work is what it says it is: It’s work, not play, and you don’t get any money for doing it. But every society needs it to function.”  

Why does this matter? Because the more time that you spend on unpaid (but very necessary) work, the less time you have to earn an income. In 2016, it is still the case that the great majority of more than 1 billion people living in unacceptable poverty around the world are women and girls. Whilst the causes of poverty are complex, unpaid care work is undoubtedly a factor in gender gaps in the labour market.

Climate Change Impacts Everyone, But Not Equally

In a northern Viet Nam province, a farmer and her daughter walk through a field carrying a heavy load of dried corn crop leaves. Climate change is bringing new hardships with women and children bearing the negative impacts of fuel and water collection and transport. Women in many developing countries spend from one to four hours a day collecting biomass for fuel.

Photo: UNDP/Canh Tang

- See more at: http://www2.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/multimedia/2016/3/photo-women-daily-lives#sthash.Ao7JbXzH.dpuf

In a northern Viet Nam province, a farmer and her daughter walk through a field carrying a heavy load of dried corn crop leaves. Climate change is bringing new hardships with women and children bearing the negative impacts of fuel and water collection and transport. Women in many developing countries spend from one to four hours a day collecting biomass for fuel.

Photo: UNDP/Canh Tang

- See more at: http://www2.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/multimedia/2016/3/photo-women-daily-lives#sthash.Ao7JbXzH.dpuf

Two girls from Tacloban stand in front of some of the damage and debris left by the storm Haiyan in December 2013. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

It is unfortunately clear that the poor are more at risk from climate change as they have less ability to adapt to severe events like droughts or floods, which directly impact their livelihoods and ability to produce food. This means that climate change exacerbates existing inequalities between men and women. When women are unable to access education and decent employment opportunities, they are far less likely to be able to access information and support that could help them to better manage the impact of climate change. For example, it is expected that increased opportunities for financing will be available to project developers in developing countries for mitigation and adaptation projects. However, unless women are included in the planning, design and implementation of such projects, there is a real risk that such projects will not benefit women in the community and will potentially marginalize women once again.

This is significant because, as UNDP stressed in its 2011 Human Development Report, “not only is women’s participation important but also how they participate—and how much. And because women often show more concern for the environment, support pro-environmental policies and vote for pro-environmental leaders, their greater involvement in politics and in nongovernmental organizations could result in environmental gains, with multiplier effects across all the Millennium Development Goals.” This calls for supporting women’s participation though legislation and policies that guarantee that women will be heard and take part, meaningfully, in decision-making.

In a northern Viet Nam province, a farmer and her daughter walk through a field carrying a heavy load of dried corn crop leaves. Climate change is bringing new hardships with women and children bearing the negative impacts of fuel and water collection and transport. Women in many developing countries spend from one to four hours a day collecting biomass for fuel. Photo: UNDP/Canh Tang. More photos.

The UNFCCC continues to be active on these themes. Gender equality and women’s empowerment is now a more obvious part of the intergovernmental negotiations under the Convention, with recent dedicated decisions such as 23/CP.18 (the Doha miracle) and 18/CP.20 (the Lima work programme on gender). Significantly, the Paris Agreement also includes language in its preamble on gender equality (and other human rights) – a first for Multilateral Environmental Agreements. Therefore we can expect that work in this area will continue to grow and will find new ways to bring women where they should be: at the forefront of the fight against climate change.

We are measuring progress towards gender parity under the UNFCCC process in an annual gender composition report to the Conference of the Parties, and internally we measure progress through reporting at MT meetings and under the UN System Wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN SWAP). But there is much work to be done in order to turn measurement into change.

Let us each pledge to make a difference for the women and girls in our lives, or for women and girls we may never meet but who should have equal opportunities, among others, to education, health care, decent employment, leadership, equal pay for equal work, and a life without fear of violence or deprivation of liberty.

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