Hii at CSW 2011: Changing Climate, Changing Leadership Grassroots Event

As part of our United Nations Liason Program, the Human Impacts Institute will be participating in numerous 2011 CSW side events focusing on sustainability in the upcoming weeks. Please, join us in a community conversation about the topics being discussed: What women’s climate change leadership opportunities or roles are you seeing on your community?


The Human Impacts Institute was proud to be an invited participant at a February 23rd dinner conversation hosted by the Huairou Commission, theUNDP, and The Permanent Mission of Norway at the United Nations discussing the role of grassroots women in the fight against global climate change. Entitled Changing Climate, Changing Leadership: Grassroots Women’s Groups Model Climate Resilient Development, the event brought together global environmental leaders to highlight actions grassroots women are taking to combat climate change in their communities.

The event brought together international donors, private foundations, NGO-leaders, grassroots women and more to begin shaping a new paradigm where, according to Jan Peterson, Chair of the Huairou Commission: “In this new paradigm, you’re seeing that everybody has work they can do. It’s not just that the grassroots women are doing all of the work. It realigns the partnership strategies. It’s showing that we need local government, we need feminist women at COP16, at all COPs, fighting for gender to be in there [climate policy and discussions]. If we don’t operate this time around, in this area, which is a new space opening up–where actually we start with women on the ground, as well as our women killing themselves to be included on the national and international level–and we don’t implement on the ground, we’re going to be back we were at the beginning just like other thematic areas.”

Presentations emphasized the widespread effects of climate change and the deepening of grassroots women’s leadership on-the-ground connecting to local government, international policy makers, and–a point that was repeatedly emphasized–to diverse and sustainable funding opportunities. Also a recurrent theme was the need for increased partnership and support. As Peterson remarked, “This is our time. We need more allies.”

A key point throughout the dialogue was that women are more than the victims of climate change; They are agents of change, and are key promoters of action against it. Wielding powers in their communities as natural resource managers, food providers, and family care-takers, women possess special knowledge on how to adapt their needs to the context of a changing climate. As grassroots women leaders shared their personal experiences in combating environmental and gender disparities at a local level, the continued exclusion of grassroots women in policy-making was underlined. The question was posed: Does gender mainstreaming include grassroots women?

Among the women sharing their experiences, Haydee Rodriguez of Nicaragua shared the mission of her grassroots organization, the Union of Cooperatives Las Brumas, to open organic seed-banks for the availability of all farming women across her country. In impoverished Indian villages, Godavari Dagne is promoting sustainable waste, and recycling programs for a large improvement in sanitation. Another female leader, Joyce Nangobi of Uganda, has recently succeeded in opening large community-wide gardens to give women guaranteed access to agricultural lands and food security.

The diverse panel of speakers, as well as attendees, emphasized the power of cross-sectoral partnerships, women’s and grassroots leadership. Speakers were living tributes to the change that can happen at the local level and the need to connect these efforts to international policy and economic support. With a strong focus on building partnerships, the event ended with a call for action and a call for support. The Huairou Commission and it’s partners will co-host a “Grassroots Speak Out on UN-Women” on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011. This will be an opportunity for participants to directly address leadership of the new UN agency (UN-Women) and to influence the policy of the organization in the years to come.

The Human Impacts Institute will be participating in and reporting on the Speak Out and look forward to the continued partnership with the Huairou Commission and our other international partners in supporting the grassroots women’s environmental movement in our community of NYC and beyond.

by Kate Offerdahl, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Leadership Intern

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