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Dec 11, 2018

Gender Day at COP 24

The severity of storms in the last two years in the region has displaced and disenfranchised thousands. But did you know that women are the ones most affected by these hurricanes and super storms? Droughts, floods, vector borne diseases and other issues resulting from climate change in the region has threatened the lives and reduced the quality of life of more women than men. And today those concerns were highlighted at the COP 24 in Poland. Among the voices, Panos Caribbean, and a number of regional representatives put the spotlight on Caribbean women highlighting the need for women to have a voice in the climate change policies and decisions. Andrea Polanco shares more about Gender Day at COP 24.


Marie Arana

Marie Arana, Hurricane Victim [File: October 26th, 2016]

“First time I experience wahn hurricane like dis.  So everything mi gaan and ah neva save nothing. Dehn neva wahn wi come back but we had to come back and we still stay eena di ol’ house, you know.  We stay eena it.  Di rain come [and] wet we up.  We sleep with di star [and] get up with di sun.  We sleep with di rain and get up with di sun.  Right so.”


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Women are more likely than men to be affected by extreme weather events. UN stats show that eighty-percent of the people displaced by climate change are women. And some of the most vulnerable women come from poor and rural communities.


Vijay Krishnarayan

Vijay Krishnarayan, Director-General, Commonwealth Foundation

“What we have been hearing is that women are the ones that are disproportionately affected. Whether that is a consequence of working whether in agriculture, their small holdings, their market gardens, are wiped away. Their livelihoods are wiped away in those storms or in the aftermath of those storms women have been called upon to do the bulk of the clearing up, caring for people that have been injured, picking up the pieces of families that have been torn apart by these devastating climatic events.”


Many women who face higher risk when responding to natural disasters and who bear greater burden from the impacts of climate change live in the Caribbean. Women remain more vulnerable than men in times of extreme weather events like floods, droughts and hurricanes. Panos Caribbean is using its position to highlight the challenges women face because of gender roles. At COP 24, Panos introduced testimonials to shine a light on this inequality to spur action with the message “Climate Change is a Gender Issue.”


Dizzanne Billy

Dizzanne Billy, Caribbean Youth Environment Network

“Women are responsible for taking care of the home.”


Judith Wedderburn, Gender & Development Practitioner

“If you have an extreme weather event, you are going to be put out of water and electricity for weeks. And you are the sole adult in your household, responsible for the children. I ask you to imagine what is must be like.”


Dessima Williams

Ambassador Dessima Williams, Chair of AOSIS, 2009-2011

“Hurricanes or droughts, women have the responsibility and sometimes it becomes a burden to look after children and thereafter her own safety and security is a bit compromised if she is the only one responsible for herself and others.”



Judith Wedderburn

“That woman is the single income earner when there is a period of extreme weather. The small resources that she does have, she has to work magic to continue to take care of the families.”


Ambassador Dessima M Williams

“If there is flood or hurricane and food is reduced or lost, by large women are responsible for feeding the children. So, she has a differential role to play.”


Now, it is more important than ever to empower women to make sure that they not only survive, but to thrive in a world with a rapidly changing climate. Because women are most dependent on resources like land and water – they must be equipped to find and be a part of solution to the growing threats on their homes and in their communities. Since last year’s COP, a roadmap to incorporate gender equality and women’s empowerment in climate change discussions and actions called the Gender Action Plan was adopted. And today as “Gender Day at COP 24” is observed, one of the leading voices for civil society, the Commonwealth Foundation, points out the need for diversity in gender perspectives in climate discussions.


Vijay Krishnarayan

“What we want to do at the Commonwealth Foundation is to encourage and support a discussion among the Caribbean Civil Society organisations on the ways in which women are adversely affected by the impacts of climate change. For us, when we talk about gender, it is not just about men and women, but about the ways in which, women with disabilities, for example, are doubly impacted; ways in which poor women are doubly impacted; the way in which indigenous women are doubly impacted by the way climate change impacts on gender.”


…and so women leaders in the Caribbean believe that all women, across roles, must be  empowered with the skills and the resources, as well as be included at all levels of the climate change decision and policy making.


Judith Wedderburn

Judith Wedderburn

“It does mean that if those women’s concerns or gender concerns and their gender needs are not properly met, or adequately addressed, what we are looking at is intergenerational poverty.”


Ambassador Dessima M Williams

“And to correct that, the status of women, the role that women can play, the policy on climate change, an important corrective to the system is to include women in decision making.”


Unamay Gordon

Unamay Gordon, Director of Climate Change Division, Jamaica

“It becomes really, really important when you are making policy and when you are crafting public policy to ensure that the gender lease is placed on these policies.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


This story was supported by the 2018 Climate Change Media Partnership, a collaboration between Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Foundation.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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