ICA Gender Equality Committee webinar sheds light on the role of women in tackling climate change

08 Apr 2022

Gender equality can pave the way for a sustainable future, was the key message of the webinar hosted by the ICA’s Gender Equality Committee on 31 March.
Themed “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”, the webinar featured contributions from international development experts as well as representatives from the GEC’s regions.
The speakers shared what their organisations do to support women in leading the fight against climate change.
Sascha Gabizon, Executive Director, Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF), pointed out that not enough funding allocated to climate change is spent on projects that also address women’s rights.
“The importance of women's leadership in this transition is not seen and that we might even be rolling backwards gender equality and women's rights through climate projects, if we are not careful,” she said.
WECF runs a Gender Just Climate Solutions programme, which awards projects that address climate change whilst tackling gender inequalities. In Senegal WECF works with a seafood cooperative that is protecting the Mangroves. The cooperative has recently received funding to support its transit to renewable energy solutions.
“This is indeed one of the one of the examples where we see how important it was that they organise and as in recognised formal structures such as a cooperative structure.”
Similarly, in Cameroon WECF supports a women’s beekeeping cooperative, producing certified honey and cosmetic products. By becoming members of the cooperative the women get to be involved in the governance of their local community forest and have a say in what is decided. The forest has become an important source of income for the cooperatives, which have been successful in preventing forest fires.
Sonia Dias, Waste Specialist, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), explained that waste pickers around the world also played an important role in tackling climate change by boosting recycling rates. However, she warned that these workers, many of whom are women, face challenging prejudice and misconceptions. She added that governments around the world could also play a role in providing equipment and infrastructure to support the operational work of the waste pickers’ cooperatives.
Wiego runs a series of programme to support waste pickers, including leadership programmes for women to help them manage their co-ops and become vocal in the public sphere. The organisation is also in the process of mapping cooperatives that are active in climate change.
Esther Gicheru, Deputy Vice Chancellor Finance Planning and Administration at The Co-operative University of Kenya and Chair of the ICA Africa Research and Gender Equality Committee, presented some statistics around the gender gap in Africa. She explained that twice as many women than men work in the field level informer and the self-employed sector.
Xiomara Nuñez, Vice President of the ICA Gender Equality Committee of the ICA and chair of the Cooperativas of the Americas Gender Equality Committee, talked about some of the challenges faced by women in Latin America, such as water shortages. She argued that cooperatives helped to address women’s lack of participating in decision making by giving them the chance to have a say in issues that impact their communities.
“We are an important element in the preservation of the environment but for this we need to be able to participate politically, to be at the tables where decisions are taken,” she said.
Chitose Arai, Chair of the ICA Asia Pacific Gender Equality Committee, talked about the impact of natural disasters on women in the Asia-Pacific region. She added that many ICA members in the Asia-Pacific regions had incorporated climate change into their agenda.
The Association of Asia Confederation Credit Union (AACCU) has prepared a climate action business guide for its members while the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals in Australia supported its co-op members to deal with severe floods. Similarly, the National Association of Training Centers for Cooperatives (NATCCO) in the Philippines helped to rebuild cooperatives affected by typhoons.
Marjaana Saarikoski from SOK Group in Finland, who is also a Vice-Chair of the ICA Gender Equality Committee, shared examples of European co-ops tackling climate change, including her own organisation where 75% of employees are women. SOK Group has installed 100,000 solar panels on their outlets and runs a power plant which produces electricity for its operations.
“In order to change, you have to act now, not wait for a better time to come,” she said.
The webinar helped to provide examples of how cooperatives can be a tool to raise awareness of what climate change means, said GEC Chair, Maria Eugenia Perez.
“The challenges are big, but this webinar provided many great examples,” she concluded.
The full recording is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1vih2EH8iE