Happy International Women’s Day 2023

WOMEN are changemakers, caregivers, teachers, creators, partners, economists, health carers, organisers, entrepreneurs, leaders, pillars of strength and support for those around us. Women truly are the foundation of society.

Yet, we still live in an age of gender inequality. Today on International Women’s Day 2023, we celebrate women. But we should recognise the important role women and girls play in society every day.

Women play a particularly vital role in environmental care and climate action. Women are also more likely to suffer the impacts of climate change, future and present. That is a fact. Climate impacts disproportionately affect women. Statistically women still do the bulk of unpaid domestic care, childcare and care for elderly, which will increase in burden with the fallout of climate-related disasters and related social and health emergencies. The IPCCC acknowledges the vulnerability of gender in these events and how they affect women’s lives and economic circumstances. Notably, the Paris Agreement called for a “gender-responsive” approach to climate action.

Women are not only at the forefront of the impacts, but also at the forefront in finding viable and innovative solutions

Today I’d like to acknowledge but a few of these outstanding female leaders past and present (especially those from the Global South), and pay homage to the rest who are working behind the scenes (as women often do) to make this world habitable, and more equitable, for our future generations. Despite two amazing Kenyan women below, this is neither an exhaustive nor biased list, rather it is just to highlight some of the inspiring contributions that women around the world are making in the fight for our planet. I’d also like to take this moment to honour all women everywhere, for all that we are.

Dr Vandana Shiva
Dr Shiva is a leading environmental activist, policy advocate and philosopher who has also been a major source of inspiration for my own work. Dr Shiva believes in the inseparability of nature and society, at the intersection between feminism and ecology. She says, “Diversity creates harmony, and harmony creates beauty, balance, bounty, and peace in nature and society, in agriculture and culture, in science and in politics.”

Dr Wangarĩ Maathai
The late inspirational Kenyan woman Wangarĩ Maathai “the Mother of trees” was famous for her environmental and sociopolitical work. Among her many, many accomplishments, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. In 1976, Dr Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an organisation planting of trees with women groups in order to conserve the environment and improve their quality of life, planting more than 20 million trees on farms, schools and compounds.

Dr Jane Goodall
Dr Goodall is a globally-renown primatologist, conservationist, environmentalist and activist. She is considered the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees. She has also spent much of her career supporting environmental projects in both climate change and radical animal rights activism. Dr Goodall says, “Fortunately, nature is amazingly resilient: places we have destroyed, given time and help, can once again support life, and endangered species can be given a second chance. And there is a growing number of people, especially young people, who are aware of these problems and are fighting for the survival of our only home, Planet Earth. We must all join that fight before it is too late.”

Sônia Guajajara
Indigenous Brazilian activist Sônia Guajajara is passionate about ensuring Indigenous rights, best known for her strong positions on Indigenous land rights and policies in Brazil. Her organisation, the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) focuses strongly on preventing deforestation.

Winona LaDuke
Duke is an Indigenous environmentalist, political activist, and program director for Honor the Earth who works on issues of climate change, renewable energy, sustainable food systems, and environmental justice for Indigenous communities. Duke was named one of Time magazine’s 50 most promising leaders under 40 years old.

Rachel Carson
Rachel inspired a global environmental movement in 1962 with her ground-breaking book Silent Spring – still fundamental text of environmentalists today.

Amelia Telford
Amelia is a Bundjalung and South Sea Islander woman originating from Northern New South Wales. Inspired by a lack of Indigenous youth participation in climate action, she co-founded Indigenous youth climate network Seed in 2014 bring First Nations voices to climate discussions. She is known for her role in fighting fracking in the Northern Territory.

Eunice Foote
Eunice was the first to predict rising temperatures from CO2 emissions with her experiments on greenhouse gases in 1856 being some of the earliest known. Eunice proved that raising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would increase temperatures.

Christina Figueres
Costa Rican diplomat Christina was the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010-16 and is credited with leading the UNFCCC to achieve the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Greta Thunberg
As the global public face for youth climate action, Greta needs no introduction. She is known for catapulting youth voices for advocating for stronger climate action in policy. Greta’s work inspired the global school climate strike movement Fridays for Future.

Dr. Corinne Le Quéré
French-Canadian Le Quéré is a climate change scientist best known for investigating carbon cycles to understand the drivers of carbon emissions and how climate change and variability affects the land and ocean carbon sinks.

Prof. Asmeret Asefaw Berhe
Professor Asmeret Asefaw Berhe focuses her research on understanding how disturbances in the environment affect the natural cycles of soil. She is credited for her work on understanding how land restoration could play an important role in sequestering CO2 and slowing climate change.

Dr Rose M. Mutiso
Kenyan born activist and materials scientist Dr. Rose M. Mutiso works with experts worldwide to find solutions to the energy crisis in developing countries, particularly specialising in renewable energy. Mutiso co-founded the Mawazo Institute, an institution committed to the next generation of female scholars and opinion leaders in East Africa.

Meghan Spoth
The Master’s student was instrumental in an expedition that has been said to have changed the face of Antarctic research, in which she and a group of other women, to Amundsen Sea, a rarely explored corner of the Antarctic continent, to better understand the rate at which the Thwaites Glacier disintegrated in the past. Her research will help future modellers make more accurate estimates of how fast sea levels will rise in the coming century.

Dr Kate Marvel
Dr Marvel uses compelling storytelling to debunk misinformation about climate change. In her postdoctoral research, Marvel discovered that human activity almost definitely changed global rainfall patterns.

Rumaitha Al Busaidi
Rumaitha Al Busaidi is an Omani marine scientist and activist who is best known for her work on how seawater is changing the Monai agricultural landscape. As both a climate change and female rights activist, Al Busaidi demonstrates how women are more likely to be impacted by climate change. “Other approaches are necessary, which have to do with how our societies are structured. The most important of them is educating and empowering women and girls,” she said.

Dr Catherine Nakalembe
Dr. Nakalembe is a Ugandan remote sensing scientist who uses sensors to capture and analyze data to do with natural resource management, urban planning, and climate and weather prediction. Her work focuses on food security in Africa, helping smallholder farmers make decisions about their agricultural activities, particularly to prevent the disaster of crop failure. Nakalembe won the Africa Food Prize for her work in 2020.


An Incredible Force: Women and Climate Action

Happy International Women’s Day!

On International Women’s Day 2022 we reiterate the need for a gender-equal world and celebrate the power of women and girls in the fight against climate change and its impacts – Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow is the theme this year.

In a statement for UN Women, Executive Director Sima Bahous said, “Climate change is a threat multiplier. But women, and especially young women, are solution multipliers.”

Imagine the transformational change we can achieve if we prioritize gender equality globally – not just in privileged seats – and give precedence to the important role women and girls have to play in a sustainable future!

“Imagine a gender-equal world.

A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.

A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

Together we can forge women’s equality.

Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.” –


Breaking the bias…that is the first step. While women have a vital role to play in the health of our future planet, we are more vulnerable to the many impacts of climate change than men.

As Sima says, “The accelerating crises of climate change and environmental degradation are disproportionately undermining the rights and wellbeing of women and girls. They are multiplying insecurity at all levels, from individual and household to national. Rising temperatures, extended droughts, violent storms and floods are resulting in loss of livelihoods, they are depleting resources and fueling migration and displacement. The latest major IPCC report on climate change, and our Secretary-General, have warned us that ‘nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone – now, ’and that ‘many ecosystems are at the point of no return – now’.”

As the COVID pandemic has shown us, we now have the opportunity to rewrite the future trajectory of climate action. We can rethink and re-imagine avenues of transformative change for a sustainable future. The global shifts in policy and behaviour in relation to COVID have shown us that swift and radical change is possible when we have the momentum. The urgent nature of climate change gives us this impetus.

Part of this shift will require us to re-evaluate and transform the way we understand wealth in the economy. Currently in a neoliberal system wealth is measured by GDP. This measure of how a nation is fairing has been widely criticized over the past few years as outdated and dangerous in the era of climate change. An extractive economy is at the heart of economic growth policies that promote economic wealth accumulation above all else. Studies that show the vital importance of the care economy – of which women play a large part – tell us that we need to shift away from resource-heavy extractivism and better value collective wellbeing to ensure social sustainability throughout generations, and ultimately positively impacting ecological sustainability.

Valuing social and ecological wealth, to which women often pay greater focus in decision-making, helps to augment a communities’ Socio-Eco Wellbeing.

Women and girls are positive agents and super changemakers when it comes to climate action because of the tendency to think about collective wellbeing and the ecological impacts on their families and communities. Around the world, there are some amazing women and girls leading the charge in both formal and informal ways against climate change.

Research shows that greater female representation in parliament leads to more stringent and genuine climate policies. Yet, only 35% of environmental ministries have a gender focal point (womendeliver.org) Increasing involvement of women in decision-making capacities, especially regarding natural resource and land use is sound policymaking for climate-resilient communities, which has a ‘ripple effect’.

Source: http://www.womendeliver.org

UN Women has identified 5 useful ways to build gender equality globally. Some of these actions are policy-based, others also require a shift in mindset for a transformational gender-equal future:

  1. Empower women small-holders: Increasing the capacity of female small-scale farmers and access to productive resources can help promote sustainable agricultural practices. Women often think long-term and when involved in natural resource management, have been shown to use resources more sustainably.
  2. Invest in care: Unpaid and underpaid care work that unequally falls on the shoulders of women historically is a collective good that can benefit the wellbeing of all (individuals, families, communities, and their environments etc), but much like the environment in a neoliberal model, it is treated as a commodity to be exploited. More social value can be attributed to this kind of work, as well as more supportive policies with greater investment in the care economy.
  3. Support women’s leadership: Participation and inclusion of women in leadership and decision-making at all levels of society can help lead to more sustainable outcomes. Decision-making by women often leads us away from individualism, as women have a tendency to consider wider impacts and their families, communities and environments in decision-making. It is particularly important to prioritise Indigenous women’s knowledge in decision-making processes because of the wealth of knowledge they possess about their local communities, natural environments, biodiversity and natural resource management that can benefit climate action.
  4. Fund women’s organisations: empowering women’s civil society organisations can not only help achieve the action above, but it can also help elevate those voices in vulnerable communities that might otherwise be suppressed.
  5. Protect women’s health: Research shows that women are more likely to suffer from climate-related health issues such as disease or weather-related health impacts. Women are the cornerstones of family and community life, therefore impacts to women’s health have flow on effects for collective wellbeing.  Moreover, threats to public health are threats to community capabilities, affecting climate resilience.

Although global, equitable gender-focused solutions are not yet a reality, we can draw on the lessons in this year’s IWD theme to embrace women and girls as ‘solution multipliers’ in the face of social and environmental challenges, and break the bias for a more sustainable (and collective) future.