Executive Director of Women Moving Millions, Sarah Haacke Byrd, recently hosted the UN Generation Equality Series forum titled “Feminist Action for Climate Change”. Forum discussions focused on the connection between gender inequality and climate change, and the actionable steps we must take to push the climate justice movement forward. CWL founder Pat Mitchell moderated the forum, which featured panelists Mary Robinson (The Elders) and Laura Garcia (Global Green Grant). These climate warriors clarified how we as individuals can make the hard choices climate justice requires and invest in the solutions that those choices create.
Byrd opened the forum by emphasizing the imperative nature of having both environmental justice and women’s rights at the center of policy changes and global conversations in order to tackle the climate crisis equitably. She also gave entry to one of the main themes of the discussion by demonstrating that climate change disproportionately affects women, particularly indigenous, black, and low income women.
Robinson echoed Byrd’s opening remarks and added that climate change is setting back the social justice movement. Robinson further broke down this statement by pinpointing five layers of injustice within the climate crisis.
When we view climate change through this lens, we make climate justice very personal: “And it needs to be personal so that we have a stake in the transformative change that must take place,” explained Robinson.
As CEO of Global Green Grants, Garcia reminded listeners that our current structures of power are, in many cases, what caused and currently drives climate change. While the idea of climate justice is becoming more popular and more accepted, Garcia clarified that women-led grassroots organizations focused on combating climate justice remain wildly underfunded. Global Green Grants works tirelessly to provide the backing that women, indigenous, and POC led climate organizations need to bring about climate justice, with over 70% of their funding supporting those aforementioned groups. “Climate change is a man-made problem,” Garcia remarked, “[one] that requires a feminist solution.”
Garcia urged us, “be committed to the search of truth and the search of what we mean when we say the real solutions to climate change.” To do that, we must get close to the stories of the women who show us what the fight is really about, the women who give us hope. Garcia shared the story of Maxima Acuna, and proclaimed that if a woman living in a small hut in the middle of the mountains can have a large impact, then there is no reason that those of us who live in more privileged areas cannot also create a similar impact by standing up for our rights and by supporting those like Acuna.
When asked where to find hope, Robinson says she is a prisoner of hope, a phrase she coined from her mentor Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Robinson remarked as she held up a nearly empty glass: “You work with what is there. And that makes the difference. Engage with what you have.”
Garcia posed another motivational answer. In the feminist movement, she said, if you look at where it was 200 years ago versus where it is now, the differences are immense. Our history of hope encourages her, said Garcia, and she added: “I think it’s a much worse prison to not have hope.” Revolutions require two things, she tells us. Imagination and organization. And women have both.
Mitchell commented that she heard Robinson say some time ago that there are three things we should each do to combat climate change, and asked Robinson to repeat them again.
In closing, the speakers gave listeners actionable encouragement to move the climate justice movement forward. Robinson urged us all to begin funding climate-focused grassroots organizations: “Move your millions more now towards those that are working bottom up on the climate justice issue.” Garcia vehemently agreed, and added that it is not only about money, but also the power of collectively organizing to campaign for these grassroots groups. Contribute and advocate, Garcia advised.
Mitchell concluded the discussion by reminding us to make climate change personal. We should routinely imagine a world where women are in charge, she said, “because that world will be a more just and sustainable one.”
Women Moving Millions Board Chair Mona Sinha ended the forum with words of hope, saying we should gain inspiration from conversations such as these. The discussion, which brought together seasoned experts and passionate young advocates, gave us a rounded and thorough view of what climate justice will require from us as individuals, as societies, and as a planet. To watch the full forum, click on the video below.