Radio WIBG: Sascha Gabizon and COP 21: “We need to include the language of gender equality”

Sascha Gabizon

COP 21 has opened in a difficult “climate.” After the attacks in Paris, a state of emergency has been declared. With that came the cancelation of all climate demonstrations organized by civil society. Nonetheless, a human-chain was organized gathering 10000 people; creative ways of demonstrating took place, thousands of shoes paved Republic Square to symbolize the march for the climate.

However, the abuses of the state of emergency are now being made visible and denounced, as 24 eco pacifist militants, some not even located in Paris, have been placed under a sort of house arrest during COP 21, marking the widening denial of democratic rights.

Climate change means the global elimination of people not only in Syria or Afghanistan but also generally in the global South. The COP negotiations work within the neoliberal market, shaping the climate paradigm as exchange value of the temperature degrees instead of taking into consideration the harshening condition of human lives, again ranked by gender, race and class.

In this context the task of Sascha Gabizon, one of the co-facilitators of the Women Gender Constituency, a large coalition of feminists and women’s movements, is going to be arduous.

Climate disasters target women. As Sascha recalled, in the 1991 floods in Bangladesh 90% of the casualties were women. As climate disasters occur regularly, as in the Philippines, they impact in majority women, mainly because of gendered distribution of labor and roles.

As a result, we see all kinds of radicalization against women with the widespread expansion of brutal practices against women, in their home, in their everyday life, in prisons and jails, as well as the erosion of women’s rights especially sexual and reproductive rights in an increasing number of countries.

Sascha insists: “We need to include, in the first article of the COP 21 agreement, the language of gender equality, of equality in terms of human rights as defined in the United Nations charter including the rights of indigenous populations. Moreover, she remarks that in the current negotiations, this language is shockingly deemed unnecessary even by countries such as Norway.”

By the same token, she underlines the impossibility of women’s groups even the largest to use the financial system for the climate as currently defined for any of their projects simply because it requires a 10 million Euros investment, an amount of money impossible to collect for these organizations. Additionally, locking up countries in the current public debt system has dire impacts on any initiatives, local or state especially in emerging countries.

Finally, the reality of the increase of temperature means the elimination of lands and therefore populations. While we are justly appalled by the deaths from blind attacks in the streets of Beirut, Tunis or Paris, our eyes turn away from the surviving struggles of the populations of the South who have not produced this climate disaster.

Listen to Sascha Gabizon

and a longer interview, in French, is available here.


(Photo Credit: UN Women / Fabricio Barreto)


Women at work, not miracles, feed the village

At the end of November, Durban, South Africa, will host COP 17, the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As happened last year, in the run-up to the Cancun conference, the press yet again `discovers’ women farmers, women fisherfolk, women workers, who are at the core of the struggle for climate justice, both as active participants and as targets of environmental devastation and climate change. Yet again, the story is that women `bear the brunt.’

This story takes one of two routes, miracle or mercy. According to the first, by some miracle, women discover a way to feed their communities. According to the second, the slow death of climate change shall have no mercy on women. This week’s Mail & Guardian offers a prime example of the miracle narrative.

In “The `miracle’ tree”, the village of Tooseng is saved by the `miracle’ of the moringa tree. It was no miracle. It was instead Mavis Mathabatha, of the Sedikong sa Lerato drop-in center, which feeds 320 children and provides after-school care. As well it was her mentor, Mamakgeme Mphahlele, who directs Lenkwane Lamaphiri drop-in center, in Mphahlele Seleteng. Both Mathabatha and Mphalele have committed their centers to planting the super-nutritious moringa trees. The moringa leaves are a treasure of nutrients: calcium, vitamin C, potassium, iron, vitamin A, protein, and lots of each.

There was no miracle. Mathabatha and Mphalele, as women in charge of drop-in centers, did what women in charge of drop-in centers do. As Mavis Mathabatha tells the story, the women performed research. They asked questions. They went on-line and researched some more. They found the information, then they found the agencies to provide the seeds, then they found the means. They took care of the children, the community, and, in their way, the world.

Climate justice. Sustaining and sustainable food. Healthy children. These are not lofty, impossible goals, and they are never the result of miracles. They are, instead, produced by women who live in the everyday, in the odinary world we all inhabit, and who struggle to improve it. We have had too many stories of miracle workers. Instead, let’s hear about the neighbors and friends, the women around the corner or in the next village, and what they’re doing. Let’s admire Mavis Mathabatha and Mamakgeme Mphahlele for their radically ordinary pursuit of well being for all.


(Photo Credit: Mail & Guardian)