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International Women’s Day 2022: ‘Whether it’s war or climate change, women always have to fight for justice’





How do we confront the long-lasting consequences of the war in the Ukraine in one hand without ignoring the realities of climate change in the other? How do we react as mothers and as women in general?

Ukraine solidarity march in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Ukraine solidarity march in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

March 8 is International Women’s Day 2022, writes Antoinette Nestor. It is a day celebrated all over the world: it started in the 1911 and has been recognised by the United Nations since 1975. Each year focuses on a different theme or campaign within women’s rights. This year, the United Nations has focused on ‘Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow’, and recognises that women’s participation and leadership, no matter what age or location, is essential in working towards climate change adaptation and mitigation to build a more sustainable future.

But how do we build a more sustainable future where gender equality is not a given and women all over the world have, to put it in simple terms, to fight for it?

Women are disproportionately affected by climate change, especially when faced with poverty and lack of access to education. Climate breakdown not only affects our environment but our economies and societies as well. It exposes us to risks we have never previously experienced, destroying livelihoods and economic means of survival for along the way. Risks such as floods, droughts and crop failure are more and more common. It is in the world’s poorest regions where women are most vulnerable.

Antoinette Nestor, left, with indigenous people campaigner at COP26, Glasgow, last year
Antoinette Nestor, left, with indigenous people campaigner at COP26, Glasgow, last year

Official figures by UN Women indicate that, globally, achieving gender equality in the highest positions of government will take another 130 years. Investing in education – particularly climate change education for all – is pivotal in achieving even this snail’s-pace target, yet for many girls around the world continuing education is no more than an aspiration. Research has shown that every year of education increases the earning power of a woman by up to 20 per cent. Access to finance and capacity building at the community level are also vital, yet it is very hard for women to access finance in many parts of the world. The World Economic Forum indicates it will take another 200 years to achieve gender parity when it comes to financial inclusion – but gender equality is vital if we are to have a sustainable tomorrow.

Recently, I learned about the Glasgow Women’s Leadership statement – a statement issued during COP26 calling to all leaders (no matter what gender) working as part of government or civil society to increase and support women’s and girls’ climate change initiatives, both at the national and international level in order to ensure we can achieve a sustainable future and meet the challenges brought about by climate change.

A woman outside houses damaged by a Russian air strike near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. Picture: Vadim Ghirda/AP
A woman outside houses damaged by a Russian air strike near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. Picture: Vadim Ghirda/AP

What does a sustainable future look like, you may ask? It’s up to you to decide and help to raise the voice of women, no matter where you are. For me, a sustainable tomorrow means I can be part of the decision-making process, where my voice is represented, where there is affordable child-care, where education – and climate education in particular – is accessible to all. But, most importantly, it means a future where there are no wars.

Women are disproportionally affected by war, and in a war advances on gender equality become side-tracked, if not reverted. Women can also be at risk from being trafficked or exploited when trying to escape areas of conflict. There are now more than 1.3 million Ukrainian refugees, mostly children and women, with a majority found in neighbouring countries including Poland and Hungary.

Women from all generations at a climate change protest. Pic: Vikki Lince
Women from all generations at a climate change protest. Pic: Vikki Lince

Many women, however, have also stayed behind to fight for the defence of their country. News of women in the Ukraine making Molotov cocktails – bombs – have gone viral, as well as stories of Russian women and children being arrested for protesting against the war in Moscow and other Russian cities. There will be no sustainable future unless war and armed conflict all over the world are stopped.

I believe we all want what is best for our children, we want them to grow knowing they are protected and their needs are being met. Taking care of a changing climate and ensuring women participate in decision-making is crucial. We also cannot ignore the war in Ukraine and how vital is to explain, in a child-supportive manner, what it means to our own children.



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