“Women are the primary victims of climate change but also the main source of solutions”
ISLAMABAD – Women and children are the primary victims of any disaster, changes in the climate change and suffer worst of its impacts. However, when fully empowered, women can be an important force for change, experts agreed at a debate held at French Embassy in Islamabad on Monday.
“Women are primary victims of climate change, but also often the main source of solutions”, said Ambassador of France to Pakistan, H.E. Mrs. Martine Dorance, speaking at a debate “Women and Climate Change”.
To deal effectively with impacts of climate change and prepare to adapt to them, Mrs. Dorance underlined the need to “place women at the core of national and local climate strategies and at the heart of international climate negotiations”.
The debate on women empowerment and climate change was hosted by French Ambassador, H.E. Mrs. Martine Dorance to mark International Women’s Day after weeklong celebrations. The debate gathered representatives from the political world, parliamentarians, government officials, environmental experts, activists and members of the civil society, journalists, diplomats and UN representatives, as well as women representing the voices of the mountain communities.
According to the UN, when a natural disaster strikes a region, the risk of death is 14 times higher for women, mainly because they are not targeted as a priority by disaster warning and prevention programs.
Senator Sherry Rehman highlighted the enormous risks climate change posed to Pakistani women in terms of daily security and resilience. She emphasized the need for a “national conversation” at the political and parliamentarian level on climate change, which would need to include women. Because when women lead in building communities, the whole region benefits, she said.
Speaking at the event, Major General Asghar Nawaz, Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), underlined the sheerness of the impacts climate change was having in Pakistan and its high vulnerability.
“Almost 75% of disasters (faced by Pakistan in last decades) were linked to meteorological causes” throughout the country such as floods, droughts, heat waves, glacier melting, avalanches and landslides.
Mr. Asghar Nawaz insisted on the need to focus on the most vulnerable groups, particularly women, and on the importance of awareness and education. NDMA was strongly committed in that sense, he said, as the organization was now conducting surveys with disaggregated data and had set up a special Gender and Child Cell.
Ms. Aisha Khan, CEO of the Mountain and Glaciers Protection Organization (MGPO), called for collaboration of civil society, government and private organizations to tackle climate change in Pakistan. She stressed that “climate risk management can never be successful without social equity, equitable distribution of resources and proportionate representation of women in decision-making.”
Two young and passionate women present at the debate were Ms. Aqeela Bano and Farman Ali, who have been trained in a skill development project of carpentry, masonry and electrification, developed in Hunza and Chitral by the Aga Khan Cultural Service (AKCS) with the support of the Embassy of France.
Ms. Aqeela Bano, Surveyor of the project spoke about the challenges and success of young entrepreneurs from her area and how their participation to the COP21 Climate Conference had given them new ideas of wooden house construction. She said “women can achieve anything they want”.
Mr. Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, CEO of LEAD Pakistan, regretted that the debate was not happening in the national and provincial Parliaments. He insisted on the importance of tackling climate change by including gender approaches to the policies. He called the Parliaments to give budgets to mitigate and adapt to climate change and asked media to engage in raising awareness on the subject.
Other outstanding Pakistani voices, like Dr. Shoaib Sultan Khan and Mr. Malik Amin Aslam also shared their views on the occasion.