Thank you, Madam Chair for your kind introduction.
Hon’ble Minister, Excellencies, Madame Chairperson, Distinguished Colleagues and Dear Friends,
I thank the Permanent Mission of India and the All-India Women’s Education Fund Association (AIWEFA) for organizing today’s event.
It is an honour to join the Hon’ble Minister, Madame Smriti Zubin Irani, in today’s discussion and to listen to her inspiring keynote address. I congratulate the Hon’ble Minister for her leadership and for serving as such a strong role model.
I am also very pleased to join my good friends, Ambassador Sima Bahous, the Executive Director of UN Women, Ambassador Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett and Ambassador Doma Tshering.
And it’s always a pleasure to partner with Ambassador Tirumurthi – we share a common vision and aspiration here in the United Nations on women’s empowerment and climate action.
The focus of today’s meeting – lifestyle for environment for the women and girls, is very timely and resonates with CSW’s theme this year. I commend AIWEFA for its active engagement to promote an environment friendly life for women and girls. [And] I take this opportunity to congratulate AIWEFA for their outstanding work for women and girls for the past 9 decades.
The vital contribution of women to economic and social development is undeniable, yet they continue to face cultural and institutional barriers in most societies; their participation in decision-making processes remain far from equal. The pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis have made things worse. We are seeing a serious reversal of hard-won gains made over the past decades.
Climate change and gender equality are interlinked. Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of climate change and environmental degradation. Existing data shows that 80% of people displaced by climate change and related disasters are women and girls. Yet they are also the earliest responders when disaster strikes.
Fighting against climate change for years, they have developed knowledge and understanding of what is needed to adapt to the changing climate and environmental impacts. Women have an intimate relationship with nature. The IPCC Working Group II’s Sixth Assessment Report shows that woman are not only victims of climate change but also proactive adaptation actors. Thus, unleashing fully their knowledge and capability can unlock many effective and practical ways and means to climate change solutions for the benefit of all. Climate action thus, cannot be successful or sustainable if it does not involve women.
For that, we must ensure gender-responsive legal and policy frameworks, and remove the structural barriers to strengthen women’s access to, and ownership of natural resources, access to opportunities, to education and technologies, to advance their participation and leadership in adaptation, mitigation and resilience building.
In the interest of time, I shall focus my intervention on some of the policy responses that Bangladesh has undertaken on gender-responsive climate action:
- Gender dimensions form an integral part of all our national policies and strategies including of those related to climate and environment. Gender has been included as a separate thematic priority in our Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan We were one of the first countries to adopt a standalone action plan on Climate Change and Gender, back in 2013. Under this Plan, a separate Gender Guideline is being developed to regulate funding of the projects under the Climate Change Trust Fund. 75 percent of resources spent on climate change adaptation initiatives comes directly from our own sources.
- We have ensured gender equality in disaster risk reduction. Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) is a good example in this regard. Currently 38,000 women are working as volunteers under CPP representing transformational changes in women’s leadership and capacity. This programme has recently received a prestigious public service award from the UN for ensuring gender equality.
- Our Ministry of Women and Children Affairs is currently implementing two major projects: i) Gender-responsive Coastal Adaptation (GCA) Project and ii) National Resilience Programme (NRP).
These projects are aimed at enhancing the adaptive capacities of women in coastal and other climate vulnerable areas, to cope with climate induced challenges, by creating resilient, cost-efficient and gender-responsive livelihood options for them among others.
- Among other initiatives, we have the Social Forestry Programme which ensures up to 50% of benefits to women. Over 4.5 million Improved Cook Stoves (ICSs) have been distributed in the rural households to reduce women’s health hazards as well as carbon emission. More than 6 million solar home system have been established in the off-grid remote area across the country. Women, especially the most vulnerable ones, are given priority. Similar support is provided in agriculture.
These are a few examples of the innovative, locally generated solutions to tackle climate change and environmental degradation by women. And I am very pleased to see that our region is taking the lead when it comes to gender-responsive climate action.
Climate change is a global issue. No single country or region can tackle this challenge alone. As such, the efforts of individual countries to ensure women’s equal voice in climate discourse is never going to be enough. We must promote gender-equal policies on climate change, and environment and disaster risk reduction at the global level; supported by adequate funding, which remains woefully unmet.
Empowerment of women and girls is a shared responsibility. And the society as a whole benefit when women are empowered, when they can meaningfully contribute to their full potential for the benefit of their families, communities and their nation. We must, therefore, adopt a whole-of-Government and whole-of-society approach to put gender issues at the center of every policy decision.
Let me conclude by reminding that the ongoing pandemic has exacerbated the situation for women, as its impact has been disproportionately harsh on them. Violence against women and girls has seen a sharp rise. School closures have forced nearly 750 million girls to stay home, leading to growing incidence of child and early marriages. Thus, alongside climate action, it is critical now to place women and girls at the front and center of recovery and response plans and build effective partnership and collaboration to support women affected by the pandemic at every level.
I shall rest it here. I thank you once again for having me today at this inspiring programme, and for this opportunity to share a few thoughts.
I thank you all.