IWD: Gender gaps in climate decision-making spaces derails progress in West Africa

Within the precinct of a gated fence in Lartebiokorshie, a suburb of Accra-Ghana, a bevy of young and high-spirited ladies are fixated on screwing bolts into the nuts of what would become an eco-friendly motorbike.

Painstakingly, they fix a medium-sized tyre, embellished with unique tread patterns, into the hub of a bike’s spring fork as they assemble the auto parts of the electric scooter.

The female engineers, who form seventy per cent of employees at Solar Taxi – an automobile company, build and fix motorbikes that harness renewable solar energy for cleaner transportation. The company’s resolve to ensure that 60 per cent of its leadership positions are occupied by women is an outstanding example of what gender inclusion in climate action should be.

“As a company, using ourselves as an example, we thrive on the resources, knowledge, ability to be proactive, solve issues that women have and that is what has brought us far. Personally, I believe that many women are doing well. This is our contribution to get more women to speak up and contribute.”

Unfortunately, the positive gender sensitivity at Solar Taxi is more the exception than the norm – women’s representation in boardrooms around the world is still disproportionately lower than men.

Over the years, this gender inequality disproportioned against women has fraught the composition of committees to oversee climate change issues as well.

The eighteenth Conference of the Parties (COP18) agreed that a collective effort is needed to improve the participation of women in bodies established under the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol as envisaged in decision 36/CP.7.

Although  women’s representation of bodies under the Convention has improved somewhat, the negotiation table reeks of gender imbalance. Of the 110 heads of state who attended COP27 held at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, only seven were women.

Glasgow’s COP26 was no different, with only 34% of the committee members being women – according to the World Bank blog.

Female Leadership on Climate Action in West Africa

The under-representation of women in the upper echelon of Climate negotiations is a reflection of the level of their participation in local level decision-making spheres in countries around the world.

Regardless of the gender imbalance in senior leadership, however, in some West African countries, women are leading the charge to build resilience, mitigate and adapt to climate variabilities.

For instance, Director of Climate Affairs at the Forestry Commission in Ghana, Roselyn Fosuah Adjei, spearheaded a programme – Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) – so that Ghana would be paid for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Also, Iniobong Abiola-Awe, leads the Department of Climate Change at the Federal Ministry of Environment in Nigeria and the UNFCC National Focal Point. In her welcome message on the department’s website, she stated that the department was committed to moving Nigeria to a low-carbon-producing state.

“Climate change has become a critical issue, both for its global importance and threats to Nigeria and its people…Therefore, we must move towards taking climate action as a nation. Since taking actions that will alleviate the effects of climate change and a warmer world is everyone’s responsibility, we will be interacting and working with the general public, individuals, communities, businesses & industries, development partners, and the global community”.

UNFCCC and Lima Work on Gender Adaption

The United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) under the Paris Agreement recognized gender inclusion in climate action which was further elaborated in the Lima Work Programme on Gender (LWPG).

Established in 2014, the LWPG seeks to progress gender balance and incorporate gender consideration into the work of Parties and the secretariat in enacting the Convention and Paris Agreement for an eventual accomplishment of gender-responsive climate policy and action.

UNFCCC’s stance on women’s participation in climate action hinges on five submissions – that Everyone must be involved in climate action;  Empowering women means more effective climate solutions;  Women are vital to building climate resilience in communities;  Climate change impacts everyone, but not equally and that Countries have agreed! – work in progress under the UNFCCC

Research shows that countries with high women representation in the legislative arm of government are more potentially inclined to ratify international environment treaties.

This is because indigenous women have mostly been at the receiving end of the vagaries of climate change for generations and have been forerunners and leaders in environmental conservation.

Their knowledge and expertise contribute largely to building resilience to climate impacts and to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Expert Views

Former Head of Environment and Climate Change, Women Environmental Programme ( WEP), Ichivirbee Ukange, has said that Nigeria is closing the wide gender gap in respect of women’s inclusion in climate change activities.

According to him, it has  become the norm to engage, invite and carry along women in the discussions and programmes at the federal level.

Ukange, who currently heads WEP’s grants and partnership department, further notes that although women’s leadership and inclusion in climate change activities is a top priority at the federal parastatals, there is low implementation in the states.

He blames the situation on the lack of proper implementation and monitoring to ensure compliance in the states.

On the contributions of women so far in the climate change activities in the country, the WEP representative said, “WEP has supported the federal ministry of environment to develop a national gender and climate change policy and we have been able to influence change in the previous climate change policies and programmes”.

Ukange decried the virtual none involvement of women at the local government level. “During the review of the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC): a non- binding national plan highlighting climate change mitigation, women were invited and highly represented. The climate change implementation policies and plans also provide women participation. There are still some wide gaps, especially at the state and local government level which we are trying to close. At the local government level, the situation is worse and the gap is very wide.

“The efforts from the international community and Civil Society Organizations are contributing a lot. Now, any programme that is been held in Nigeria must involve women and vulnerable groups in the planning, implementation, and monitoring of the programme,” he said.

Further, he noted, “The major problem is with the implementation of the policies. If you look at the policies, they are beautifully designed and crafted but the issue is with the implementation. The government has drafted the policies but are they doing it as they have said or written? The answer is no. We need monitoring to ensure that what government has put on paper is what is happening on the ground.”

Ukange submitted that a holistic involvement of women in all aspects of the government could be achieved through continuous advocacy.

Despite the advocacy for women’s inclusion in climate policy-making, the Climate Scientist at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) is suggesting the recruitment of competent female climate experts on the board.

He, however, bemoaned the inadequate human resource in the field.

“We are not talking about numbers but the calibre of people you want to put there. In Ghana, there are a few climate experts. This limitation has an effect on the side of females. We don’t have quite a sizeable number of them that can be brought to that level. As time goes on, we can actually strengthen whatever we want to do. The issue of climate knows no man, either poor or research”, he said.

Back to Edith at Solar Taxi

To celebrate this year’s IWD, the Head of Public Relations and Media Communications at Solar Taxi, Edith Afia Antwiwaa called for more women participation and women-centred opportunities in the climate action space, adding that more women need to be on policy and decision-making boards to achieve equity.

She said, “I am excited for all the women that have contributed to the climate change discourse. I thank them for their contributions because it is not easy working in a male-dominated space but doing well to excel. They should be applauded for their efforts, empowered and encouraged to do more.”

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