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Climate Change Conference

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Women are better able to look beyond themselves

What does link women and climate change? Why do women play a key role? Here’s the interview with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director.

The global climate agreement being discussed in Paris should keep the focus on gender equality, in terms of participation and recognition of the role women play in fostering changes. This is what hass been asked by the United Nations through its Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). The day dedicated to women’s participation in the fight against climate change has been held on 8 December during COP21 talks. It has been the perfect occasion to better understand this situation, also thanks to the words of the UN Women Executive Director and United Nations Under-Secretary-General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka un-women
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women General Director © Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images

Mlambo-Ngcuka served as Deputy President of South Africa from 2005 to 2008, under the presidency of Thabo Mbeki. She was then chosen by the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Why are women more affected by the negatives effects of global warming?
Women are not as resilient to climate change as men are, due to their social and economic conditions. They often don’t have access to the resources needed to start over after a disaster connected to climate. For instance, over 70% of victims of the tsunami that hit Asia in 2004 were women. This is because women weren’t able to bear the situation and stand up again. However, if they had higher education, they would be able to be strong and do good because they are better able to look beyond themselves.

Phumzile-Mlambo-Ngcuka (Un Women) © Harold Cunningham/Getty Images
Phumzile-Mlambo-Ngcuka (UN Women) © Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

 How women can be the protagonists of the fight against climate change?
They can be protagonist of the change because they manage their family, from an energy point of view. They make most of decisions and they deal with the energy supply. Therefore, if women were informed on issues like energy efficiency and clean energy, they would work to obtain the best they can for their families and communities.

Women also play a leading role in the agricultural industry, since they deal with their family’s food security. Do you think climate change can affect such prerogative?
Women have a higher awareness on the key importance of protecting the environment. For this reason, they’re more inclined to play the role of farmers in a smarter way, environmentally speaking. They’re better farmers and thus they’re more attentive to food security issues. However, women lack access to education and technologies, resulting in a less effective role, even if they represent the majority in the sector. Investing in women thus means improving the quality of the entire food supply chain.

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