Podcast: The feminist solution to climate change - Transcript

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Listen to the Sky News ClimateCast with CAMFED


Anna Jones, Host Hello. I’m Anna Jones.


Katerina Vittozzi, Host And I’m Katerina Vittozzi and this is Sky News ClimateCast.


Anna Jones, Host And on this week’s episode, we explore how gender equality could help solve climate change.


Speaker Education empowers you. Education gives you the opportunity to explore different ideas.


Katerina Vittozzi, Host But we ask, will it be possible? As the UK cuts its foreign aid budget.


Anna Jones, Host So this week we’re talking about women and not just because we both happen to be women, but because women could be a solution to combating climate change. But before we find that solution, let’s first acknowledge the problem. And that is that women disproportionately feel the impacts of climate change.


Katerina Vittozzi, Host Yeah it’s something which has been proven and highlighted time and time again. But it’s worth reminding ourselves of the cold, hard facts about this, Anna. So women are 14 times more likely than men to die during natural disasters such as climate related floods, droughts and wildfires.

80% of people displaced by climate change are women, and women are much more likely to suffer food insecurity as a result of climate change or struggle the most whilst they try to recover their economic positions because of not being able to own land and following extreme weather events, women are also more likely to become a victim of domestic violence and be placed in dangerous situations.

And that is just four of a very, very long list of things where women are disproportionately affected by climate change. And these are listed on reports from the United Nations, the Global Gender and Climate Alliance, the Global Women’s Project, and many other organizations that have been working to try and make sure gender equality is taken into consideration when mitigating against climate change.


Anna Jones, Host And it’s so hard to get your head around, isn’t it? You think if a natural disaster hits, you would imagine we’d all be hit in the same way. I’m really interested to hear your experience, because you’re still in Bangladesh, aren’t you? You’re in Dhaka at the moment, Katerina, and you’ve done some extraordinary reports which I will pause just to plug, because they are all available to watch on YouTube, all about climate change and how it’s affecting Bangladesh. But have you seen any evidence of women being impacted more by climate change than men there?


Katerina Vittozzi, Host I think what we have found with climate change here is that it sort of exploits and opens up existing vulnerabilities in society. So what we found, we went to a brothel. Now, brothels are legal in Bangladesh, but sex work is extremely taboo.

So we spoke to one woman called Pervin, who said that when she was 15 that her family’s farm got washed away in a flood and it had been washed away several times. And it got to a point where they just couldn’t go on any longer. And then a woman came to the family and said, “Tell you what, if your daughter comes with me into the city, I can find her job in a garment factory.” And the family who were desperate for income said, “Yes, that would be, you know, that might just help us in order, you know, to get a meal on the table for the family.”

But actually, what the woman did was she sold Pervin into a brothel, and she’s been living in a brothel and working as a sex worker for years now. And so ashamed of the life that she’s been sold into, she’s never even told her family that is what has happened to her. She said that, you know, she still sends money home to her family, but says that she does it because she got a job in the factory, that she’s now married and living with her in-laws.

And she sort of has this whole life that she’s been sold into that she can’t escape from, which, you know, you could say, yes, there were many other factors which led the family to be that vulnerable. But climate change was the thing that tipped the family over to the edge and made them so specifically vulnerable in that instance.


Anna Jones, Host So, Katerina, what kind of help is there out there for women like this?


Katerina Vittozzi, Host There’s been a lot of work done by the Bangladeshi government and by charities to try and educate women, you know, so that they are less vulnerable when these extreme weather events hit. But something which might have an impact on the breadth and the depth of some of these programs is this week news that the UK’s foreign aid budget has been cut. Because a lot of these programs we spoke to a big NGO here in Bangladesh, a lot of these programs have over the past ten years or so, had a lot of funding by the UK Government.

And what we’ve heard as a direct consequence is that some of these programs which might not necessarily be linked directly to climate change because they could have a link about, you know, women’s empowerment or women’s education, those programs might now be taking a hit. And it’s something that Conservative MPs and even the former prime minister here in the UK, Theresa May, said in the Commons this week, could have a potentially huge impact.


Theresa May, Former UK Prime Minister This isn’t about palaces for dictators and vanity projects. It’s about what cuts to funding mean that fewer girls will be educated, more girls and boys will become slaves, more children will go hungry and more of the poorest people in the world will die.


Anna Jones, Host The government is keen to point out that it’s £11.6 billion worth of aid for climate change mitigation and adaptation is ring fence. They say it isn’t affected by these cuts, but some critics say that there’s a lot of aid work that’s indirectly making a big difference in this climate sphere that will be impacted, programs that support women education and family planning, for example.


Matt Jackson, UNFPA Well, the UNFPA, we’re the United Nations Sexual and Reproductive Health Agency and we are entirely voluntary funded by, mostly by government donors. And the UK has been a big supporter of our work.


Anna Jones, Host Matt Jackson from the UNFPA says the decision to reduce foreign aid from 0.7% of national income to 0.5% will have an immediate impact on women and girls. And later down the line this will impact climate change.


Matt Jackson, UNFPA We know that there are at least 20 countries this year who will not receive the supplies, the contraceptive, the medicines that they need. For example, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, they won’t be able to receive half of what they have requested. Women and girls who are already disproportionately impacted by climate impacts, they will continue to be left behind.


Katerina Vittozzi, Host So this may sound like a long list of problems with women cast as victims, but we know that they aren’t. Women are a solution in the climate emergency.


Anna Jones, Host Well, yes, that’s right. And Paul Hawken, who’s an environmental author, along with his big team of researchers, have published a book with a hundred substantive ways to solve climate change in the next 30 years. And they ranked these solutions in order of the most impactful. And they found increasing girls’ education and access to family planning ranked sixth and seventh most effective.


Catherine Boyce, Executive Director for Enterprise and Climate, CAMFED International, and Director, CAMFED Australia I think education is absolutely critical. It’s top priority for helping girls and women and whole communities and countries indeed to address climate change. If you educate girls alongside boys, then you’re ensuring that you can bring the talent of the whole population to address this challenge.


Katerina Vittozzi, Host Catherine Boyce is the UK director for CAMFED. It’s a Campaign for Female Education. They are an international, non-governmental, non-profit organization whose mission is to eradicate poverty in Africa through the education of girls and the empowerment of young women.


Anna Jones, Host And they do this because education is a human right. But incidentally, it could help solve climate change.


Catherine Boyce, Executive Director for Enterprise and Climate, CAMFED International, and Director, CAMFED Australia You see that in countries with higher levels of girls’ education, they have fewer deaths and injuries, for example, when climate disasters strike. We also see that women and girls are really on the front line of producing food in rural communities, but they also face a productivity gap because they face the resource gap. So if you can equip women with the knowledge and skills they need to address the impacts of climate change and to farm in a way that’s Climate-smart they can increase their productivity.


Anna Jones, Host Fewer injuries when climate disaster strikes if women are educated. How does that, how is that?


Catherine Boyce, Executive Director for Enterprise and Climate, CAMFED International, and Director, CAMFED Australia We think it’s because it’s about resilience. It’s about women and girls having the skills to respond to a climate disaster, the knowledge and information about what’s happening, but also a say in decision making and resource allocation within the family, in the community. But it’s also about bringing women’s voice on an equal level to national and international policy making and decision making. There’s some data that shows that when you have more women in government, for example, there’s a higher rate of passing environmental protection.


Anna Jones, Host So let me just get this right. You’re saying that if there are more women in government, we get more climate protection policies.


Catherine Boyce, Executive Director for Enterprise and Climate, CAMFED International, and Director, CAMFED Australia Yes, there’s been some research that countries that have more equal governments, you know, good representation of women, are more likely to pass policies for environmental protection.


Anna Jones, Host That’s so interesting, isn’t it? Absolutely fascinating.


Katerina Vittozzi, Host And through Catherine, we met Harriet Cheelo.


Harriet Cheelo Yes, I can get you. Good afternoon.


Anna Jones, Host Hello, I can see your cameras now working. Lovely to meet you. Hi.


Katerina Vittozzi, Host CAMFED helped Harriet stay in education despite her grandparents not being able to keep up with her school fees.


Harriet Cheelo, CAMFED Association member and climate-smart Agriculture Officer, Zambia Unfortunately, I lost both my parents when I was very young, so my grandparents, who were retired by then, took us in because I wasn’t the only they were taking care of, there were many. The moment when I was told I was possibly going to leave school because I had not paid for my school fees for, I think, two terms. And, you know, my grandfather didn’t want to worry me, so he never told me. But at that point, I thought, like my dream, my dreams of becoming somebody in life had been shattered. It was a sad moment.

So CAMFED was my savior. It was my saving grace, because I, in my head, you know, when you think about who is going to come, where is the help going to come from, you don’t know anyone. And then just getting that news to say, no, don’t worry, you’re not going to go away because CAMFED is now paying for all your school was a big relief and I’m so glad I was able to get that opportunity because it has opened so many doors, not only for me, but so many other people in my community and as well as family members. So it was my saving grace.


Anna Jones, Host So explain to us a little bit about what life as a woman in Zambia without education looks like.


Harriet Cheelo, CAMFED Association member and climate-smart Agriculture Officer, Zambia Well, lack of education seriously limits your opportunities to move ahead. And with that being said to you, most of my friends who were unable to get through to school are now married and are mothers. And, you know, the reality of coming from a background where they lack resources continues because of that lack of opportunities, they don’t have a say on regards to their life. Actually, it sometimes gets even in worse to a point that they can’t really make decisions concerning their own lives.

Because if someone comes, I don’t know if you know, but our culture, we have something we do before you get married. The male family actually pays like a dowry to the female family. So it’s like the family is going to get money from just you getting married. So unfortunately, some families see that as an opportunity to get few extra resources.

So when decisions like that come because of your lack of empowerment you aren’t able to even say no to the marriage. So it limits your level of thinking, your self-esteem, your options out there are limited and you have a limited reality because majority of them are going through the same thing. So you don’t see anything beyond what you’re seeing and you conform to living like that, unfortunately. Yeah.


Anna Jones, Host And it’s interesting the choice that you’ve made as well with that education, with that extra power that you’ve got, you’ve chosen to help fight climate change. Why did you make that decision?


Harriet Cheelo, CAMFED Association member and climate-smart Agriculture Officer, Zambia You know, growing up, like I said, my grandparents were subsistence farmers, so they owned a small piece of land where we would grow most of our food. And that’s just a normal thing in my community. So we depended mostly on the rainy season in Zambia. We have three seasons, so the rainy season usually used to come towards the end of October, up to April. And so those were the moments when you could maximize on famine, ensuring that you grew crops because that’s the only water you could get.

We had water challenges, unfortunately, so it was not even possible to grow crops when there were no rains. And unfortunately other years we had longer periods of drought. The rain would come late and there were times when it was raining excess. So it affected the yields of course, and it affected the feeding of the family. And so for me, that curiosity of knowing what is really going on, we work so hard and the output is really little, it’s frustrating.

And from that I wanted to find out more so and you know, after going through school, learning geography, learning about climate change at school and you know, the effects of it started making sense knowing how I was able to understand, okay, that’s why our yields were low. That’s why this happened this way. So my aim was to get all the knowledge I could get so that I can help people continue growing crops in my community with the little resources they have by choosing wisely and be able to feed better, have nutritious meals and also be able to, you know, grow food all year round.


Katerina Vittozzi, Host And that knowledge is power, isn’t it? Because for you, you know, growing up, you talked about your grandparents in this long relationship that your family have always had with the land, but having the knowledge actually of, oh, this is why this is happening and actually being able to attribute it to something broader, that understanding is just so important and can make that, you know, your future in Zambia so much more sustainable, can’t it?


Harriet Cheelo, CAMFED Association member and climate-smart Agriculture Officer, Zambia Definitely, definitely for sure. I’m a living example to that obviously. So definitely education empowers you.


Katerina Vittozzi, Host Education comes hand in hand with family planning. Access to contraception like education is a human right. Yet many women and girls around the world face barriers accessing them.


Anna Jones, Host We spoke to Angela Bassett Arie from the UNFPA, who explained how family planning and climate change are interlinked.


Angela Baschieri In the last ten years, there is more and more evidence coming through about the impact of climate change on the sexual reproductive health and rights, as well as impact on women. We know that there’s been a recent article from The Lancet, and the article was about the impact of climate change on maternal health and made a very clear call to action. There is a clear impact of climate change on the access of basic reproductive technology and access to services.

The importance of the access to contraception goes through the importance of ensuring that women are empowered of that decision making, to make decision about the family and the children and to want to have and really be fully empowered to be a contributor to society and be able to being an active participant of society. So it’s at the core of the fundamental right of human beings.


Katerina Vittozzi, Host By giving women the power to choose when or how many children they have, they are presented with more opportunities and alternatives to motherhood, such as following a path of higher education or pursuing a career.


Olasimbo Sojinrin, Nigeria County Director, Solar Sister I say I live within my life’s purpose to two of the themes that really, really, really resonate with me. So one is women empowerment. Gender is something that I’ve always been involved in. And then the second cause is this clean energy, renewable energy. So from school, geography was always my favorite subject. I was really, really intrigued by the environment. I feel like Solar Sister is just that perfect blend of gender and you know, and the environment for me.


Anna Jones, Host Olasimbo Sojinrin is the Nigeria County Director for Solar Sister, which is a clean energy company providing power to off grid communities across Africa.


Olasimbo Sojinrin, Nigeria County Director, Solar Sister And what we do in these communities is we find women who are willing to start up a clean energy business.


Katerina Vittozzi, Host And Solar Sister doesn’t just have a great name. It also helps mostly women.


Olasimbo Sojinrin, Nigeria County Director, Solar Sister So our focus is unapologetically women. And the reason is because, as we said, women are the energy managers in the homes, and they are disproportionately affected by the challenges associated with energy poverty. And so we, using this challenge, you know, to define the opportunity of Solar Sister, which is that now women are the ones providing the solution.


Anna Jones, Host And women’s potential contribution to the fight and protecting us from climate change is endless. As Catherine mentioned, research tells us that the more women involved in decision making around fighting climate change, the better the results.


Katerina Vittozzi, Host And it’s not just to do with having more people, the more perspectives on offer, the broader the solutions will be.


Olasimbo Sojinrin, Nigeria County Director, Solar Sister For us at Solar Sister we want to kind of flip that around. So if you look in the communities, you find that a lot of the activities that happened in the household level, are usually run or managed by women. And so a lot of times women are the ones disproportionately affected by the challenges associated with this energy poverty. And so for us is how do we kind of flip that around and make women the champions of energy, prosperity, and put women, you know, in a place where they are providing solutions to themselves, their families, as well as their other community members.


Anna Jones, Host Olasimbo Sojinrin there. What an incredible example of how women can make a real impact in the climate change sphere. So there you have it. How women and girls can be a solution to the climate emergency, but will they receive the right foreign aid to be able to continue putting the solution into practice?


Matt Jackson, UNFPA The U.K. has been a leading voice in aid, especially in meeting the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls. But this prolonged reduction in financial support means that millions will lose lifesaving maternal health care. We hope that the UK will be able to return to the 0.7 commitment as soon as possible and that in the meantime the UK ensures that the needs of women and girls are prioritized.


Catherine Boyce, Executive Director for Enterprise and Climate, CAMFED International, and Director, CAMFED Australia Education is most definitely a climate issue. The investment to date by the UK government in girls’ education has been truly transformative and we hope that the stated commitment to girls education will be matched by future investment as well. We are at a critical juncture. We don’t want to be turning back on the gains that have been made to date.


Anna Jones, Host So Katerina, I feel we’ve been really blessed this week. We’ve had some such fascinating guests, really interesting people, so huge thanks to all of them. Now let’s talk about the news of the week, though. And while the foreign aid cuts have dominated in lots of areas, there’s been plenty else going on as far as climate change is concerned.


Katerina Vittozzi, Host Yes, and we’re going to start with some analysis actually by Sky News’ own Data and Forensics team. They’ve been looking at migration numbers due to extreme weather events. And the data they’ve analyzed has shown that there were 30 million new displacements last year. So that’s people on the move and that is, in fact, the highest rate in ten years.

And they also found that weather related disasters last year led to people in the poorest nations moving almost five times as often as those in richer countries. So in low income countries, there were almost 20,000 displacements last year, compared with 4000 in the wealthiest nations.

And the sorts of things that were driving people from their homes were extreme weather events like typhoons, cyclones, landslides and flooding, which we know can be events which become more frequent and more intense and more unpredictable as a result of global climate change.


Anna Jones, Host And meanwhile, the heat wave in America has been quite extraordinary up its West Coast, hasn’t it, Katerina? What’s the latest on that?


Katerina Vittozzi, Host Yeah, well, some states, particularly in the West, as you say, have long range forecasts suggesting that these record breaking high temperatures that we’ve seen over the past few weeks are just continue to, are going to continue and even in some places get even hotter.

In Palm Springs, for example, they’ve already had multiple days with temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius. I know, isn’t it? But some forecasters are saying it could even go over 50 degrees Celsius in the weeks to come. So breaking records there. Of course, we’ve already seen pictures of some of the dreadful wildfires in some of those areas with the highest temperatures and further warnings now that the longer these dry, incredibly hot days continue, the more devastating the wildfires will be this year. And they’re particularly damaging because of a June heat wave in these same areas, which climate scientists from the World Weather Attribution Group says would have been virtually impossible without manmade global warming.


Anna Jones, Host Meanwhile, back in the UK, the government has announced its transport decarbonization plan. So what’s in them?


Katerina Vittozzi, Host Well, perhaps some of the big headlines you’d expect come with their targets to do with cars and aviation. So there’s been a pledge from the government to phase out the sale of all polluting cars and vans by 2035, to end the sale of new diesel or petrol heavy goods vehicles by 2040, and a target of net zero emissions by 2050 for the aviation industry, although they have got an ambition to do it faster than that.

But as is the way I think with any government plans, it has been met with criticism and perhaps scepticism by some industry sectors, with haulage industry leaders in particular saying that timeline is just unrealistic. With alternative technologies like hydrogen and electricity still too expensive or unable to provide vehicles the mileage they need.


Anna Jones, Host Yes. And the clock is, of course, ticking, 2035 fast approaching. So we’ll keep a close eye on that one. But for now, that’s it for this week of Sky News Climate Casts, which was produced by Emma Rae Woodhouse. Thanks to Katerina, of course, for joining us from Bangladesh.


Katerina Vittozzi, Host You’re very welcome.


Anna Jones, Host And thank you to all our listeners for tuning in. If you did enjoy this episode, please do like rate and subscribe. And while you’re there, you could even leave us a review. See you next time.

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