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Want to solve the climate crisis? Include women.

Friday 20 September 2019 Kwesi Formson Humanitarian situations, Opinion Zambia

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Kwesi Formson, Country Director for Marie Stopes Zambia, on why he is on the side of women when it comes to not only tackling the climate crisis but adapting to it too.  

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The climate crisis. Three little words, one big impact and a problem that the entire world is currently trying to solve.  

Some people might wonder why a Country Director in Zambia, of an organisation working in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), is particularly interested in the climate crisis. But, when you’ve seen, first-hand, communities struggling to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change – severe droughts that cause crops to die and people to go hungry, flash floods which in a moment wash away hard-won developmental progress – you begin to see its importance.  

And, when you know that women and girls in these communities are often the most marginalised and almost always the hardest hit, you understand that to tackle the climate crisis - to help communities adapt and empower those who want to solve it – the world must consider and include women and girls too. 

Yet, when it comes to climate action, women and girls are often overlooked. They are left out of important decision-making forums, their needs, wants, priorities and solutions not considered. And, when they are included, it is usually the voices of those in the global north.  Therefore, it is so important that Marie Stopes Zambia, an organisation led by the priorities of women and girls in the global south, is able to attend the Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in New York.  

We know that ensuring choice for women and girls is key to accelerating global efforts to address the climate crisis and that when women and girls are given the tools to decide whether and when to have children, the health, livelihoods and resilience of not only them as individuals, but also their families and their communities, increase significantly.  

And it makes sense. With access to contraception and safe abortion, girls can stay in school, women can work and earn money, and both have greater knowledge and decision-making powers in their families and communities. The benefits that increased access to contraception and safe abortion have for gender equality are huge, and with greater gender equality comes greater resilience, and when women and girls are resilient, they are better able to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Reproductive rights, resilience and the climate crisis go hand in hand. 

In Zambia, the hard work to integrate development, family planning and climate response efforts has already begun. In 2017, Maire Stopes Zambia teamed up with the Frankfurt Zoological Society to integrate community education for both conservation and family planning in North Luangwa, with great success. Men have shown increased support for family planning, whilst women and girls are more actively engaged in conservation and anti-poaching efforts. The project has since expanded to Nsumbu National Park. Our partners are confident that in the long-term, this partnership will have a positive impact on the environment and the reduction of poaching and other human-wildlife conflicts.  

So that’s why I’m here in New York, to share what I know about the benefits of SRHR and to ask those working to solve the climate crisis: how can the development and climate change sectors work better together to ensure a just, equitable, and sustainable future for all people and the planet?  

Add women into the mix, empower them and provide them with the ability to determine their own futures, and I think you find your answer. 

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