“Life itself hangs in the balance, and we women are coming together to say that we must make the correct choices for our collective future, now.”
These are the words of Casey Camp-Horinek, matriarch of the Ponca Nation, when speaking of the upcoming Global Women’s Assembly for Climate Justice—a free, virtual, gender-inclusive public forum being held September 25–30, 2021.
Around the world, diverse peoples’ movements have been working to organize for environmental justice in the face of our present climate emergency; often it is women who lead these movements.
Hosted by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network International (WECAN), this event will assemble over 100 leaders from over 40 countries whose aim it is to encourage governments to increase climate action by examining the root causes of interlocking crises of environmental and social injustice, adopting a climate justice framework and providing a diverse array of possible solutions to the climate crisis. Speakers include Indigenous, Black and Brown grassroots and frontline organizers, activists, policymakers and leaders speaking in a collective voice: We are not waiting. We need action now.
The assembly will be held parallel to the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 76). This timing is intentional and significant—not only because of the urgency of the climate crisis but also because “it’s the last time world governments will meet before one of the most important climate talks that has taken place since the Paris Agreement,” said WECAN executive director Osprey Orielle Lake.
Lake is referring to the U.N. Climate Change Conference, or COP26, being held in Glasgow October 31 through November 12, 2021. It is expected that climate change will be among the topics for discussion at UNGA 76 and it is at COP26 that governments must submit enhanced action plans and targets as part of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
While it is uncertain whether U.S. President Biden will include the climate crisis in his first address to the UNGA on Tuesday, he has returned the U.S. to the Paris Agreement and committed to a 50–52 percent reduction in U.S. emissions from 2005 levels in 2030—in line with the COP26 goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
In order for the U.S. to “build back better,” we need to #BuildBackFossilFree. The Global Women’s Assembly for Climate Justice will address this, as well as topics such as feminist climate policy, food sovereignty, regenerative energy, fossil fuel resistance campaigns, feminist care economics, challenging corporate power and more through discussions of visions, projects, strategies and frameworks.
Kari Ames (Tlingit) will speak as part of the panel “Women for Forests: Protecting Forests, Climate and Communities” on September 25. Ames, the WECAN representative in the Tongass Forest of Alaska, said:
“Our people have been here over 10,000 years, and we are here to protect and preserve the land so we can be here 10,000 years more. Our culture is alive and we want our traditional ways of life that have protected the forest to continue for future generations, which is why I continue to fight for further protections for the salmon, bears, and all the living beings within Haa Aani, Our Homelands.”
Sônia Guajajara, executive coordinator for the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), has witnessed the intimate connection between Indigeneity, gender equity and environmental justice:
“The situation in Brazil is now very serious, especially for women. Domestic violence against Indigenous women has increased a lot, recently two girls were brutally raped and murdered. We have a president who believes that women are objects and that our voices and Indigenous rights should not be heard and respected. However, for years we have remained strong; because the most important thing now is to fight for the Amazon and for Mother Earth. The struggle for Mother Earth is the Mother of all struggles, and women are leading the way.”
On September 27, Ruth Nyambura, Kenyan activist of the African Ecofeminist Collective, will present as part of a panel on the “Intersectional Movement Building for Climate Justice.” She explains the urgency of feminist collective action throughout the world:
“Even in these difficult times, people are finding ways to resist growing fascism as well as an economic and political system that render the majority of us, more so those of us from the Global South, disposable. We have to conceive our work in movements as a deeply political project. This is not the time to say we are neutral. As radical anti-capitalist feminists and environmental defenders, we have to know that our work will be contentious. Importantly, we have to build and work across movements and centering the aspirations of those on the frontlines of the multiple and intersecting crises that we are facing.”
“The Assembly will call for urgent action within a climate justice framework and produce an online collection of actions, policy frameworks, and solutions presented at the Assembly to be delivered to global governments, financial institutions and media outlets.”
We are in the midst of a global climate emergency. As you consider your own role in the climate crisis, reflect on the words of Neema Namadamu, WECAN coordinator for the Democratic Republic of Congo:
“We know that the difference we make not only affects our world, but the rest of our planet. We feel the weight of it all and are doing our part. To our sisters around the world we say: We are together!”