This article is written by Bindu Bhandari.
It’s the 10th of December today, United Nations Human Rights Day; a day to celebrate the ongoing work on achieving inclusive and integrated approach for recognition of minimal essential rights to living a life of dignity by each and every human. While the second of week of the climate talks Conference of the Parties 21 (COP21) is ongoing, the atmosphere in Le Bourget (COP 21 venue) feels warm and jubilant despite the chilling cold of December. And why not? After all, it’s the second week, the week of high hopes and aspiration for a climate agreement that safeguards our rights and ensures of upcoming generation as well to live as the current generation does.
Incorporating my personal experience, it’s the first COP I am attending in person. Needless to say, it’s a rare privilege not everyone is blessed with. Seeing a huge crowd of people from different corners of the world, be it VIPs or indigenous; I find this world a smaller place as I can fly thousands of miles within few hours emitting tons of carbon dioxide. Interestingly, my folks there in remote areas of Nepal (one of the Least Developed Countries) also assume this world a smaller place. But the difference is they are unaware of the world beyond their sight. I would like to add, I am the only young girl (as far as I know) in COP21 as an observer from Nepal among a bunch of young boys. Realizing this, I am not sure if I should boast. Should I say « see, I am the only young girl here from my country » or should I question gender equity and inclusiveness in this universal gathering?
As a youth campaigner advocating at grass root levels for youth inclusiveness and empowerment, I can clearly see how intense and concrete are the impacts of climate change in vulnerable communities. No doubt, there is no such community untouched with the reality of climate change. But I have been familiar how young girls (compared to boys) in my villages have missed school to fetch water from distant resources which are drying due to climate change. I have seen how my women are struggling harder and harder with days passing by to adapt for irrigation and food production, to meet the energy demands of their homes. None can deny, women are both on the front lines of climate vulnerability and the forefront on adapting and mitigating this challenge.
At many UNFCCC climate change conferences, the inclusion of women and gender equity has been strongly advocated by constituencies and other legal instruments. This is commendable. Preamble paragraph 5 and articles 2, 16 and 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, 1948 advocates for women rights and equality. In 2001, COP 7 at Marrakesh agreed on the first text and adopted Decision 36/CP.7 for promoting gender balance at every level of negotiations and decision making in climate change. Furthermore, COP 18, Doha passed decision 23/ CP.18 for improving the representation ofwomen representation in the UNFCCC. The United Nations published Gender Composition Report on 21st September, 2015 that address the gender approach and balance in the UNFCCC negotiation process and enables countries to track their progress towards meeting the goal of gender balance in advancing gender-sensitive climate policy*.
But amidst all these decisions and progress, I fear if we are seeing only the part of world that is shown to us. Stepping outside the box of high level technical negotiations and convention, I know there are millions of women in developing and least developed countries like mine who have never heard the term climate change (it sounds like nothing more than a scientific jargon) and have no idea about their vulnerability. COP 21 has sparked hopes in thousands of optimistic youth like me to ensure rights of all those struggling, raising voices and even more of those who have no idea that they own rights to live with a dignity in a sustainable world. We youths have handed our rights to global leaders negotiate our future with a belief they would safeguard our rights and ensure intergenerational equity. Without gender equity I see everything incomplete because to date I haven’t met a human created only by a male or a female.
Last but not the least; I would like to quote what legendary Nelson Mandela said « It always seems impossible until it’s done ». Hopefully, solidarity and momentum of COP 21 will be a historic for drafting a legal agreement binding all of us. After all, climate change is more an issue of human rights rather than a political agenda not merely a scientific jargon but a challenge for survival of one and all. Moreover as a youth, I believe, demand and pledge this agreement would ensure not merely youth inclusiveness but a just inclusiveness with gender equity.
About the author: Bindu Bhandari is an international delegate in COP21 from CliMates also COP in My City leader from Nepal,involved in CliMates since end of 2013. She has been advocating as a youth campaigner for youth empowerment and inclusiveness at grassroot levels. She is also a Regional ambassador at Tunza Eco- generation and passionate on volunteering with a sincere concern on environmental issues.