“Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” is the 2022 theme for International Women’s Day which is officially commemorated on Tuesday by organisations and countries around the world, including the United Nations (UN).
This year’s focus seeks to highlight the vital link between gender equity and climate change with women and girls experiencing the greatest impacts of the climate crisis. The day also serves as a precursor to the kick-off of the Commission on the Status of Women next week. This is the largest UN gathering dedicated to women’s rights that is being chaired by South Africa for the next two years.
Women and girls are overwhelmingly and disproportionately affected during disasters and their aftermath – be they manmade like wars and conflict or natural like droughts or cyclones. There is a growing recognition that policies must be geared towards the most vulnerable in all these circumstances.
South Africa’s Ambassador, Mathu Joyini is also Chair of the 66th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
“A climate change and gender inequality are the two biggest. I mean, there are other challenges, but they’re the two biggest sustainable development challenges that we will face in our times. So it is important now the focus on both climate change in the context of women empowerment and gender equality is very timely. And for South Africa to be at the helm of the chairing CSW66 is quite an important one,” says Joyini.
Joyini explains that as chair, South Africa is responsible for making preparations for the session, ensuring there’s a programme in place, that member states and civil society are kept abreast among a host of responsibilities for what will be a hybrid session due to the ongoing pandemic.
“The relationship of women to natural resources, whether it’s water, whether it’s wood, and how do you…ownership of land, crops, how do you then support women in that? And this is when you start looking at some barriers for women and making sure that they have access to and they have control of land and natural resources, making sure that they have that. You have to change your national policies or national legislation to protect women in that space so that they can then participate meaningfully,” Joyini added.
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With Goal 5 of the SDGs – to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls recognised as a catalytic goal, a cross-cutting theme for achieving all the 17 SDGs, from eradicating poverty, quality education to decent work and climate action.
“The green community is coming. It’s here. So how do you make sure that women participate meaningfully and equally in that clinic? You can start by making sure that lifelong learning all of us as we transition to that, we need new skills, whether it’s in sciences and technology, so that women can take advantage of those new jobs in the green economy or the blue economy for that matter. And so giving them skills, education, and training. But it’s the whole space of lifelong learning for women,” Joyini explains
In a world consumed by conflict hotspots, particularly Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, developmental and sustainability issues often take a backseat but Joyini explains that there are other important issues that demand the international community’s attention.
“We are faced with this challenge. It is going to impact all of us, our economies. So indeed, we want this war to stop. However, there are other issues that we need to address that we need to tackle. And one of those issues is how women are impacted by climate change, by disaster. It’s happening as we speak now, whether it’s around drought, is it around desertification, various disasters, they affect women and girls. And we are not going to stand by and not address those. This is an opportunity – CSW – for all of us to rally and see how do we then make policies, how do we come up with programs that can address those challenges for women? We cannot run away from that. We need to address that,” says Joyini.
The Commission on the Status of Women runs from March 14th through the 25th.