By Noimot Olayiwola/Staff Reporter
Taking issues involving gender and climate beyond rhetoric by translating policies to real live actions, women empowerment, capacity building, grassroots funding for women’s development and adaptation projects were the high points of the discussion during a panel session held yesterday to mark the Gender Day at the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference (COP18/CMP8).
The Gender Day initiative, which is a first at COP18 featuring an all-female panel, was graced by the COP18/CMP8 president HE Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah. The panelists included Museum of Islamic Art chairperson HE Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres, UAE-based Masdar’s sustainability director Nawal al-Hosany, International Union for Conservation of Nature director general Julia Matro-Lefevre, Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice president Mary Robinson, ambassador Dr Nozipho J Mxakato Diseko from South Africa, World Meterological Organisation assistant secretary general Dr Elena Manaenkova and Liberian Minister of Gender and Development Julia Duncan-Cassell.
Making an opening speech, Sheikha Mayassa urged stakeholders to look at the future of climate change and gender issues through the ‘special lens of women’, similar to the one Qatar is using to view issues of its development and which has brought success to the country while citing Qatar Airways, Al Jazeera and the Museum of Islamic Art as shining examples of the country’s achievements.
“Qatar is uniquely poised between the past and the future for using the lens of change and women here have to continue to explore big ideas, especially in order to succeed in a world of energy efficiency,” she said while mentioning that women in Qatar, and in the Middle East have been given enough freedom to attain their dreams.
“The participation of women in almost every sector in Qatar and now recently in sports, showcases how Qatar is empowering its women and how our religion is compatible with modern way of life. Women are now co-authors of stories for tomorrow and the future,” Sheikha Mayassa said.
She stressed that Qatar’s women continue to play a critical role in the development of the country while asking women around the world to be directly involved in every journey for change beginning with one step in all directions.
“Women are on a complicated journey that must continue throughout this week, this month and for decades to come,” she added.
Dwelling on Sheikha Mayassa’s speech, Robinson stressed the importance of making changes toward gender and climate issues while urging everyone, including both males and females, to make use of Qatar’s ‘special lens’ for integrating gender balance in future conferences by the UNFCCC, among the Kyoto Protocol negotiators and among the delegates.
While insisting that women should be included in the bigger story for climate change and not be made a footnote, ambassador Dr Nozipho J Mxakato Diseko called for putting in place legislations that will expand the scope and space for women and that women should be directly involved in decision-making process.
Speaking about ensuring that plans were translated into actions, Matro-Lefevre called for a level playing field and capturing of women’s voices in order to move from international rhetoric to action plan.
Al-Hosany said that the challenges that women face can only be described by them and stressed the importance of encouraging women to be leaders, to create a platform to excel in their career as well as the need to engage, network and dialogue.
Other issues raised during the discussion included gender stereotyping, building capacities of the disabled people, having positive attitudes and good sense of humour towards finding solutions to the climate change problems, forming critical mass of women for collective benefits in terms of getting funding for grassroot projects and for ensuring gender balance.