Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland;
Chair, The Elders; Co-Founder, Project Dandelion

Mary Robinson speaking to the Members of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). January 2024. Photo: SEWA

The impacts of the climate crisis hit the most marginalised communities hardest. For many women and girls, a lack of access to education, healthcare and resources increases the risks they face, with those working in informal sectors suffering the most. The climate emergency is a gender injustice.

When I visited the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in January, a trade union in India founded by my dear late friend Ela Bhatt, I met with some of its 2.9 million women members who spoke vividly about their lived experience of the climate crisis. A food vendor spoke of damages to her income and health due to extreme heat. 
A construction worker reflected on the dangers of scaling scaffolding in heavy unseasonal rains. A farmer described a flood that hit her village, wiping away livelihoods in her community.
The climate emergency is a gender injustice.”
While we must recognise that women are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis, we must not make the mistake of seeing women as passive victims. Women are active change-makers and climate leaders. From raising awareness in villages and cities about the effects of extreme heat, to encouraging the use of clean cooking through biogas and championing solar power for crop irrigation, the women of SEWA are leading the charge for transformative climate action in India.

This is the model of mobilisation and leadership needed in every sector. I have often said that when women lead, action follows – and we need urgent action at the very top. This means world leaders putting the lives of women and girls at the heart of policymaking on climate finance, mitigation, and adaptation.

SEWA members hold Project Dandelion posters featuring the title of SEWA’s “Cleaner Skies” Campaign. Photo: SEWA

I have often said that when women lead, action follows.”

Project Dandelion unites women at all levels to push for a shift in global finance away from high government subsidies for fossil fuels and harmful industries, into renewable energy and climate solutions. This shift must have climate justice at its core. We need this to secure just transitions in sectors driving the climate and nature crises, as well as better finance flows to those already experiencing loss and damage.

For too long, leaders have refused to look past short electoral cycles to take the action needed to protect current and future generations. Climate justice means acting now, and it also means ensuring the diverse voices and needs of women are heard.

The Elders believe in long-view leadership. This means showing compassion for all people, and designing sustainable solutions which respect that everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rights. We urgently need this leadership if we are to address the gendered injustices of the climate crisis.

Gender equality is a climate issue; every issue is a climate issue. When we include women's perspectives, skills, talents, and ingenuity, we increase our collective ability to innovate and create solutions for the benefit of us all. We must work together to build the better future we know is possible. And, to get there, women must have a seat at the table.

SEWA member and farmer explains her method of collecting biogas for cooking food. Anand District, India, January 2024. Photo: SEWA

We must work together to build the better future we know is possible. And, to get there, women must have a seat at the table.”
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Mabel van Oranje