International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the historical, cultural, and political achievements of women. It is also observed in support of taking action against gender inequality around the world. This years’ theme: ‘Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow’ focuses on advancing gender equality in the context of the climate crisis and disaster risk reduction, and exploring linkages between gender equality, and agricultural and socio-economic development.
This year Vision Spring Initiatives in collaboration with the Lagos state government, the International Centre for Environmental Health and Development, and the Rose of Sharon Foundation in commemoration of this years’ celebration are hosting a dialogue to brainstorm on the global contributions of women and girls on climate change, adaptation and mitigation, and review responses and strategies to building a better and more sustainable future for women and girls.
March 8 every year reminds us of the need to protect and promote the rights of women and girls in their diversity. It reminds us that all individuals and communities deserve to receive the health services and care they need without suffering financial hardship. This includes the full spectrum of essential, quality health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care, and a commitment to reproductive health services for all, as agreed in the 2019 Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage without discrimination of any kind, which plays a pivotal role in progress towards sustainable economic and socially equitable development.
As we mark this years’ event with the theme ‘Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow’ we are reminded that women and girls are effective and powerful leaders and change-makers for climate adaptation and mitigation. They are involved in sustainability initiatives around the world, and their participation and leadership result in more effective climate action. Continuing to examine the opportunities, as well as the constraints, to empower women and girls to have a voice and be equal players in decision-making related to climate change and sustainability is essential for sustainable development and greater gender equality. Without gender equality today, a sustainable future, and an equal future remains beyond our reach. As we commemorate this years’ event with the Campaign theme #BreakTheBias, we are reminded that women and girls’ contribution to development is critical for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality and Goal 13 on climate action.
Women are increasingly being recognized as more vulnerable to climate change impacts than men, as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent on the natural resources that climate change threatens the most. Women’s vulnerability emanates from cultural and socioeconomic factors that make them more likely than men, to be affected by climate change, especially working in natural resource sectors, such as agriculture. The covid-19 pandemic has resulted in new realities and the need for a profound paradigm shift in how aspects of social and economic life are approached. They suggest renewed energy and commitment to actions to eradicate persistent gender gaps and inequalities. They also suggest the need to engage youths and bridge generational gaps in the creation of a broad base for advancing the gender equality agenda.
The National Action Plan on Gender and Climate Change (NAPGCC) seeks to ensure that national climate change, initiatives, and policies in Nigeria mainstream gender considerations, with concrete actions and effective strategies, have not been initiated to address gender and climate change in Nigeria towards achieving the objectives of the plan. In line with Nigeria’s ratification of the Paris Agreement adopted in 2015, and considering the enormous effect of climate change on Nigerian women, it is critically imperative to initiate an implementation strategy framework and immediate next steps in implementing Nigeria’s Gender Action Plan.
The climate change crisis has direct adverse impacts on human health particularly for vulnerable populations such as women, who comprise the majority of the global poor, with the risk balance tilting unfavorably for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as newborn and child health. This is public health, gender, social justice, human rights, and an economic and political issue that needs urgent attention now for the health and well-being of this and future generations.
In the last 25 years, policies and laws have remained patriarchal, not promoting equal access to land, finance, equipment, decision-making, and benefit accruing from the agricultural system. This has changed in recent times, as Women’s participation within the agriculture sector has gained momentum through targeted support, sustained through programs that aim to improve access to credit and general input support for women in agriculture. As partners in development, we want to witness increased progress in the coming years!
Priorities and actions to advance gender equality in Nigeria
- There is an urgent and clarion call for all partners-media, CSOs, government, and its agencies to work more collaboratively to tackle the challenges of inequality in Nigeria. Successful integration of comprehensive SRHR response to climate change agenda requires political will, effective leadership, governance, and support, coordinated at local and national levels. Championing universal access to SRH services, climate change efforts require actively advocating for legal and policy changes promoting the availability of SRH commodities and services at all levels of countries’ health systems, as well as initiatives that support the design and implementation of non‑stigmatizing culture‑ and gender‑responsive SRHR programs and interventions both locally and nationally.
- There is an urgent need to initiate a concrete implementation strategy framework with a commitment to adequate funding for efficient coordination as immediate next steps in implementing Nigeria’s National Action Plan on Gender and Climate Change (NAPGCC). Government should partner with climate-action NGOs, and the private sector to enhance the capacity of adolescent girls and young women in all their diversity to build resilience to climate and disaster risks, mitigate climate change, and address loss and damage, including through community-based cooperative models and land rights and tenure security.
- There is an urgent need to contribute to broadening the visibility and scope of SRHR debate in national dialogues and climate justice by using every opportunity to share successes, challenges, opportunities, and good practices and highlighting the connectedness of SRHR and climate justice for the health and well-being of women and girls.
- There is a need to continue to amplify our voices and advocate at the national level for governments to develop and implement policies, laws, and initiatives that support rights‑based, non‑stigmatizing, and gender‑responsive approaches to women and girl’s health, well-being, and climate justice and ensure women’s participation in decision making is at the heart of all debates.
- There is the need to ensure the establishment of transparent and participatory decision‑making processes within governments for including and prioritizing essential women and girls’ leadership in all spheres of development.