4. How do we advocate?

Did you know that educating girls, ending child marriage, advocating for gender equality, and encouraging women to take on leadership positions are key climate actions?

Women who have secondary education have more life choices and can also have up to five fewer children. Slowing population growth can lead to billions of fewer people for the planet to support. Education also gives women choices to support their families and stop the need to sell girls into marriage.

Advocating for women and men to have equal access to education, superannuation, legal processes and information technology helps to close the gender gaps associated with pay, poverty and digital technology. Why is there a gender pay gap? Why are women over 55 the fastest-growing homeless cohort in Australia? Ending violence against women is also a critical action. How can women participate fully in their communities if they live in fear of violence? We need to close the gender gaps now.

More women are needed around decision making tables. We can support them to take on leadership roles through programs such as Zonta’s Young Women in Public Affairs Program that encourages young women to take up careers in public policy. Zonta’s own organisational structure and leadership training program prepare Zontians to take on leadership roles themselves.

So what can we do more of in our quest to create a fairer, sustainable future?

Local action

Within the Zonta community, we can add gender equality and climate action to our club, area and district advocacy activities. If each club has one or more climate change champions, they can work through Zonta Says Now to share ideas with other champions. The Zonta Says Now Think Tank has been set up to help with this.

Ideally, we need to understand the issues, develop our networks to share our skills and experience, and seek out strategic opportunities where we can add gender equality to the climate debate.

We can promote the Young Women in Public Affairs Award through the climate lens. Is there something we can do to mentor women and girls who are aspiring to take on leadership roles in our club and community?

Within Australia, it would be useful to work with our local, state and federal governments and provide submissions on policies as they are being developed. For example, independent parliamentarian, Zali Steggall is progressing a Climate Bill through the Federal Parliament. Every Zontian can ask their MP where they stand on this.

Governments at home and abroad are rolling out many large scale infrastructure projects in an attempt to create jobs in response to the Covid pandemic. Many of the jobs created are in male-dominated industries such as construction – but it is not all bad! We need to remember that for every person on the building front, there are many needed in the background to support them: in design, contract management, offices, banks, shops, laboratories, logistics etc where there is a more diverse workforce.

However, we need to hold governments to account to ensure that major projects are environmentally sensitive and do not put future generations at risk. For example, in Wales, there is the Commissioner for Future Generations. It is their job to protect the interests of those who are not born yet. At the recent TED Countdown global launch, the Commissioner described how their review processes resulted in a major motorway project being shelved, and the investment redirected to public transport and building more cycleways.

Global action

Zonta International’s 2022-2024 project is taking practical action by Engaging Girls on Climate Change in Madagascar. The US$500,000 project is being undertaken with UNICEF USA. It will enable students to learn about the environment, build climate-resilient communities and support environmental conservation activities. It will reach approximately 119,000 students, 1,500 teachers at 700 primary schools in the Beloha and Ambovombe districts in the region of Androy, the drought-prone region in the south of Madagascar.

The United Nations has many areas that work in the areas of climate change and gender equality.

  • The UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN Climate Change) aims to keep the global average temperature rise this century as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The secretariat coordinates the global response by administering the negotiating sessions, including the annual Conference of the Parties (COP). At COP events climate agreements are made, e.g. Paris.
  • The UN’s Environment Programme sets the global environmental agenda and has a section that focuses on gender. They note that women play a critical role in sustaining communities and managing natural resources, but their contributions are often undervalued and neglected. Men and women must work hand in hand to confront the environmental challenges of our time.
  • UN Women was established to accelerate progress on achieving gender equality and empowering women. They also work to get equal representation of women in the agendas of all UN organizations.
  • UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs aims to prevent deadly conflict and build sustainable peace around the world. This is becoming more important as people compete for scarcer resources.
  • UN Development Fund works to eradicate poverty while protecting the planet. They help countries develop strong policies, skills, partnerships and institutions so they can sustain their progress.

When the 195 countries signed the UN Paris Agreement in 2015, they agreed to review their emission targets (called nationally determined contributions or NDCs) in 2020. The 2020 conference was delayed due to the Covid pandemic and held in Glasgow in 2021. At COP26, it was agreed that countries had not taken sufficient action, and countries would come back to COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt in 2022 with more ambitious actions.


Zonta International Project in Madagascar

This project with UNICEF USA will support girls and a generation of children and adolescents by providing environmental education in Madagascar through child-friendly schools.

COP26: Why education for girls is crucial in the fight against climate change

The title says it all, but this article from The Conversation contains many facts and useful links.

Women and climate change quiz

Quiz: Climate change. Think you know your facts on women and climate change? Try the quiz.

TED Countdown Launch

TED talks: This TED Countdown to a better future featured over 50 hours of magnificent talks by scientists, advocates, artists, musicians. A fantastic library of inspiration.

Empowering women on the frontlines of climate change

Article: Empowering women on the frontlines of climate change. To help tackle the effects of climate change, the joint programme “Promoting Gender-Responsive Approaches to Natural Resource Management for Peace” implemented by UN Environment, UN Women and the United Nations Development Programme, has spent the last two years training women in farming, natural resource management and conflict resolution. The project in Sudan is the first under the joint programme. There is a short animation on this site that could be useful to show at a club meeting.

Powering Equality – UNEP

Report: Powering Equality: Women’s entrepreneurship transforming Asia’s energy sector was produced by the UN Environment Programme in 2020.

Climate Starter Kit

Web pages: This Climate Starter Kit is just what it says it is. Useful, simple information to start a climate journey.