COP21, Gender Equality, & Family Planning

On January 19, Social Good, Family Planning 2020, and the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP)  hosted a twitter chat about access to family planning and global goals. The conversation brought up a variety of important questions, such as: “What are the biggest barriers to #Family Planning access? How can we overcome them?” and “What are some challenges to sharing stories of #Family Planning.Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 1.09.31 AM

Having recently returned from the Paris climate talks, I found the last question – “How does #ICFP build on momentum generated by the #COP21 agreement?” – particularly thought provoking.

The COP21 agreement, reached in Paris last month, was actually quite disappointing when it comes to gender and family planning. Despite the strong presence of women leaders and family planning advocates at COP21, gender rights were never secured in the Paris agreement but rather existed in brackets, which means they are not actually a part of the final agreement. In the end, the Paris agreement mentions the need to protect gender rights, human rights, and Indigenous rights, and recognizes gender in climate adaptation, but this language does not appear in key sections such as “finance” or “loss or damage.” Furthermore, there is no promise to take action to uphold these various rights.

This means that industrialized countries and corporations will not be held accountable for the impacts of global warming. The victims of displacement, shorter growing seasons, water scarcity and other climate impacts will not receive just compensation. This affects women and girls the most because they make up the vast majority of food producers, especially in developing countries where climate change will hit the hardest. It also means that there will not be sufficient financial support available for developing countries to invest in climate adaptation, which will slow the transition to renewable energy or other sustainable solutions in these parts of the world. What’s more, as developed countries add new renewable energy and carbon trading projects, women and communities who do not have well-secured human rights might be pushed off their land and displaced by such projects.

So let’s ask this question again: “How do we build on momentum generated by the #COP21 agreement?”


ICFP Inforgraphic

First, we need to look at COP21 as a harsh reality check. Women’s rights and gender rights are still not a priority for these decision makers, and that means we must build stronger alliances and work harder for these rights to be recognized. Second,we must also support and amplify programs and campaigns that empower women and girls to become leaders so they can show up at these types of negotiations and defend our rights as women. Third,we need to address the role of family planning when talking about climate justice and gender equality. If we want more women in leadership roles, women and girls need education, which access to family planning can support. Family Planning also creates economic stability which helps a household when a crisis occurs.

While I was in Paris at COP21, I had the opportunity to work with and learn about organizations who are leading the way in making climate justice more gender inclusive. Here are a few you should consider following and supporting:

  • WEDO: The Women’s Environment and Development Organization works to have gender inclusive climate policies and to mobilize women for climate justice. They’ve created a campaign called “The women’s global call for climate justice” to engage women across the world. During COP21, WEDO held press conferences and various actions in Paris to advocate that gender rights be recognized.
  • WECAN International: The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network engages women, grassroots activists, Indigenous and business leaders, scientists, policy makers, farmers, academics and culture-shapers in collaboration to stop the escalation of climate change. In Paris, Osprey Orielle Lake, Co-Founder of WECAN, led a press conference on Gender Day featuring the voices of women who are on the front lines of Climate Change. A recording of the press conference can be watched here.

    Women of WECAN and IEN at UNFPCC Press Conference

  • IEN: The Indigenous Environmental Network works to support and advance Indigenous campaigns and organizations in North America. Although Indigenous rights were the focus of this group at COP21, the women delegates of IEN spoke out on how the fossil fuel industry, particularly fracking, brings violence to their communities; women and girls suffer the most as rates of rape and prostitution increase exponentially.





Amy Goodman of DemocracyNOW interviews former Irish President Mary Robinson about the Paris Agreement and Gender Equality.