It is essential to include the gender perspective in environmental policies and value the care that women do in all their diversity, say specialists

Environmental degradation, climate change and its effects, the result of a style of development based on the exploitation of life and extractivism, deepen the overload of unpaid work and care that is carried out mostly by women. Faced with this, it is necessary to rethink development models, the current social organization of care, recognize and respect environmental limits and recognize and value the role of women in life, in economic processes in the region and as agents of change in various environmental sectors. Given this, the proposal is to include the gender perspective in environmental policies and integrate the knowledge of women in their diversity, including indigenous peoples, in the design and implementation of responses to adaptation and mitigation in the face of climate change, degradation environment, pollution and loss of biodiversity.

These were some of the proposals shared by experts at the III Meeting of Specialists “Towards a Care Society in Latin America and the Caribbean: caring for the planet,” held virtually on March 23. The meeting was organized by ECLAC, together with the UN Women Regional Office for the Americas, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

This meeting, framed in the activities prior to the XV Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, aimed to deepen the conceptualization of the care society based on the relationship between care and the environment. During the meeting, specialists from different disciplines exchanged proposals for strategies to move towards a caring society, with adequate public policies to overcome economic, social and environmental gaps with gender equality and sustainability.

In this sense, Ana Güezmes, Director of the Gender Affairs Division of ECLAC, stated that “the society of care and the sustainability of the planet means advancing towards a style of development that places care at the center of its priorities, which recognize the interdependence and intercare between people and between them and the environment”. It is about consolidating the collective construction of the care society, based on the principles of equality and sustainability, which puts care and the sustainability of life at the center with a view that allows us to build in the medium and long term for a recovery transformative.

For her part, Cecilia Alemany, Deputy Regional Director of UN Women for the Americas and the Caribbean, highlighted the joint work between UN Women and ECLAC and the initiatives carried out from the region towards the 66th session of the Commission on the Juridical Condition and Women’s Social (CSW66) held from March 14 to 25 in New York. There, for the first time, they discussed how to include the dimension of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in policies on the environment, climate change and disaster risk reduction. In this sense, Alemany highlighted the importance of the Declaration of the Ministers of Women adopted in the Regional Consultation prior to CSW6 in January 2022, as well as the Declaration of the Feminist Forum that brought to CSW66 some of the most transformative elements for be taken into account in the negotiation. These efforts, as well as those of the Santiago Group, formed in 2020, were key to bringing an intersectional view to the negotiations and had a positive impact on the adoption of the Agreed Conclusions.

From UNEP, Piedad Martín, Deputy Regional Director, highlighted the existence of a variety of environmental strategies and care for the environment that have been operating in the region for decades. In this sense, she pointed out that the gender issue has been incorporated into the environmental agenda and, in particular, in 2021 there was a ministerial decision that defined very specific priorities on the reciprocal strengthening of the environmental and gender agendas.

Meanwhile, Ana María Tribin, interim leader of the Gender Team of the UNDP Regional Center for Latin America and the Caribbean, maintained that planetary, economic and social imbalances interrelate and aggravate each other and have a greater impact on women and girls, which places women in a situation of greater vulnerability, given persistent gender roles. Given this, she highlighted the need to promote the agency of women and their participation in decision-making at the national and local levels and in the definition and implementation of environmental policies.

One of the points of the conversation was how the care crisis, reinforced in the context of the pandemic and the environmental crisis, challenges the dominant style of development. The crises have exposed the shortcomings of the neoliberal system with an exacerbated impact on women, who bear the greatest burden of care work. Faced with this, it is necessary to consider the care economy within an ecosystem that integrates the environmental dimensions and the dimensions of care from a gender perspective.

Another of the great topics of the meeting was the contribution of indigenous peoples to the protection of the environment, the role that women play and how the impacts of climate change affect them disproportionately in their work and in their lives. For indigenous peoples, care is a collective responsibility and includes language, customs, knowledge, identity and territory. According to this conception, caring for the planet depends on the ability of humans to understand interrelation as a fundamental reality: all people are part of nature and there is an interrelation between people, plants, animals, protective spirits and water. . The understanding of this responsibility is the basis for dialogue with other knowledge systems to think and develop care strategies.

The meeting also allowed to highlight the contribution of feminisms for the articulation between gender and the environment, as well as to design new ways of living and inhabiting. Taking care of nature, the specialists pointed out, is taking care of people, since there is an undeniable interdependence and eco-dependence. The denial of this relationship is what has led to the current bioclimatic disaster, and the challenges are complex: it is about thinking how to build an agenda that puts destruction at risk, how to put life at the center in light of social vulnerability and the human condition of beings in interdependence. In this sense, feminist thought maintains that placing care at the center of the economy, society and relations with the environment is crucial for daily life and planetary survival.

During the meeting, emphasis was also placed on the need to have indicators and data on the impact of climate change on women in all their diversity, as well as having information on mitigation and adaptation from a gender perspective. At present, the specialists mentioned, there is not enough evidence or literature that accounts for this impact in terms of gender. Indigenous communities have been generating evidence and knowledge in this regard, hence another of the proposals at the meeting was to continue strengthening interscientific dialogue to incorporate the knowledge developed by these peoples. The care society requires these relationships between the states and indigenous peoples, the care of the planet must be thought of territorially and based on self-determination. Therefore, in order to guide policies to be multidimensional, it is necessary to have the voices of women in all their diversity.

The meeting also made it possible to share information about how environmental degradation and climate change impact women differently. For example, indigenous and rural women bear a greater burden of energy poverty, hours of unpaid work to collect fuel, hours of manual food processing, and respiratory illnesses. They experience how the loss of biodiversity and natural resources increases the hours of collection of natural resources, and how the inequitable patterns of food distribution within the household decrease their caloric intake: when there is not enough food, they are the ones who give up their food to provide for their children.

Given the situations described, public environmental and climate policies must incorporate a gender approach, the specialists indicated. Responses must be contextualized and focus on the key characteristics that differentiate women’s and men’s vulnerabilities, experiences, responses and contributions to climate change. Furthermore, women and men should not be seen as passively affected by crises, but as actors whose actions can contribute to both adaptation and mitigation of climate change.

Finally, and by way of conclusion, the specialists agreed that the unequal distribution of care limits the autonomy of women, and this affects their recognition as agents of change and guardians, their full and effective participation in environmental recovery efforts, and the distribution of the costs, benefits and opportunities associated with environmental protection and management. For this reason, more diverse, innovative and sustainable solutions are needed, in which women are agents who make the decisions and receive the benefits. Also, it was mentioned at the meeting, it is necessary to emphasize green investments that contribute to saving time in care and, on the other hand, to recognize that caring for the planet and life also requires time, and therefore it is necessary to have policies that reduce and redistribute care burdens.

The III Meeting of Specialists made it possible to advance in the conceptual development that links care with the environmental dimension, and to share proposals for adequate public policies to overcome economic, social and environmental gaps with gender equality and sustainability. All these collective efforts make up a determined drive to move towards a style of development that puts care and the sustainability of life at the center. These issues are being raised for the XV Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, whose priority theme will be “The care society: horizon for a sustainable recovery with gender equality” and will be held in Argentina next November .

The meeting was also held within the framework of CSW66 and in the context of the Declaration of Ministers and High Authorities of the national mechanisms for the advancement of women in Latin America and the Caribbean, who at the 62nd Meeting of the Presiding Officers of The Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean committed to integrating the gender perspective into national environmental policies, initiatives, and programs for climate change adaptation and mitigation, and for disaster risk reduction. Include reference to table.

The meeting also featured presentations from: Anita Nayar, Director of Regions Refocus; Myrna Cunningham, First Vice President, Fund for the Development of the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean (FILAC); Lilian Celiberti, President, Cotidiano Mujer/Marcosur Feminist Articulation; Ana Maria Tribin, Gender Team Leader at the UNDP Regional Center for Latin America and the Caribbean; Lorena Aguilar, Specialist in gender, climate change and the environment, ECLAC Consultant; Andrea Quesada Aguilar, Expert Specialist in Gender, Environment and Climate Change, UNDP; María Teresa Zapeta, Executive Director, International Forum of Indigenous Women (FIMI); Javiera Zárate, Professional Office of International Affairs, Ministry of the Environment, Chile; and María Jimena Jurado Giraldo, Gender and Climate Change Specialist, Climate Change Unit, UNEP.

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