It is undeniable that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of the modern era. Shifting weather patterns, rising sea levels, coastal erosion and pollution are among the many ills which threaten our way of life. While these problems can affect the entire global community, vulnerable groups, including women, tend to bear the brunt of its effects.

International Women’s Day 2022 with its theme “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”, highlights the vital connection between gender, social equity and climate change. Existing social and economic inequalities exacerbate the effects of the climate crisis on the lives and livelihoods of women and girls and imperil the possibility of a sustainable and equal future. According to the United Nations, women and girls comprise 70% of the global poor and therefore depend more on, yet have less access to, the natural resources that are at risk of depletion or overexploitation, such as water, agriculture and energy. Although responsible for 50-80% of food production, women own less than 10% of the land and make up 80% of those displaced by climate-related disasters.

Given that women are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change, their perspectives and experiences should form a major part of planning, policy making and implementation of climate mitigation strategies. Several outstanding women and girls have added their voice to the climate change debate and stepped forward as changemakers and advocates for action on climate change. Today, International Women’s Day, is the perfect opportunity to celebrate and thank them.

Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg has, since age 15, challenged world leaders to take decisive measures to reduce their carbon emissions, and inspired millions of young people to take up the cause for climate change. Isatou Ceesay is a Gambian recycling activist who has trained over 11,000 people to repurpose or ‘upcycle’ plastic bags into usable products and Nemonte Nenquimo has won protection for 500,000 acres of Amazonian rainforest from fossil fuel extraction. On the local front, we salute Molly Gaskin, co-founder of the Pointe-a-Pierre Wildfowl Trust, whose work in environmental education earned her the Hummingbird Medal Gold in 1987; Akilah Jaramogi, co-founder of the Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project, which is a shining example of grassroots conservationism and our very own Girl Guides who have embarked on a three-year journey to become environmentally conscious citizens and leaders.

We honour these and the many other outstanding women and girls who have spearheaded sustainability initiatives and played a leading role in preserving the environment over the years. On this International Women’s Day 2022, let us do our part to champion the participation of women and girls in climate action in order to guarantee a brighter and more sustainable future for all.