This is the event I have most been looking forward to: The Women Leaders in Global Transition Summit. Arriving at the venue, I immediately find what I was expecting: warmth and delightfully easy new contacts. Within minutes I get to know Aivivi from Singapore, Lamia from Morocco, Rokhaya from Senegal, Nada from Geneva. We exchange our cards, but more importantly we share our professional stories, our experiences from being women in what often still is pretty much a mens’ world. We are fed up with the all-male panels that are still to be found in a great numbers at the official COP22 venue, be it in official or in side events. The Women Leaders Summit is different, and it is as colourful as it can get when women of all ages and from all over the world come together.
Most vulnerable to climate change
Right from the start, the moderator, Muriel , asks us to put on pink glasses. Not in order to see life in pink, but to discover the strong relationship between gender and climate. Muriel is from the US and a former “green Mayor”, one of the first to establish a green saving programme designed to benefit the environment and the individual citizen. In her opening address, Dr. Hakima El-Haite, Morocco’s Delegate Minister in Charge of Environment, Morocco and COP22 Host speaks passionately about women who are the first victims of climate change, girls in rural areas who instead of going to school have to carry the water from places that are further and further away, women who heat with wood and cook with kerosene. Millions of women today are marginalized and are more vulnerable to the consequences of climate change such as droughts and floods. Yet by working with them, they can be empowered to be part of the transformation towards low carbon solutions and a more equitable sustainable development. “The Paris agreement”, Hakima underlines, “cannot be realised if we ignore 55 percent of the world population”.
Women deliver solutions
What follows is an impressive line-up of active women leaders in different sectors from all horizons: CEOs, City Mayors, NGO activists, politicians, scientists. They deliver solutions to climate change and sustainable development and want to be role models for other men and women. They also want to be a source of inspiration for women lacking access to information or the means for influencing development. The atmosphere is warm and cheerful and some of the speeches truly give me goose bumps. I am happy that the climate talks finally get a little bit emotional.
Sharing is caring
During the break, my new Moroccan friend Lamia explains to me how her organization involves girls and women in rural regions of Morocco setting up decentralized, sun-powered solutions. My talks with Olgu, a representative of the Mediterranean Union, and Nouhad, who is part of the Lebanese government delegation to COP22, turn to the sharing economy. Is it a Western invention? “Just look around you”, says Olgu: “No one in Morocco would get the idea to get into a taxi alone. A taxi is always being shared, often by up to six people”.
“Ban Ki-Super-Moon” put gender higher on the agenda
Under the mandate of outgoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, gender issues have been put higher on the agenda. This is why the Women and Gender constituency is also represented when civil society organizes a small farewell ceremony for him. “Ban Ki-Super-Moon” is written in big letters on the certificate that is handed over to him. He shares a big smile. “This is the first time I hear such friendly words from you”, he says, “and that makes me happy”. He underlines that as Secretary General he often had to be diplomatic where civil society organisations were forceful and clear in asking for more. “Now, I will also become a civil society leader and can do the same” he adds with a smile.
Back at COP22 and meeting my colleague Thorsten, we decide that our choice of restaurant for tonight should be in line with the theme of the day. We find “La Fassia”, a restaurant entirely run by women, and finish the day with Moroccan delicacies before getting back to the guesthouse.