130 women leaders steal the limelight at UN climate show

With women and girls on the frontline of climate change, women leaders representing 54 nations met in New York to call on global leaders gathered for Ban Ki-moon’s climate summit to catalyse gender-sensitive climate action

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Friday 26 September 2014


Over 130 women leaders representing 54 nations gathered on September 23 in New York at an event—“Leaders’ Forum on Women Leading the Way: Raising Ambition for Climate Action”—hosted by UN Wome , Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and Mary Robinson, former Irish president and founder of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, and showed their commitment to gender-sensitive climate action, thus contributing to catalysing climate justice. 

The forum held on September 23, a day before the UN secretary-general’s Climate Change Leadership Summit, and conceptualised as a mobilisation platform highlighted the integral relationship between gender equality, women’s leadership, and climate justice and solutions.

 “Women and girls are on the front lines of climate change and UN Women hosted this event to carry forward their perspectives to the Climate Summit,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Mary Robinson, former UN high commissioner for human rights, believes that any climate issue must consider the voices of women, young people and the poorest. According to her, climate change is not just an issue of atmospheric science but of human rights and fundamental justice. “The leaders must think about the injustice of how climate is affecting those who are least responsible,” she said in a UN press statement released on September 22.

Current and former women heads of state and government, ministers, leaders from grassroots, youth and indigenous organisations, civil society, the private sector and the scientific community, and the UN system came  together to demonstrate women’s leadership on climate action and highlight gender-responsive actions at all levels.

Women leaders show the way

The event has been successful in raising voices of women through active participation of women leaders who included Rania Al Abdullah, queen of Jordan, and Nadine Heredia de Humala, first lady of Peru. There were seven former prime ministers and presidents of states as well:

  • Julia Gillard, former prime minister of Australia
  • Tarja Halonen, former president of Finland
  • Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland
  • Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi
  • Gro Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway, member of The Elders
  • Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand and administrator of the UN Development Program
  • Aminata Touré, former prime minister of Senegal

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appreciated this event as an important contribution to objectives of the summit and called for recognition of women’s leadership in all climate change agreements.

By women, for women, for climate justice
This global forum of women leaders is expected to be an important contribution to the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action (Beijing+20),  a critical opportunity to position gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment at the centre of the discussions on climate change and sustainable development in the post-2015 development agenda and the elaboration of http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/content/395789/the-millennium-development-goals-report-2014www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/content/395789/the-millennium-development-goals-report-2014 

“Voices from the Frontlines”, a thematic session of the UN Climate Summit 2014 organised by UN Women and UNICEF, too, contributed towards voicing women’s perspectives and participation for climate justice and policy developments. 

Robinson, who participated in this UN event, too, as a panellist, called for special efforts focused on adaptation to secure the future – “a future that has renewable energy, zero carbon emissions, and better health, better light, better energy, better job prospects for everybody “.

These global forums and events organised by women leaders have been successful in bringing into limelight the efforts needed at the international and national levels to develop innovative, sustainable and inclusive responses to the climate challenges focused on women.

The women leaders have called for the “political leadership and a long term vision at all levels” and want their voices to be heard by this UN Summit and also carried forward in forthcoming global climate negotiations in Lima.  and Paris too.

Lakshmi Puri , assistant secretary general, UN Women, demanded better integration and better linkages between gender equality, women empowerment and climate action. She asked the world leaders to commit to higher ambitions on climate actions and higher ambitions to ensure women’s needs and interests are addressed and their agents and their leadership needs are harnessed. 

Watch this video:


(See also this video on expectations of Mary Robinson, UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon’s special envoy for climate change)



This set of videos capture messages by women leaders at the UN climate summit, 23 Sep 2014

Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: The Fourth World Conference on Women

A literature review of the gender-differentiated impacts of climate change on women’s and men’s assets and well-being in developing countries

The state of human development in the Pacific: a report on vulnerability and exclusion in a time of rapid change

Governing climate funds: what will work for women?

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