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Amujae Leader Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr: Avert climate disaster by giving women leadership power

Women and girls are often the first to experience the harsh consequences of environmental degradation caused by climate change. If this disproportionate impact is to be mitigated, women must be included in decision-making processes, argued Amujae Leader and Mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr.

In an op-ed recently published in Project Syndicate, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr emphasized that women’s leadership is crucial in times of crisis. This is all the more important in the case of climate change, the impact of which is disproportionately borne by women and girls. She noted that many African women leaders are prioritizing climate action, adding:

“Many more women are tackling biodiversity loss and climate change, including indigenous women who are using their unique knowledge of the land to farm more sustainably and protect fragile ecosystems, and aspiring politicians running on integrated policy platforms linking reproductive health, education, and environmental protection.”

Mayor Aki-Sawyerr also argued that, despite global efforts to include women in local and national climate policy and action, the recent climate negotiations at COP26 were predominantly led by men. She added that, in Africa, only 11 out of 74 UNFCCC focal points are women:

“The failure to ensure equal representation and women’s participation in efforts to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss is short-sighted, at best, and potentially reckless.”

Giving more women the chance to meaningfully contribute to climate action, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr wrote, is the responsibility of those holding positions of power around the world. She warned that the failure to do so, coupled with a continued rise in emissions and loss of biodiversity, “will all but guarantee climate disaster.”

Read the full op-ed here.

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