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Sounding the Alarm on the Intersections of Gender and Climate Justice

Written by Christine Samwaroo


Earth Day has become more and more significant as the climate crisis worsens. It is a global day for collective action on protecting the planet. For those in the environmental space, it is an important day to highlight the work being done throughout the year and it provides a platform for those on the front lines of the crisis to speak up. It is a time for activists to call out corporations that continue to pollute, governments inaction on climate pledges, and it is a day for everyone to reflect on their own impacts and their role in a climate changing world.


When it comes to the connection between gender and environment, the connection is becoming clearer. This year, International Women’s Day and the Convention on the Status of Women (CSW66) both centered their work on climate change. Women and girls continue to face layered impacts of the crisis. Caribbean women are confronted with the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in addition to their lived experience of gender inequality. Gender inequality continues to be a major concern in the Caribbean, with women and girls being susceptible to gender-based violence and socio-economic imbalances.


However, it has become more and more apparent the lack of Caribbean representation in the climate conversation. Despite our increased vulnerability to climate impacts, the same level of attention given to the global north is not being given to the Caribbean region. Noting this, on this year’s Earth Day, The Breadfruit Collective partnered with The Climate Conscious to host the inaugural Caribbean Women for Climate Justice Conference (CW4CJ).


"The high caliber of panelists and discussions shows that we have the capacity in the region to address the issues being faced. We can transform our ideas and recommendations into action, and we have the ability to influence national and regional strategies." - Derval Barzey, CW4CJ Conference Coordinator

As young women in the environment and gender movement, it was necessary to create our own space and speak on the issues that affect us. The four months planning process was no easy task, noting that planning a regional conference also came with managing multiple responsibilities with working and studying full time. However, the team was committed to the work and creating a space that was intersectional and inclusive, that included women, youths and Indigenous people throughout.


The team wanted to look at the climate crisis from a holistic standpoint that tells the story of the realities of living in the Caribbean - realities that continue to change from what we knew, and what our parents knew. With this in mind, four panels were planned. The first on the connection between Human Rights and Climate Change. The second, using the international Earth Day theme for 2022, Invest in our planet, our panel focused on investing in our women simultaneously. On Earth Day, there was a keynote address by Ayesha Constable from GirlsCare Jamaica. The third panel expanded on climate resilient economies and communities. We also used the opportunity to feature Caribbean-based environmental films. The documentaries “Uncivilized” and “Coastland” were shown. For the final panel, the speakers shared their perspectives on Planning for a Just Future. From all the panelists, it was clear that, while the climate crisis magnifies existing inequalities, it presents the opportunity for our society to fix these systemic injustices.


"We know that the climate crisis affects everyone and that everyone has a space in the conversation. However, many times conferences such as these are attended by persons who have been active in the climate movement. I was really happy to see that our attendees were not only persons who are deep in the movement but also individuals who are now learning more about the issues affecting our region and choosing to be involved in the conversation.” - Afeefa Richardson, CW4CJ Conference Coordinator

Although the conference was planned in celebration of Earth Day, the work is far from over. As part of the process of continuous engagement after the conference, one of the main objectives is to initiate a regional alliance of partners and key actors for climate and gender justice in the Caribbean as a means to create a network for close collaborations to influence public policy and action in the region. In an effort not to duplicate efforts and resources, the CW4CJ planning team aims to engage all existing networks in the region to learn about their goals and explore ways to work together.


“Addressing climate and gender justice requires a mindset shift to change the way we value ourselves and our environment. The conference highlighted the need for the “Ministry of Decolonisation” and the urgency of working towards dismantling the pervasive and sometimes subtle injustices and oppression embedded in our systems and cultural landscape that place women at a disadvantage.” - Derval Barzey, CW4CJ Conference Coordinator

The CW4CJ Conference created a needed space and many attendees expressed gratitude. They noted that they felt represented. The space holds significance for our collective actions on the climate crisis and for the development that is considered for the region. Using a feminist lens is critical and necessary as we move towards transforming the region to being resilient to the impacts of climate change. Collective actions offer many opportunities for work to be done regionally in a way that is transparent, inclusive and intersectional.


“It was refreshing to witness the dialogue among the multidisciplinary panelists from across the region, including Indigenous people and persons in the Caribbean diaspora, to hear of the work being done and their thoughtful, informed recommendations for gender-sensitive climate resilience. The high level of engagement of the audience during the panel discussions is a good indicator of the interest in climate justice.” - Derval Barzey, CW4CJ Conference Coordinator



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