A feminist walks into a bar… and she immediately notices the gender dynamics and participation of women in these ‘masculine’ activities.
I think it is only natural that the subject of your focus will attract your attention, also known as selective attention. For instance, a person who recently bought a yellow car might suddenly observe that there are more yellow cars on the road than before. Likewise, a feminist would immediately notice the gender dynamics in a workplace, meetings and decision-making; I am no different.
As a woman who is used to working at the top management level in organisations, I have experienced my fair share of dismissal, interruptions, assertions of authority and even my own false sense of diminished entitlement to the floor.
So when I attended informal consultations, and even informal-informal consultations (when I managed to ‘get in’), I took note of the number of women in the negotiation circle and their participation in the negotiations as a whole. After all, ‘gender equality and empowerment of women’ are recognised under the Paris Agreement (1/CP.21) among the things parties should ‘respect, promote and consider’ when taking action to address climate change.
I noticed that there was a high or balanced participation in CAN Daily meetings, side events and on the higher level, the consultations I attended. Even if there were gender disparities, they were only in numbers; women were active participants and often voiced their opinions, as was the case in the Young Delegates meeting I attended.
In CAN Daily meetings, there is almost always a woman on the chair; throughout other working groups and side events, I could see women actively participating in presentations, voicing out opinions in discussions and working behind the scenes as organisers. It appeared to me that gender was not only a non-issue, but there was also a greater cohesion between the genders, a safe space and working relationship.
On the higher level, in the SBI informal consultation on Capacity Building, 21 out of 37 negotiators were women, and some of the more vocal, key negotiators such as EU and US were women. I was fascinated by the way the South African negotiator defended her turf on behalf of G77 and China against the more dominant and difficult US, Japan, EU and Australia. She was confident without being loud and graceful even as she dug her heels in.
Now, I do recognise that in these consultations, gender means little since most of the positions are already agreed to beforehand and decided by the figureheads of respective countries or at least, influenced by various stakeholders. But even so, having these negotiators on the decision-making panel for the entire constituencies are inspiring and heartening to witness.
In MYD 2016 itself, 4 out of the 5 of us are girls; while Kelvin may sometimes stare at us blankly at our antics or resign himself to our countless cam-whoring, he adds value to our group with his knowledge and experience, and we add value with ours.
So perhaps the principles that are ingrained in that particular organisation matters – not to dismiss the whole issue of gender as if to start on a ‘blank slate’ and pretend it does not exist, but to establish values of respect among all members regardless of gender. Perhaps this is where some of my previous organisations lacked – establishing values of not only equality but respect to one another simply as human beings.
So ‘why do we need moustaches to be heard anyway’? I attended a climate action on that, in protest of the Trump victory. This underscores the point on women’s participation – it is not that they represent the women per se, as COP22 is focused on the broader climate change, but they include women’s narrative; to demonstrate that you don’t after all, need a moustache to be heard.
Women are considered ‘vulnerable populations’ as they primarily constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more likely to have their livelihoods threatened when climate change hits the natural resources they highly depend on. They also face social, economic and political barriers that hinder them from acting as effective coping and adaptation agents and puts them at a disproportionate disadvantage. It is thus important to not only recognise women’s contribution to the informal economy but to include them in the decision-making processes and create gender-sensitive policies to assist them in adapting to climate change.
I fully support feminist movements like these because until gender equality and equity are ingrained in our society and feminist climate actions and there is no longer need for ‘Women and Gender Constituency’ – and until ‘bar jokes’ about feminists go extinct.
Written by Nachatira Thuraichamy
Edited by Choy Moon Moon