Many international legal frameworks and commitments exist to help protect women and girls but implementation “aimed at making a real difference in lives of women and girls, is still wanting,” the Pacific Elders’ Voice said in a statement issued on the occasion of the UN Commission on Status of Women Sixty-sixth session.

The independent group of former Pacific leaders responded to the Commission on the Status of Womens’ theme, “Achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes”, a follow up of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the 23rd  special session of the UN General Assembly entitled “Women 2000: Gender equality, development, and peace for the twenty-first century.”

The Pacific Elders Voice pointed out that women and girls of Pacific Small Islands Developing States are among the most vulnerable not only to the impacts of climate change and disasters but also have some of the “highest cases of gender inequality, sex discrimination, and violence against women and girls.”

“Women and girls already bear the brunt of immediate and long-lasting impacts of environmental degradation, natural disasters, and changing climates.  Most women (and men) in the Pacific Islands live in coastal areas, consistently threatened by rising sea levels and coastal erosion and many have been forced to relocate or migrate.”  PEV further states that gender-based violence often increases following natural disasters.

Calling upon governments, PEV urged acceleration of women’s economic empowerment by “upholding their commitments and invigorating their efforts to repeal and/or and all sex discriminatory laws without exception.”

They also call on international financial institutions to ensure that their funds “actually reach the most vulnerable and provide them with, equitable and gender-responsive access to essential services, including healthcare, food, housing, water, sanitation, education, and sustainable livelihoods.”

Saying that gender justice and climate justice are inseparably linked, PEV called for “greater political will” to act. 

“Natural disasters and associated problems affecting families and communities can contribute to increased stress which often leads to increased aggression and violence.  It is important therefore to recognize the gender-specific impacts of the climate crisis, often compounded by conflicts to include these meaningfully in efforts to build resilience to climate change and disasters.” (By: L.N. Reklai)

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