Disasters Don't Discriminate: Shift the Power

Sharon Bhagwan Rolls
Posted September 23, 2019 from Fiji

I often find myself taking long trips to the United Nations to strategically engage in political processes linked to my advocacy on gender equality, inclusive peace and the peace-development and humanitarian nexus. My most recent trip, was taking the collective message of the #shiftingthepowercoalition and the diverse women from our #Pacific communities to the #UNSG #ClimateActionSummit on September 22.

It was a unique opportunity to elevate at the highest level, the need for substantive participation of women and girls in efforts against climate change from local to national and regional level addressing the differential impact of climate change on women and girls, and supporting their leadership as a way to make climate actions more effective.

A key message was ensuring the rights, differentiated needs and contributions of women and girls to be integrated into all actions, including those related to climate finance, energy, industry, and infrastructure. Here is the statement:

Disasters do not discriminate

• It is the persistence of gender inequalities that relegate women of all diversifies, from rural and remote communities, young women and women with disabilities simply as vulnerable victims of climate change • Even though our indigenous and local knowledge can enhance gender responsive approaches to climate change and related crises

• Even though without women, the response to climate change is incomplete and fails to account for our grassroots leadership and deep knowledge of climate patterns in our communities and interlinked community insecurities (including food, water, health)

• Gender equality and women’s rights are a pre-requisite for the achievement of climate justice

• Yet there are few opportunities for women to share and integrate our knowledge with professional scientific, development and policymaking communities - Even though the lack of mutual recognition of different knowledge undermines the potential for gender responsive climate change approaches

Organising to Shift the Power

Pacific countries make up 4 out of 5 of the countries most at risk of disaster in the world. It is also a region where women’s representation in leadership and decision-making roles is extremely low, where prevalence of violence against women is among some of the highest rates in the world and where the impacts of climate change are most severe.

Building on our preparedness and responses to climate change induced disasters - including devastating category 5 cyclones, prolonged droughts and damaging floods - since 2016, a network of diverse Pacific women from 13 women’s rights and disability led organisations across 6 countries are working together with a specific goal of strengthening Pacific women’s leadership in emergencies by tackling the root causes of inequalities.

Drawing on our leadership roles at times of disaster, we are:

• demonstrating a commitment to enhance feminist collaboration to co-create and build transparent, accountable and new forms of partnerships, coalitions and alliances between Governments, NGOs, community organisations, faith-based groups;

• creating regional platforms for shared action, alliance building, and international solidarity on priority issues of diverse Pacific women;

• communicating through appropriate and accessible platforms, the ideas, strategies and opportunities: just this week Coalition members in Vanuatu activated their national Women Wetem Weta SMS system a women led information and communication system to amplify how women are leading on collective action from early warning messages to urgent response

Our work demonstrates inclusive approaches to the peace, development and humanitarian nexus which is why Coalition member Transcend Oceania in Fiji is linking marine researchers to hear the solutions to climate change with coastal women in Tawake Village

But a gender-responsive approach is more than simply getting women to the table. It is time to shift the power:

• Greater accountability is needed to address the realities of climate change and disasters for women

• Sustained investment women's organising, capacity enhancement, and solidarity is essential to tackle power and gender relations so that women can collect and bring our evidence based recommendations to the table

• Integrating women’s knowledge and scientific knowledge is key to developing gender responsive approaches to climate change and associated crises building on our innovation and cumulative, customary and localised knowledge to determine the best way to use appropriate and accessible information and communication technology – which is why we will be enabling young women from our Coalition to access climate science and services information to develop and communicate their messages about their future

The Shifting the Power Coalition seeks to redesign the table, define and demonstrate meaningful participation in our village communities, in local government, national and regional decision making

Comments 14

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Anita Shrestha
Sep 23
Sep 23

Dear Sharon
Yes, disaster shift only power. This climate justice is main concern for this world, national and local.
Thank you for sharing this things to us.
Keep it continue

Sep 24
Sep 24

Dear Sharon,
I loved your point on commitment during disasters. This is important when it comes to equity. Thanks for sharing.
Kind regards

Hello, Sharon,

As someone living in a country where it is deemed as a laboratory for disasters, I am truly grateful to you for actively engaging and attending in climate justice discussions. Thank you for summarizing key messages on UN Climate Summit. This line struck me, "Gender equality and women’s rights are a pre-requisite for the achievement of climate justice". Wow. We could never neglect the role of women in times of disaster preparedness and climate change mitigation.

Thank you for being a voice to important talks like this.

Sharon Bhagwan Rolls

Thank you all !

You're welcome, dear Sharon. Keep up the great work!

Jensine Larsen
Sep 24
Sep 24

Shifting the Power is an essential need. This coalition is everything. Women of the Pacific leading the way. Brava for lifting the megaphone to bring this to the ears of world leaders. Calling all World Pulse sisters to join in to shift the power.

Sharon Bhagwan Rolls

Thank you! I will share your solidarity message with the Coalition!

Juliet Acom
Sep 24
Sep 24

Hi Sharon,

This is a powerful topic. Indeed we need initiate the transformation of "masculine" roles in our society - disasters leave both sexes with similar challenges to address!

Thank you for briging this information to this platform - i have learnt alot and I will be sharing this with fellow Ugandans.

Thank you!!

Jill Langhus
Sep 25
Sep 25

Keep up the great work, Sharon, and please keep updating us!!

Tamarack Verrall
Sep 25
Sep 25

Dear Sharon,
It is so encouraging to know that your voice is regularly being heard on an international platform. Thank you especially for making these concepts clear: "...the response to climate change is incomplete and fails to account for our grassroots leadership and deep knowledge of climate patterns", the time being now to "Shift the Power...to bring our evidence based recommendations to the table" and your work in and need for "enabling young women from our Coalition to access climate science and services information to develop and communicate their messages". Such good news.
In sisterhood,

Beth Lacey
Sep 25
Sep 25

Shift the power and bring the men with you

Tarke Edith
Sep 26
Sep 26

Hello Sharon
Yes dear I agree with you that desasters don't discriminate.
So the earliest the decision maker of every country takes into consideration gender equality thr the better .
Thanks for sharing sister.

Maya Iwata
Sep 30
Sep 30

Sharon, So sad I missed you when you were in NYC. Thank you so much for raising your voice to call for shifting power and creating a coalition to Shift the Power to create a new table for decision making where women and others historically excluded but most impacted by disasters are central to the solutions. Thank you! Warmest wishes,

Sharon Bhagwan Rolls

Thank you !