Discovery leadership masterclass series with Frank Adu ANIM &Christiana AGYEKUM: The rise of responsible business (3)


…..Accelerating social sustainability through gender equality and equity prioritization.

The future environment remains daunting where Climate change as a planetary phenomenon continue with its pervasive effects in impacting all people with an entrenched gender inequality. As the climate crisis becomes increasingly urgent, organizations around the world are seen to have begun investing in a wide array of environmental sustainability initiatives to address its ramifying effects.

Let me make the case that, the Global Goals simply cannot be achieved without the rise of responsible businesses. Through their core operations, financial commitments, employee networks, consumer-facing platforms and high-level influence, these companies have a crucial role to play in accelerating progress towards the Goals. Every business and every employee can make a vital contribution to creating a more peaceful, equitable and prosperous future.

The impacts of climate change can be felt across the globe, threatening ecosystems, human settlements, and infrastructure. Climate change which poses a significant threat to humanity, with widespread and severe consequences for people, the natural world and the global economy is devastating. Indeed, the world’s poor are disproportionately affected by climate change and the accompanying natural disasters.

And to emphasis this as an important world issue, a growing body of research suggests that to make real progress on dealing with environmental sustainability requires solutions that also incorporate social sustainability and in particular, gender equity. Gender inequality and the climate crisis are two of the most urgent challenges of today having critical connections between gender, social equity and climate change.

Largely, inequality in access to social protection by the marginalized, vulnerable and the poor, inequalities in the burden of extreme poverty, education, skilled training gaps and excess maternal mortality, unequal access to social, economic power and justice including lack of respect for and inadequate protection and promotion of human rights of women and girls, inequalities between women and men in sharing of power and decision making at all levels and in dealing with all kinds of conflicts, insecurities and threats on women and girls are most bizarre.

Consequently, inequality in macro-economic issues including trade, industry structures and productive resources, stereotyping and persistent discrimination against women and girls that manifest in negative gender relations, and value for gender roles and responsibilities with severe implication for maternal health and mortality are but just a few issues. Irrespective of the gains made so far, these inequalities listed, are still deeply rooted in the social system and manifest particularly in matters of access to justice, health, finance, education, security, politics, energy, agricultural practices and environmental management processes.

To address this gender unfairness and ensure there are adequate strategies and measures available to compensate for women’s historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from otherwise operating on a level playing field, define the essence for accelerating social sustainability through the promulgation of responsible business conducts and practices.

 Recognizing women’s rights, labour and knowledge

Women around the world are showing remarkable resilience now. They are leading climate action movements, championing clean sources of energy and building alternative models of community that focus on sustainability and cooperation. It’s really important to emphasize that women are not merely helpless victims when it comes to climate change.

Nevertheless, policies must recognize that women can offer unique knowledge and expertise including among indigenous, rural, and young populations that can be used to support effective climate action. Women and girls around the world have been at the forefront of climate activism and have used a variety of methods to protect the environment and push back against damaging extraction projects. Women farmers have also formed cooperatives and groups to share their workloads and increase their productivity and income.

Despite the significant roles being played by women, it must be recognized that women shoulder disproportionate care responsibilities, have fewer economic resources than men, and have lower levels of literacy and access to technology.

Climate change and gender Issues

The mention of Climate change is the intrinsic linkage to poverty and the ramifying impact on the lives of the world’s poorest people. Climate change which intrinsically is linked to gender affirms the heightened fear that women and girls are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate catastrophes.

In developing countries in particular, the tendencies to be exposed to the negative impacts of disasters, including death and injury are obvious. These disasters are becoming more frequent and more severe due to climate change.

As the case may be, whiles Climate change affects men, its impacts on women are significantly enormous. Women and girls tend to be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change because, they constitute the majority of the world’s poor, who are overall more affected. They are more likely to be dependent for their food and income on the land and natural resources, which are being threatened. They are less likely to be in positions of power and or decision-making roles. They are more likely to be responsible within their families for securing water, food and fuel for cooking and heating, which are all being threatened. It is often women and girls, for example, who are forced to walk great distances to find water when local sources dry up.

While the effects of climate change present new and evolving health needs, they also disrupt health supply chains and damage roads, health facilities, and other essential health infrastructure. They also make it harder for people to access health services by undermining livelihoods and household finances and displacing families and communities, often further from health facilities.

Climate change and gender inequality

These factors, and many more, mean that as climate change intensifies, women will struggle the most. Obviously, Gender inequality hampers women’s capacity and potential to be actors of climate action. These gender inequalities access to and control over resources, access to education and information and equal rights and access to decision-making processes define what women and men can do and cannot do in a particular context of climate change.

Climate change is making it harder to manage household responsibilities like cooking, cleaning, gathering resources, and caring for children. This is especially felt in remote rural communities. Natural disasters and saltwater intrusion from rising sea levels can tarnish water quality. With less water available, women who rely on community gardens and farmers’ markets are less able to cultivate and process produce.

Gender equity is the process of being fair to women and men. Climate change affects women and girls most acutely because it exacerbates the existing outcomes of entrenched gender inequality. While some argue that climate change worsens gender inequality as women and girls are more susceptible to the impacts of climate change, others argue that climate change offers opportunities to tap into women’s traditional roles as careers of natural resources and link them with paid employment. Women bear a disproportionate burden of the adverse impacts of climate change.

In many contexts, climate-related disasters like floods or drought lead to household livelihood insecurities which lead to girls being taken out of school. Girls may then help to manage the household affairs or are moved into domestic work, which exposes them to risk. When parents struggle to feed their children, some feel they have no choice but to give their daughters away for early marriage, often resulting in early pregnancy.

Advancing the need for gender equality

Equality between men and women exists when both sexes are able to share equally in the distribution of power and influence. Gender inequality settles in when women tend to be more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Policy advocacies prioritize the rights of women and other groups that face discrimination, because it undermines their resilience to climate impacts. Again, women shoulder disproportionate unpaid care responsibilities, have fewer economic resources than men, and have lower levels of literacy and access to technology. These inequalities are further exacerbated by climate change.

Therefore, the overall objective for driving gender equality is to see a society in which women and men enjoy the same opportunities, rights and obligations in all spheres of life. To advocate Gender equality is imperative to consolidating sustainable development which is vital to the realization of human rights for all.

Having said that, Gender equality and Women Empowerment initiatives constitute strategies designed for reducing poverty levels, social injustices among women and men, improving health standards and enhancing efficiency of public and private sector investments and domestic finance. Thus, achieving gender equality is regarded as the attainment of human rights and a pre-requisite for sustainable development.

In general, remember women are more likely to consider their families and communities in decision-making processes which is crucial to producing the kind of holistic solutions that make for effective climate action. This is evidenced by indigenous women in particular being seen to possess unique knowledge about agriculture, conservation and natural resource management that make their voices indispensable in any decision-making processes.

Gender equity and gender equality. Any difference?

Gender equity is the process of being fair to women and men. To ensure fairness, strategies and measures must often be available to compensate for women’s historical and social disadvantages as already intimated. Whiles effective championing equity leads to equality, Gender equality requires equal enjoyment by women and men of socially-valued goods, opportunities, resources and rewards. Where gender inequality exists, it is generally women who are excluded or disadvantaged in relation to decision-making and access to economic and social resources.

The critical aspect of promoting gender equality therefore is the empowerment of women, with a focus on identifying and redressing power imbalances and giving women more autonomy to manage their own lives. Gender equality does not mean that men and women become the same; only that access to opportunities and life changes is neither dependent on, nor constrained by, their sex. Achieving gender equality requires women’s empowerment to ensure that decision-making at private and public levels, and access to resources are no longer weighted in men’s favor, so that both women and men can fully participate as equal partners in productive and reproductive life.

The case for Gender, equality and social inclusion in Climate advocacy

Many citizens are trapped in an inter-generational cycle of poverty because of their gender, disability, age, and ethnicity or simply because of where they live.  Every citizen has equal access to the opportunities, resources and services they need to reach their full potential. The perspective on gender equality and equity through is focused on ensuring that women and men, boys and girls are empowered to pursue their human rights and fundamental freedoms, and are valued as equal and active participants in the wellbeing of their households, workplaces, communities and societies by the rise of many responsible business conducts and practices.

At both the national and the community level, women’s representation and leadership appear to drive better environmental outcomes. Countries with higher percentages of women in parliament tend to adopt stricter climate change policies, resulting in lower emissions. At the local level, women’s participation in managing natural resources leads to more equitable and inclusive resource governance and better conservation outcomes. And when community climate programmers fully include women, they tend to be more effective and efficient in their use of resources.

Towards Climate Adaptation, the role of responsible businesses

There is growing evidence that climate change has exacerbated conflict, driven human displacement, and worsened vulnerability. Recent trends suggest that the richest are capturing an ever-larger share of the benefits of growth. Poverty reduction has not been spread evenly, particularly between men and women, and the north and the south.

However, there could be designed policies and programs to curtail the rise of inequalities undermining poverty reduction, holding back economic growth and threatening social stability by the acts of responsible business conducts.

Adaptation, which refers to taking actions to reduce the negative impacts of climate change and build resilience to climate-related shocks and stresses across all systems cannot holistically be pursued without the role of committed responsible business practices. These actions can include changes in processes and practices as well as physical changes to the environment to better manage climate impacts both by mitigating potential damages and seizing opportunities as a result of climate change.

Research suggest that, women and girls are most adversely affected by the effects of climate change but they are also uniquely important to the solution. When women participate in decision-making at national and community levels, they are key to effective climate change solutions. Women often have a strong body of knowledge and expertise that can be used in climate change mitigation, disaster reduction and in creating strategies for a more sustainable future. Reversing climate change will require moving resources away from extractive and environmentally damaging activities, and towards those that prioritize care for people and the planet. Policies must ensure that a transition to a green economy aides women’s access to employment opportunities, land, education, and technology. Lastly, publicly financed social protection systems should support women and girls’ economic and social well-being and their resilience for sustainable future.

Frank is the CEO and Strategic Partner of AQUABEV Investment and Discovery Consulting Group. He is an Executive Director and the Lead Coach in Leadership Development and best Business Management practices for Discovery Leadership Masterclass.

Christiana Agyekum is the Administrative Officer, BAT Ghana)


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