The 66th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66) opened on March 14 at UN headquarters in New York, as well as online across the world, with a focus on “achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes”.
Delegates from Education International and other Global Unions are taking part in the Session and are calling for a gender-transformative and inclusive just transition for a green and caring world.
The gendered impact of the climate crisis
While the climate crisis affects everyone, its impacts are not felt equally. The countries that contributed least to the problem are now facing its gravest consequences. Women and girls from marginalised backgrounds and from the poorest communities are most vulnerable and feel the impact most acutely, not least because of the traditional gender roles that have been assigned since birth.
The gendered impact of the climate emergency is well documented. For example, 80% of those displaced by the effects of climate change are women. Systemic gender inequality means that women and girls have limited access to resources and decision-making power, which makes them less able to withstand and recover from climate-related disasters, and prevents them from accessing basic services, including healthcare, education, housing, and other recovery services.
Climate-induced disasters and climate-related conflict also exacerbate gender-based violence against women and girls, which maintains and reinforces gendered power imbalances and is a major obstacle to achieving gender equality.
In this complex landscape of intersecting vulnerabilities, the fight for gender equality and the fight for climate justice cannot be waged separately. Education unions at the CSW are working to highlight the critical role of education in achieving both gender equality and climate justice.
Advancing gender equality and climate justice through education
The Education International delegation at the CSW66 brings together 84 education union representatives from 32 countries. Educators are advocating for quality climate change education to be integrated “into curricula as a compulsory subject at all levels of education, including early childhood education, technical and vocational education, further and higher education, and adult education”.
Education and its critical role in a just transition to a green economy is highlighted in the Global Unions’ statement to the CSW66: “Education must be transformed to support the fight against climate change and to support a Just Transition. Students have a right to gain the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to sustain our world for present and future generations, and to receive an education that prepares them for the world of work in a green economy.”
Speaking at a parallel event organised by the Global Unions, Dianne Woloschuk, Chair of the EI Status of Women Committee, presented EI’s Teach for the Planet campaign and its Manifesto on Quality Climate Change Education for All, which outlines the profession’s vision on how we can truly harness the power of education to strengthen a progressive and justice-based response to climate change. She stated:
“Our belief is that quality climate education, which is based on science and addresses the ethical, cultural, political, social, and economic dimensions of climate change, will equip students with the knowledge and tools they need to respond. They will gain critical thinking and team-building skills that they will need – now and in the future - to address the challenges brought about by the climate crisis.”
However, in order to fully realise the transformative potential of education, all barriers in terms of access to education must be removed. EI’s Deputy General Secretary Haldis Holst highlighted this point in her opening remarks to a CSW66 side event on securing quality education, 21st century skills and the successful transition from school to work in a digital world for women and girls:
“It is not enough for education to be high-quality and accessible. It must be publicly funded and free. This must become a focal point in accelerating progress towards gender equality.”
EI’s Deputy General Secretary also stressed the imperative need to build resilient public education systems that can truly guarantee and deliver on the commitment of the universal right to education:
“The Covid-19 pandemic and the onslaught of climate disasters are showing us just what is at stake when education systems are not financed in ways that make them robust enough to withstand shocks and crises: the right to quality education that is publicly funded and free becomes an empty pipe dream for millions, particularly the most marginalised learners, such as girls.”
Global Unions at the CSW66
Delegations from Global Unions are representing over 80 million women workers from across the world at the CSW66. The Global Unions’ statement to the Commission on the Status of Women is available here.
The Global Unions are also hosting and participating in a number of parallel events. Click here to see the full programme of Global Union events at the CSW66 and join the online discussions.
Sign and share the EI Manifesto on Quality Climate Education for All and join us in advocating for a gender-transformative and inclusive just transition for a green and caring world.