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Vanessa international women's day

Vanessa Nakate, Ugandan Climate activist and Champion - Christian Aid

Forging a new social contract for all

Published on 10 March 2021

Kevwe Edekovwere, Fundraising and Supporter Engagement Graduate, explores why it's time for a new social contract which includes the voices of all marginalised communities, especially women.

The climate crisis is an issue which disproportionately impacts women and girls in many parts of the world. Their incomes are affected as they are less likely to be compensated for the effects of climate disasters. And yet they are often excluded from the decision-making process when addressing such issues.

For International Women’s Day, Christian Aid held an online event called ‘Women and Planet: Time for a new social contract?’ The event included an inspiring panel of women:

  • Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, CEO of Christian Aid
  • Vanessa Nakate, Ugandan Climate activist and Champion
  • Bishop Marinez Rosa Santos Bassaotto, of the Anglican Dioceses of the Amazon, Brazil
  • Wanun Permpibul, Executive Director of Climate Watch Thailand and member of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
  • Farhana Yamin, Veteran Climate Lawyer and Activist

The discussion was chaired by Christian Aid’s Head of Global Policy and Advocacy, Fionna Smyth.

We need a new social contract where women are not only included in, but drive it.

- Amanda Khozi Mukwashi

Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, CEO of Christian Aid, speaks at the 'Rediscovering Justice' symposium at St Margaret's Church.

Luke Macgregor/Christian Aid

The discussion began with Fionna Smyth stating the severity of the current climate emergency and the need for a solutions based discussion.

How can we bring new ideas in tackling the climate crisis? And how can we ensure the people affected by this issue are at the centre of policies and decisions concerning it?

Amanda Khozi Mukwashi mentioned the work and momentum that Christian Aid had been building regarding climate justice and stated the main issue of focus for the discussion – the current social contract. Amanda argued that this current social contract does not work and is not viable to us anymore.

For many women in the different parts of the world the social contract is not delivering its intended purpose. So, if the current social contract is not delivering then should a new social contract be formed? This is a question which Amanda posed as she believes that we need a new feminist social contract which is beneficial to women.

More importantly, Amanda believed that we need a new social contract where women are not only included in but also given the opportunity to spearhead.

As a woman of faith, Amanda also discussed the social contract from a biblical perspective. The social contract mentioned in the Bible is one which is supposed to be inclusive for all, however, this has been betrayed.

Women have proven to be great leaders and are great leaders.

- Vanessa Nakate.

Vanessa Nakate, a young climate activist, delivered a strong call for better female inclusion in the climate movement and for women and girls to be educated on the matter.

Vanessa believes that women are not being respected within the movement and that not much action is being taken on the issue from our leaders.

At the centre of Vanessa’s point was gender focused solutions to the situation. Vanessa particularly emphasised on educating women and girls on climate change and having more women in positions of influence.

Through better education and accessibility, Vanessa believes that women and young girls can attain positions of power and decision-making.

Bishop Marinez Rosa Santos Bassaotto

A new social contract is needed to help provide us with a new outlook on this issue. 

- Bishop Marinez Rosa Santos Bassaotto

From the perspective of indigenous communities and women living in the Amazon forest, Bishop Marinez Rosa Santos Bassaotto highlighted some key issues.

The Amazon is one of the biggest rainforests in the world, however, Bishop Marinez stated that the region has suffered from huge inequality due to the lack of funding and effective policies.

The government has also scrapped various environmental policies and climate focused organisations. The situation became even worse in 2019 as fires led to the destruction of a significant part of the forest.

In addition, since 2020 many issues have been exacerbated due to the pandemic with the environment of the Amazon being negatively impacted as a result. Bishop Marinez mentioned a shocking example of the impact of climate change on the Amazon, stating that many have suffocated due to the lack of air in the rainforest.

Nonetheless, she was able to shed light on the work in which indigenous women are doing to protect the Amazon and their communities to preserve their lives and culture.

Concluding her point, Bishop Marinez made a call for much needed climate activism regarding the Amazon to help protect indigenous communities. And in agreement with Amanda, believed that a new social contract was needed to help provide us with a new outlook on this issue and to consider other variables regarding climate justice.

Women are now joining climate justice movements and reclaiming political spaces in the process. 

- Wanun Permpibul.

Wanun Permpibul shared her view from the context of her home country of Thailand, a country in South East Asia that is vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

Wanun shared the amazing work in which women in Thailand were in engaging in regarding climate justice. In her presentation, Wanun showed how workshops were being established for women to learn more about climate change and the impact of the climate crisis.

As a result of this learning, women are creating evidence-based stories as a way of documenting their experiences on the impact of the climate change.

Furthermore, women are also creating self-funded local initiatives to help combat the impact of the climate crisis and are joining regional and national advocacy movements to engage in political spaces. This is particularly significant as Thailand’s political sphere is very male dominated with women unable to share their views on climate change.

However, Wanun said that women are now 'reclaiming these spaces' through advocacy movements and sharing their stories.

For international women’s day we should look for ways to genuinely help those who do not have a voice.

- Farhana Yamin

Farhana Yamin

Unable to join the discussion, Farhana Yamin sent a brief but powerful pre-recorded message sharing her thoughts on the topic.

Farhana agreed that we need a new social contract that helps us think about who and what we value. Moreover, she highlighted that International Women’s Day enables women to be able to discuss current power dynamics and gender equality.

Drawing on contemporary examples, Yasmin mentioned the significant strides many countries such as the UK have made concerning gender equality. Nonetheless, like previous women on the panel had said, Farhana also called for young women to be included in decision making processes, especially women of colour and indigenous women.

This is so a new social contract can be established which reflects everyone rather than a select group of people. To conclude her message, Farhana urged that for International Women’s Day, we should look for ways to genuinely help those who do not have a voice.

Watch the panel

Watch our panel discussion and be inspired by global women who stand together for gender and climate justice. 

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