10 Ways Reproductive Health and Climate Justice Intersect: an ICPD+25 Recap

At the recent ICPD+25 Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, several experts analyzed how reproductive health and climate justice intersect and should be addressed simultaneously. Here are 10:

  1. Rapidly growing populations and resource scarcity can create a detrimental feedback loop. For example, in communities where there is an increasing demand for charcoal for cooking (due to more people needing to be fed), there is more deforestation and more air pollution, and women spend more time gathering wood than at the decision making table.
  2. We must engage communities of all sizes in the fight against climate change. Kareem Hassan of the BENAA Foundation explained that members of his organization translate sustainable development training materials into local languages so that information is accessible to all, not only those in urban centers.
  3. Food scarcity impacts women, and especially pregnant women, the most. Dr. Micaela Martinez of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health explained that, beyond socioeconomic inequalities in accessing food, there are physiological inequalities that result from diet—she said that those who can afford to eat organic, non-GMO foods are more likely to have healthy babies. We must address access to and quality of food as a maternal and child health issue.
  4. Menstrual hygiene and equity intersects with environmental justice. Byllye Avery explained the relationship between menstrual product waste and environmental impact, calling for commitments to the use of menstrual cups. Furthermore, periods don’t stop when natural disaster strikes, and the environmental justice community must keep in mind the importance of menstrual dignity during natural disasters.
  5. Corporate power stalls the fight against climate change. In many countries, foreign governments and corporations have more influence than domestic governments, creating a power imbalance that leaves them unable to opt for climate conscious policies and investments. National leaders called on foreign governments and corporations to be conscious of neocolonialism in this power dynamic.
  6. The communities that have contributed the least to climate change are the ones bearing the largest burden. Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, a country with a GDP of only $1.6 billion, discussed the growing debt his country faces as it is forced to take out loans in order to restore communities after devastating hurricanes and implement green energy systems. While Antigua and Barbuda has had great success in implementing gender equity approaches to addressing climate crises, Browne called on countries that do contribute heavily to climate change (*cough* the United States) to commit more funds to mitigation and adaptation.
  7. Land extraction for oil and gas makes women vulnerable to violence, often leaving them dispossessed of land and forced into labor. Militarization of these projects is often encouraged, further perpetuating women’s vulnerability. Women should be empowered to organize themselves and their communities to resist these projects and practices.
  8. The youth population is growing faster than ever, and the youth voice is imperative to addressing climate change. We must acknowledge youth advocates in the climate sector—and all sectors—as advocates now, not just advocates for the future.
  9. The burden of climate change falls harder on women and children, who are 14 times more likely to die in a climate crisis than men. Women’s empowerment is absolutely key in combatting the climate crisis, for without it, we are neglecting to include the voices of those most impacted.
  10. A “holistic justice” approach to the climate crisis, including a reproductive justice lens, is the only way to effectively address climate change. And, if you didn’t already know, population control is never the answer.

As we continue the conversation around accelerating our commitments coming out of ICPD+25, we must engage women of all ages, cultures, and communities in the process of creating plans and implementing projects. As Baroness Sugg of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development stated in her closing remarks, “We can improve women’s health and the health of our planet.”

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