Pretoria — The Network of Women Ministers and Leaders in Environment (NWMLE) has adopted a Declaration on Gender and Climate Change that will be presented during COP18 in Doha, Qatar.
The NWMLE is co-chaired by South Africa's Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, and Sweden's Minister of Environment, Lena Ek.
The NWMLE, which was formed in Helsinki, Finland, in 2002 has a mandate to ensure that women are empowered in order for them to actively participate in environmental management, opportunities for economic growth, eradication of poverty and job creation.
The NWMLE met on the sidelines of the climate change conference.
During the meeting, the network also finalised the framework of its performance, looked at its achievements, reflected on its challenges and discussed a programme of action to address the challenges.
"We have hosted and attended so many international meetings, developed many policies and strategies, established many governance structures, but we still have to do more in the implementation of programmes and projects benefiting ordinary women on the ground, and sharing information with them and get their views," said Mabudafhasi.
Speaking at the meeting of the NWMLE, the deputy minister talked about activities that were held during the COP17 held in Durban last year to involve women on grass roots level in climate change.
"At COP17 the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, in conjunction with our Environmental Education Wing, Indalo Yethu and other partners prior to COP17, implemented the Climate Train," she said.
The Climate Train travelled through 16 villages, towns and cities and was used as a platform to continue a national conversation about climate change with people on the outskirts of the country.
It also provided an opportunity for women to talk about the impact of climate change and to share their knowledge and experiences about the impact of climate change.
"The Climate Train was an eye opener of how much more we need to implement not only government policies but the knowledge and experiences of the women out there."
A climate train report which reflected on the women's experiences, responses, expectations and aspirations was then developed and published.
At the NWMLE meeting, Sweden's Minister of Environment, Lena Ek said it was time for the NWMLE to "move from a phase of discussions to an implementation phase".
Also in attendance was Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, and founder of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Change Justice who described the NWMLE as the most consistent and strongest networks around women and climate change.
"The NWMLE is the strongest network of women; it's making a difference and is consistent. Women are the agents of change when it comes to women. Networks like these are important in pushing the agenda," she said.
Women attending the NWMLE also expressed the need to have gender issues discussed in the main agenda of conferences and not treated as a side event or issue.