The historic US$1.7 billion pledge made at the UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow by governments and donors in support of Indigenous Peoples and local communities is a step in the right direction, but much more funding is needed. It’s imperative that climate finance for global conservation and biodiversity loss mitigation fully reaches the communities – and the Indigenous, Afro-descendent and local community women – doing the heaviest lifting of protecting and restoring our landscapes.
At the United Nations 66th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66), integrating gender perspectives into climate change and environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programs take center stage. Climate finance must not remain blind to the invaluable contributions that Indigenous, Afro-descendant, and local community women make toward mitigating climate change, preserving traditional knowledge, strengthening gender justice, and supporting human and tenure rights movements. In turn, this financing must also strive to prevent and mitigate the adverse impacts of climate initiatives on the lives of women and their communities.
In 2016, the Intergovernmental Economic Organisation (OECD) found that nearly US$10 billion was earmarked for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) fighting for gender justice.
Yet, just 8% of these funds reached CSOs working in developing countries, and only a fraction reportedly went to grassroots women’s rights organizations directly.
In fact, Indigenous women’s organizations received only 0.7% of all recorded human rights funding between 2010 and 2013 despite them using, managing, and conserving community territories that comprise over 50% of the world’s land and support up to 2.5 billion people. Where resources are reaching Indigenous women’s organizations, they are typically small-scale and short-term.
Global and regional studies addressing women’s access to this funding are lacking, and data is virtually non-existent for Afro-descendant and local community women’s organizations in the Global South specifically, painting a bleak picture in terms of funding for women’s grassroots organizations overall.
Indigenous, Afro-descendant, and local community women experience a broad, multifaceted, and complex spectrum of mutually reinforcing systemic human rights violations. These act together to limit their self-determination and control of natural resources, all influenced by patriarchal power structures and multiple forms of discrimination and marginalization based on gender, class, race, ethnic origin, customs, and socioeconomic status.
So, what can Indigenous, Afro-descendant, and local community women’s organizations do differently? And in joining the celebration of International Women’s Day and the #BreakTheBias campaign, how can governments, donors, and allies recognize and support the invaluable contributions these women make to their communities and toward achieving global development and climate goals?
The cultural, economic, and spiritual significance of land, territory, water, and natural resources lie at the heart of what it means to be an Indigenous, Afro-descendant, or local community woman. Women’s grassroots organizations work at the intersection of equality and non-discrimination, environmental justice, land and forest tenure, and livelihoods rights – all of which are necessary for climate change mitigation on a global scale.
We call on international donors and governments to prioritize funding for Indigenous, Afro-descendant, and local community women’s organizations – including their human rights, tenure rights and development agendas – who have historically been excluded from decision-making processes and the design and implementation of programs and finance instruments that affect them.
To forge women’s empowerment worldwide, governments and donors must take action for gender equality and gender justice to #BreakTheBias and urgently make funding available and accessible to Indigenous, Afro-descendant, and local community women’s organizations in countries in the Global South who have been historically under-supported and under-funded.