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A Letter To My Three-Year-Old Daughter About The Paris Climate Agreement

When I got back home from Paris, I was exhausted, but I couldn't wait to see you. I had been away for weeks, meeting with activist partners from all over the world, women who are leaders in communities on the frontlines of climate change.

I was tired, but when I walked through our front door, and you ran to me, I was filled with a new energy: a determination to fight for the future you deserve.

In Paris, and for months before that climate meeting, women shared their stories and strategies. The rural and Indigenous women leaders we partner with spoke out about confronting the ravages of drought in rural Kenya or salvaging their crops from floods and hurricanes in Nicaragua. We organized together to push these solutions forward, as clear evidence that women's urgent mobilization is already saving communities from the worst climate threats. We wanted world leaders to understand that, in countless communities worldwide, women are caregivers to the most vulnerable among us and leading stewards of our natural environments. They are the best climate policy advisors our leaders could hope for.

But the final agreement all but erased any mention of gender equality. It neglected human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples. And I wondered what kind of world we are leaving you. When will world leaders understand that girls like you and women like our partners have voices that must be heard? Will you grow up in a time where we've exceeded the 2 degree Celsius limit, or even surged to a 3 or 4 degree world, with all the catastrophic impacts scientific consensus predicts, all because there's no mechanism to enforce this agreement?

In a climate agreement that prioritized gender equality, policy-makers would work to sweep barriers to women's participation and leadership away. Women's voices would be heard at all levels of climate policy decision-making. Their vital solutions would be spotlit, instead of left in the shadows.

I still believe in that vision, and so do the partners I work with. For years, these rural and Indigenous women leaders hardest hit by climate change have devised solutions: rotating crops, preserving soil, harvesting rainwater and passing these lessons on to their communities. They will keep doing this essential work, even after these setbacks in Paris.

Fighting for change can sometimes feel like pushing against a heavy, solid object. You can throw your weight against it, and it barely seems to move. But inertia can be overcome, and pushing together, we can get things moving. What progress we made in Paris, getting that many governments to reach an agreement, is a testament to that truth. Now we must keep up momentum to demand that our governments make real, credible commitments to cut carbon emissions and invest in sustainable solutions pioneered by women.

As your mother, I hope that I am teaching you something about justice and about doing the right thing. It's not right when industrial, developed countries of the North refuse to acknowledge their historic responsibility for carbon emissions and to compensate the hardest hit countries who bear the least culpability. It's not right when women climate justice leaders with valuable contributions to make are shut out.

They say if we have any hope at all of reaching the 1.5 degree Celsius target -- the best option in the agreement -- greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020. You'll turn eight that year. If we succeed, you could live out the rest of your life on a hurt but healing planet, one where a time of overconsumption, resource exploitation and pollution is receding into a childhood memory. That's the future I fight for.

This op-ed by Natalia Caruso, MADRE's Program Director originally appeared on the Huffington Post.