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Creating Space for Indigenous Women's Voices at #COP25

Our partner, Jolene Sempeyo Lepakuo, poses in front of a wall design with #COP25 branding.What is COP 25?

For the United Nations Climate Change conference, hundreds gathered in Madrid, Spain to address climate breakdown. For two weeks, climate justice organizers, grassroots activists, government figures and more came together at the UN Climate Change Conference to tackle the solutions we need to protect our futures.

This is also an opportunity to highlight the challenges we still face to combat climate catastrophe and demand urgent action.

Our Work Together with Our Partners

In previous years, MADRE worked closely with our partners to bring their voices to these important climate policymaking spaces. This year, we continued our commitment to ensure an opportunity for Indigenous women leaders to share their voices, leadership and expertise. We organized a group of leaders, from the Indigenous Information Network (IIN) in Kenya and Zenab for Women in Development (ZWD) in Sudan, to join the conference.

In Sudan, ZWD facilitates access for rural Sudanese farmers to information about climate change adaptation and mitigation practices. Since 2000, the organization has grown from 200 to 5000 members across seven different states in Sudan. Women are trained in agricultural techniques and eco-friendly practices that enhance their agricultural productivity, food security and socio-economic well-being.

In Kenya, IIN works to give women easy access to clean water by installing wells, building tree nurseries, mobilizing women through human rights trainings and more. Managed by volunteers, IIN has been involved in the dissemination of information, environmental conservation activities, community development and advocacy activities in support of Indigenous Peoples in the region.

Indigenous leaders Selina Sipoti Chemunung, Jolene Sempeyo Lepakuo and Alice Lesepen participated in various events throughout  #COP25. Together, they called on world leaders to take stronger actions to protect the planet.

Our partner, Alice Lesepen, speaks to a large group of people during #COP25

During a side event, Alice shared anecdotes about recent mudslides in her community and solutions to building resilient communities with a room of global leaders, organizers and more. Selina joined a local protest during the conference. Along with thousands of people, she demanded world leaders do more to protect the planet.

Founder and executive director of ZWD, Fatima Ahmed also participated in the two-week long event. Along with our other partners, Fatima connected and networked with other climate justice defenders and activists from across the globe. During the conference, she had the opportunity to offer insight on the status of women farmers in rural Sudan as well as ZWD’s expertise on community-based, as well as community-led, climate change adaptation and building resilience in developing countries with limited access to resources and advanced technology.

Involving Indigenous women leaders in decision-making spaces

The inclusion of Indigenous women in climate negotiations at the international level is key to building out more representative, just and sustainable actions for the future. In 2019, we saw a rise in women’s role in uprisings around the world. We’re seeing the same in the climate justice space. Women across the globe are leading their communities as they innovate long-lasting alternatives for healthier, sustainable living and create opportunities for women and girls to thrive.

Women are taking charge and solidifying their roles as experts on climate justice as they continue to put in the work to combat its effects on their communities. Their participation in decision-making spaces, especially in events such as COP25, is vital. Indigenous women leaders and their experiences are necessary in the creation of solutions to push back against climate breakdown.

The dismissal and rejection of narratives that come from Indigenous women and their communities threatens their communities and the entire planet. The failure of policymakers to come to an agreement at COP25 demonstrates yet again why we must center the leadership of those facing the frontlines of climate breakdown, especially Indigenous women.

December 10, 2019