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COP22 Marrakech: Women Rising for Climate Justice

Blog by Emily Arasim and Osprey Orielle Lake


During WECAN’s public event, ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – Marrakech’ a group of attendees and speakers gather to raise their voices in solidarity with women Earth defenders across the globe

At the close of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP22 climate talks in Marrakech, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International reaffirms that women around the world stand at the forefront of the climate crisis, and are leading the way forward to address issues of social and ecologic justice, build a just transition to renewable energy, and to create a livable future for all. They stand in diversity, strength, resistance and love to denounce exploitation of the Earth and her peoples – taking action both within the UNFCCC and governmental processes, and with their communities, on the frontlines, in the streets, in the fields and in the forests. 

Women for climate justice will not wait for stagnated politicians nor rely on change within broken systems – we will continue to make our struggles and solutions known within the ‘halls of power’, and we will simultaneously push back and move forward to build the other world that we know is possible. Frontline, Indigenous and grassroots women from the Imider movement in Morocco to the Amazon rainforest in South America – from Standing Rock in the US, to Small Islands Nations of the Maldives and Marshall Islands, and countless places in between are all calling for an end to extractivism and immediate action to protect water, land and climate for all generations present and future.


There were several bright spots at the climate talks that will open doors in the process as we go forward, yet for the most part, as we have seen time and again, peoples and women’s movements worldwide are clearly stating that government action is not nearly ambitious enough given the urgency of the climate crisis we face. Despite being promoted as the “COP of action” – the past two weeks were filled with far too much familiar talk and hollow calls for ‘ambitious action’ left unfulfilled.


The United Nations itself confirms that under the Paris Climate Accord, which calls for action to limit global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degree Celsius, current commitments by governments take us to a catastrophic 3 degrees rise. This is a reality that the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, and our frontline, grassroots and Indigenous women partners and  allies across the world simply refuse to accept.


Coming out of COP22, we denounce lack of action by wealthy countries and nations of the Global North, who continue to skirt their historic responsibility to act and provide meaningful support to those nations who are experiencing the life or death impact of the climate crisis now, and who have contributed the least to the accelerating degradation of the Earth’s ecosystems.


While many wealthy nations of the world continued to drag their feet and avoid serious commitment to climate action or financial support throughout COP22, forty seven developing nations united to create the Climate Vulnerable Forum and declare their intention to lead the green transition and work towards 100% renewable energy. We celebrate this positive momentum, and look forward to following this process to ensure that the transition that unfolds is just, decentralized, democratized and sustainable.


For a safe and livable world, we know there can be no more new fossil fuel development. Despite the ceaseless calls and actions of civil society leaders, this vital truth has not been fully acknowledged or acted upon by the majority of our world governments represented at COP22.


More over, climate talks in Morocco included unprecedented involvement of corporate interests who have consistently fought meaningful climate action, funded climate change denial and whose fundamental mission to extract and burn as much fossil fuels as possible stands in direct contradiction to the aims of the UNFCCC COP process.  Representatives of fossil fuel, mining, water privatization and industrial agriculture companies had a strong presence and access to most key meetings in Marrakech, including closed-door meetings with national representatives.


As we reflect on COP22, we are pleased to see some important forward momentum on the inclusion of gender-responsive climate action into the discourse of the climate negotiations. At long last, member states are no longer debating why gender is important, but rather seeking to understand how it can be acted upon. As member states seek to integrate gender into their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC’s), WECAN and our global partners and allies highlight the importance of projects not only designed for women, but by frontline women themselves.  The gender components of the Paris Agreement have been hard fought for over years by the dedicated efforts of the Women and Gender Constituency.


In light of the recent election of a climate skeptic and strong fossil fuel proponent as the next U.S. president, we also welcome the efforts and actions by the global community to reaffirm committed climate action despite political roadblocks and the dangerous implications of a Trump presidency. The Marrakech Action Proclamation is an important and strong show of global unity, however like the Paris Agreement itself,  it is not binding and represents goals that we have yet to see negotiators and members states put urgent and ambitious action behind given the rapid increase of global warming already being felt around the world.


We know that the international community and global peoples movements will move forward with or without full U.S. involvement, however, should the U.S. rescind on its Paris Agreement commitments, it will risk becoming a pariah state, and will show itself to be opposed to justice, peace, and the very life of future generations.  Even though the Paris Agreement is flawed and we do not support the false solutions promoted within it, it is imperative that the U.S. remain in the process and not abandon millions of people to accelerating climate chaos and disaster. Along with growing civil society networks, WECAN will continue to advocate ceaselessly for action by the U.S. regardless of the presidency.


We know our fight has just become exponentially larger, but we will never give up. We stand ever firmer in our commitment to protect and defend Mother Earth, courageous defenders of the land, all species, and the very web of life itself.  


Let it be known that diverse women around the world are not going to stop speaking out and demonstrating until we keep 80 % of fossil fuels reserves in the ground, stop deforestation and ocean pollution, implement gender equality, respect Indigenous rights and the rights of nature, and finance a just transition to 100% renewable energy. Our red line has been crossed, and we are rising. We will not stand idly by as temperatures continue to increase and Indigenous peoples and land defenders continue to be criminalized and persecuted.


It must be recognized that 80% of the bio-diversity left on Earth is in Indigenous lands and territories and Indigenous peoples put their bodies on the line every day to protect theses lands, forests and waterways. First and foremost we all should be supporting our Indigenous allies because they should not be facing brutal violence as they fight to stop the destruction of their homelands and life-ways, however, we also need to understand that everyone’s survival is interwoven and we cannot live without water, forests and air, and it is paramount that we fight together for Indigenous rights as a central climate solution. It is a tragedy that Indigenous rights was only left to the preamble of the Paris Accord and not the operative part of the text.


While our WECAN analysis places emphasis on the many flaws and failures of COP22 and the UNFCCC process, we reaffirm our continued commitment to action within and outside of climate talks and negotiations. We stand to make sure women’s voices are heard; to expose polluters and false solutions; to offer just solutions; and to spark vital conversation around topics including seed saving, soil and farming, tree planting, Indigenous sovereignty, ending market mechanisms and neoliberal economic models, rights of nature, Traditional Ecologic Knowledge, overconsumption and lifestyle change, and gender equality and women’s leadership at the forefront of all climate decision making.


EXPLORE this Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network blog for further information on the actions, events and advocacy work that WECAN and allies participated in while on the ground in Morocco over the past two weeks.


Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – Marrakech


Women’s Leadership and Solutions in Facing Impacts of Climate Change Panel, featuring (left to right) Neema Namadamu (Democratic Republic of Congo) – Diana Donlon (USA) – Natalie Isaacs (Australia) – Amina El Hajjami (Amazigh Peoples, Morocco) – Nina Gualinga (Sarayaku Peoples, Ecuador)

On November 14th, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network held a large public event in downtown Marrakech, gathering together worldwide women leaders to speak out against environmental and social injustice, draw attention to root causes of the climate crisis, and present the diverse array of visions and strategies with which they are working to shape a healthy and equitable world.


Over the course of four panel discussions and several keynote speeches, women leaders from Morocco, sub-Saharan Africa, Pacific Island Nations, North America, South America, Europe and Continental Asia spoke on diverse issues including women, seeds and soils; women’s resistance to fossil fuel extraction; women and forests; oceans; Indigenous struggles for sovereignty and Earth protection; violence against women land defenders; Traditional Ecologic Knowledge; and women’s leadership in climate policy and strategy, amongst many vital topics.


Women Speak from the Frontlines of Climate Change Panel, featuring (left to right) – Thilmeeza Hussain (Maldives) – Carmen Capriles (translating, Bolivia) – Alicia Cahuiya (Huaorani Peoples, Ecuador) – Ruth Nyambura (Kenya) – Rachida Outouchki (Amazigh Peoples, Morocco) and her translator Marwa Natsheh of Palestine

We send the deepest gratitude to all of the outstanding speakers who shared their stories, struggles, calls to action and plans for real just action to address the climate crisis and global violations of human, Indigenous and nature’s rights. The event filled us and many who attended with inspiration, collective power, collaborative strategies andstrength to continue ahead with the enormous work we must all engage in order to build a healthy and just world.


Call to Action for the Protection and Rights of Defenders of the Land Panel featuring (left to right) Nicole Oliveira (Brazil) – Kayla DeVault (Shawnee/Anishinaabe Peoples, USA) – Cecilia Flores (Aymara Peoples, Chile) with Carmen Capriles (Bolivia) providing translation.

‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change – Marrakech’ featured: Her Excellency Hilda C. Heine (President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands); Honorable Mary Robinson (Mary Robinson Foundation: Climate Justice; Former President of Ireland); Neema Namadamu (SAFECO; Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Democratic Republic of Congo); Rachida Outouchki (Amazigh Representative of the High Atlas Foundation, Morocco); Amina El Hajjami (Amazigh Representative of the High Atlas Foundation, Morocco); Ruth Nyambura (African Eco-Feminists Collective; No REDD in Africa Network; Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Kenya); Alicia Cahuiya (Huaorani Peoples, Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador); Simone Lovera (Global Forest Coalition, Paraguay); Diana Lopez (Southwest Workers’ Union; Global Grassroots Justice Alliance, USA); Jacqui Patterson (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Environmental and Climate Justice Program, USA); Thilmeeza Hussain (Former Deputy Ambassador to the UN from the Maldives; Climate Wise Women; Voice of Women, Maldives); Kalyani Raj (UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency Representative, India); Nicole Oliveira (350.org Latin America, Brazil); Natalie Isaacs (One Million Women, Australia); Diana Donlon (Center for Food Safety, USA); Cecilia Flores (Abya Yala Women Messengers, Aymara Peoples, Chile); Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner (Climate Change Activist / Poet, Marshall Islands); Kayla DeVault (Shawnee/Anishinaabe Peoples, SustainUS Delegation, the Diné Policy Institute, USA); and Osprey Orielle Lake (Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, USA).


Women’s Strategic Analysis, Policy and Advocacy for Systemic Change and Climate Justice Panel. Pictured left to right – Osprey Orielle Lake (USA) – Kalyani Raj ( India) – Diana Lopez (USA) – Simone Lovera (Paraguay) – Jacqueline Patterson (USA)

The event was opened with traditional Amazigh (Berber) songs by Yamna Oulamine and Nejma Ait Mansour of Morocco. We were also very honored by the presence of Fatima Khalloufi  and Aicha Abouh, two Amazigh women leaders of the community of Imider, Morocco, who are at the heart of one of the countries most critical movements, working for over 5 years to protect the water, life and Indigenous rights of the people of Imider from a disastrous silver mining operation on their land.


Click here for a look into the event, through the powerful words and poetry of Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner of the Marshall Islands.


Click here to read coverage of the event from Pacific Standard Magazine – How Women Are Going From Climate Victims to Climate Leaders


Fatima Khalloufi (right) and Aicha Abouh (left) – women leaders of the Imider, #300km South movement in Morocco

Alicia Cahuiya of the Huaorani peoples of Ecuador greets Marshall Island President, H.E. Hilda Heine and speaks about her struggles to protect her people’s lifeway and the Amazon Rainforest from continued oil extraction

Yamna Oulamine and Nejma Ait Mansour Amazigh (Berber) women of Morocco open the event with traditional song

Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner (Climate Change Activist / Poet, Marshall Islands) shares her powerful poem ‘Dear Matafele Peinem’ – Photo via Kaliea Frederick

International Climate March


On November 13th, thousands of people from across Morocco and around the word took to the streets of Marrakech to visibilize their social and ecologic struggles and send a strong messages to world governments meeting at COP22 that the peoples movement for climate justice will forge ahead with resistance and solutions regardless of the action, or lack thereof, from the political leadership of our countries. Calls by civil society included, no more polluters inside the COP, respect for Indigenous and women’s rights, Keep It In the Ground, 1.5 to stay alive, solidarity with Standing Rock, Imider and global struggles for Indigenous sovereignty, among many vital calls.


Local Amazigh peoples and global Indigenous allies lead thousands during the Climate March in Marrakech – Photo by Emily Arasim/WECAN International


The march was led by Amazigh Indigenous people of Morocco, and Indigenous allies from all continents. The WECAN delegation was honored to march with many extraordinary women’s delegations and women’s groups from across the world.













Scenes from the International Climate March in Marrakech. WECAN was honored to march with many strong women’s groups from around the world



Women’s Caucus and Women and Gender Constituency Advocacy


As participants in the Women’s Caucus and an ally of the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency, WECAN International supported the Women and Gender Constituency Key Demands at COP22.


During COP22, we saw the next steps of mainstreaming gender-responsive language and increased space for the voices of Indigenous and women’s groups. Significantly, Parties adopted a decision on gender and climate change which extends the 2014 Lima Work Programme on Gender, and at long last moved from debating why gender is important, to discussions on how to design and implement gender-responsive climate policies. There were many strong conversations on women and gender by national representatives and civil society organizations, however we maintain a strong critique of the lack of concrete action and financial commitments for the support of women on the frontlines of climate change.


We particularly want to honor our hard-working allies, including the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, Women in Europe for a Common Future, the All India Women’s Conference and others, who have advocated ongoingly for just and gender-responsive action at the UNFCCC. We also honor Founder of Reaccion Climatica,  WECAN partner and WECAN COP22 delegation member, Carmen Capriles, who worked actively as part of the Women and Gender Constituency, and who delivered the Constituencies final official intervention on the last night of COP22.


Press Conference – Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change


Global women for climate justice speak out during WECAN’s official COP22 press conference. Pictured left to right: Carmen Capriles, Marta Ventura, Ruth Nyambura, Neema Namadamu, Thilmeeza Hussain and Osprey Orielle Lake

On November 16th, WECAN presented an UNFCCC COP22 press conference, during which powerful women leaders spoke out to present their climate change struggles and solutions, and to disrupt business as usual and demand system change, not climate change. WECAN was honored to have the opportunity to present this press conference and amplify the voices of frontline, grassroots and Indigenous women from around the world, who are too often not present to speak for themselves within spaces such as COP22.


Ruth Nyambura of the African Eco-Feminists Collective, NO REDD in Africa Network and Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Kenya spoke out as one of the outstanding press conference speakers, explaining, “It’s very clear the the issue of climate change is first and foremost an issue of systemic and structural inequalities that march together. So, we need to re-imagine and transform our economic systems. As women and as feminists, we know too well what happens when we have the externalization of the costs of a capitalist, patriarchal system – and especially with the extractive industries. We understand what it means to have our waters privatized, our soils contaminated, our foods privatized. And so we must imagine an economic system that doesn’t just benefit the few corporations, the North, but actually provides economic justice, because that is something that we rarely talk about…These are fundamental issues we must sort out if we really want to talk about what climate justice is. Climate justice is not a word in a vacuum…we really need to go back to the heart of the matter, and we really need to challenge market based techno-fixes. We cannot solve the climate crisis and the triple crisis of food, water and climate using the same tools that created the current crisis…As much as we are in a dangerous space, there are so many beautiful stories of resistance and we must allow those to carry us through in this period of time.”


We send the deepest thanks to press conference speakers – Thilmeeza Hussain (Voice of Women; Climate Wise Women, Maldives); Neema Namadamu (SAFECO; Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Democratic Republic of Congo); Ruth Nyambura (African Eco-Feminists Collective; NO REDD in Africa Network; Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Kenya): Marta Ventura (Mayan Peoples, Abya Yala Women Messengers, Guatemala); and Osprey Orielle Lake (Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, USA).


Click here to watch the full WECAN COP22 press conference – Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change  


Neema Namadamu (left) of SAFECO and WECAN DR Congo and Thilmeeza Hussain of Climate Wise Women and Voice of Women, Maldives, speak out during WECAN’s frontline women press conference

Side Event – Women for Climate Justice Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change


During WECAN’s official COP22 side event, women leaders from around the world spoke truth to power, shared vital stories and climate solutions, and refused to shy away from the pressing realities about our global climate crisis and the need for just, women-led action NOW.  


During the event, Thilmeeza Hussain of the Maldives poignantly explained, “400,000 people are dying every year because of climate change – this is an ecocide that is happening, this is a genocide, this is criminal. We are letting this fossil fuel industry rule our planet and many of our politicians are in their pockets…there is no time to wait until tomorrow, all of us have a moral obligation and responsibility to stand up and speak out – this is not a fight between the developed and the developing, this is not a fight between rich and poor countries, this is a fight between those who are willing to act on climate and those who refuse to act. This is a fight between those who are speaking out and those who choose to stay silent. What we choose to do today will determine the course of the future, our children’s future. We must stand together.”


Pictured left to right: Thilmeeza Hussain (Maldives), Neema Namadamu (DR Congo), Marta Ventura (Guatemala), Cecilia Flores (Chile), Precious Phiri (Zimbabwe), Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie (Canada) and Carmen Capriles (Bolivia)

We thank everyone who attended and packed this event to capacity, and honor the outstanding presenters – Neema Namadamu (SAFECO; Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network Democratic Republic of Congo); Thilmeeza Hussain (Voice of Women; Climate Wise Women, Maldives); Marta Ventura (Mayan Peoples, Abya Yala Women Messengers, Guatemala); Cecilia Flores (Aymara Peoples, Abya Yala Women Messengers, Chile); Precious Phiri (Regeneration International; EarthWisdom, Zimbabwe); Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie (Anishinaabe Peoples from Sagkeeng First Nation; Red Rising Magazine; University of Winnipeg Students’ Association, Canada); Carmen Capriles (Reacción Climática, Bolivia); Osprey Orielle Lake (Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, USA)


Click here to listen to the full audio of WECAN’s official COP22 side event and hear directly from extraordinary women for climate justice from around the world.


WECAN COP22 side event speakers stand together in solidarity and action at the end of the event. Speakers and attendees together filled the room with cries of ‘act on climate’ and ‘water is life’

Press Conference – Indigenous Rights and Rights of Nature: Foundations for Systemic Change in Climate Solutions