From where I stand: “Representation matters and representation of Caribbean young women's voices in the global conversations about climate action, matter.”

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Ayesha Constable is a climate researcher and practitioner who applies a feminist approach to her work as a scholar activist. She is co-founder of GirlsCARE and founder of Young People for Action on Climate Change Jamaica. As a young woman in academia and climate action, Ayesha uses every opportunity to promote the intersectionality of climate impact and gender inequality and advocate for more women and girls in climate action.

Ayesha Constable

Ayesha Constable / Credit: Ayesha Constable

I consider myself a scholar activist. I would have come to climate change, by way of my doctoral research on climate change and agriculture, which also looked at youth and gender as cross cutting issues.  This was an opportunity that forced me to consider my own experiences as a young girl, growing up in rural Jamaica, and what that meant for me as someone who relied on the environment for leisure and pleasure as a country girl. Additionally, several experiences as an academic provided me the opportunity to participate in global conversations. One such, took me to Turkey to meet 3,000 activists from all over the world which was my introduction to climate activism. It was then I realized that this is where I want to be.

Through my interest in women's issues, I saw where I could link climate activism, because at the time, there wasn't such a well understood connection between the two issues of gender and climate change because it was then emerging. I lead, GirlsCARE (Girls for Climate Action, Resilience and Empowerment), which is a regional organization that provides mentorship to young girls and women who are budding activists seeking to find their place and voice in this movement. This stemmed from my early engagements in global spaces, where I felt out of place, but recognised that Caribbean voices need to be there. I want other young women to understand that we are to be confident when delivering the messages and believing that we ought to be present in global spaces. Representation matters and representation of Caribbean young women's voices in the global conversations about climate action matter!

Ayesha Constable

Ayesha Constable presenting at Conference of the Parties (COP) in Spain / Credit: GirlsCARE

In terms of challenges, I and fellow activists from the Global South have encountered, at the global level, a lack of full recognition and merit to the work of  black women activists from the global south. There is a notion that the solutions lie with persons, decision makers and activists from the global North, which is one of the issues that we have had to contend with, and it's more apparent in meetings at a global level. We have to try so much harder to make our voices heard, to articulate and tell our own stories in a way that is convincing enough for people to think it's worthy of being supported. There are many ways in which that [struggle] can out the fire of young women who come into this space who are new to activism and not yet steeled in such a way to treat with this challenge.

More locally and regionally, there are inadvertent barriers put in the way for youth participation in climate action that again results in silencing some of my colleagues. There is a real fear and apprehension on the part of young women to be vocal because this could impact a young woman’s career and professional development when they are at the cusp by blocking their entry into certain opportunities. This can be life changing and detrimental and I have seen this silence young women in climate activism.

The inaction and decisions by policymakers and decision makers that contradict what we know to be urgent necessary response to the climate crisis has been damaging and this damage has resulted in some instances, loss of funding. For example, I have seen where countries have lost opportunities to access funds because of decisions that have been made at the highest level that go against commitments that were made to international agreements. This approach suggests that we have time, and that action is not important. It suggests that people do not have to take this thing as seriously and, sends that message to the financial stakeholders who want to invest in activities that are going against what the science says.

There are not many organizations that will fund new, emerging organizations and movements that are not formally registered or may not have a track record of doing this work. A lot of the present movement in the region are operating informally, so they face the structural and institutional barriers to accessing funding support to be able to engage all the cross sections of young and vulnerable people that they want to work with and are limited in doing so, because of the inability to tap into those funding streams.

My continued advocacy in climate change has been consistent since I started, and that consistency has not waned even with the inaction of decision makers. There is a gap that I need to fill and that recognition is what has fueled my work in GirlsCARE and Young People for Action on Climate Change Jamaica because of what I understand and completely believe to be the need for gender responsive approaches to climate change; planning the need for full integration of climate justice as an approach and as an outcome of climate action I work to provide a platform for young women in the Caribbean, to speak on their issues and experiences that affect them as victims of climate change but also as agents of power and change. The young women and girls in the Caribbean, and the global souls are the face of climate action. it is only through the sustained engagement of women and girls, that we are going to be able to see the principles of equity justice, fairness incorporated into any other solutions put forward the climate crisis. It is to ensure that everybody, man, woman, boy or girl is able to access the spaces of decision making, access information, justice and the benefits of the outcomes of everything that is being done at a policy level while considering that the factors that might impact one group should not determine who has more or less access. I strive for all stakeholders to recognize that what we want is an approach to development, governance and leadership that considers everybody and the intersectional situations because the climate crisis itself is rooted in injustice, unfairness, and greed.

To young women in climate action in the Caribbean, I say Please do not stop! Continue to speak and show up and continue to hold the reins and recognize that you are not just doing this for yourself or those in your immediate circles. What you are doing is for all of humanity. Embrace the ideals that you stand on fully. Accept that you're going to meet people who will try to silence you but stand firm on the belief that you're doing this for people who don't have the space, platform, or privileges that you have; for all the other groups of young women, young people, members of different vulnerable communities such as the indigenous, LGBT and people with disabilities. Persons without access to the platforms to tell their stories, it is our duty to bring their issues to the fore by helping to create actions that ultimately will lead to some improvement in the quality of their lives and in the case of climate change, an opportunity to have their issues and stories considered in climate planning, adaptationadaptation, and mitigation.

Take action for Equality! This Earth Day, join Ayesha Constable and UN Women Multi Country Office of the Caribbean on the #RoadToEquality.  #NowIsNow #SheLeadsEquality

Ayesha Constable is a climate researcher and practitioner in Jamaica who currently serves as the National Coordinator for Japan Caribbean Climate Change Partnership. She is co-founder of GirlsCARE (CLIMATE ACTION FOR RESILIENCE AND EMPOWERMENT) which empowers women and girls as advocates for climate action by building awareness and technical capacity through mentorship and training. She is also the founder of Young People for Action on Climate Change Jamaica. Her work is directly related to several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 5 to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls and SDG 13 to combat the impacts of climate change.

Ayesha Constable is being highlighted under this year’s Earth Day and International Women’s Day Theme: “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” with a call for more women in climate action across the Caribbean.

 

The views expressed in this publication are those of the featured voice and do not necessarily represent those of the United Nations, including United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), or their Member States.