Girls' Education is Not a Silver Bullet Solution to Climate Change
When it comes to climate change, we recognize that girls and women face the deepest burdens and harshest impact. We also know that getting girls into school and helping them thrive is critical to the world and requires deep investment. But when it comes to addressing climate change, we must commit to multi-sectoral strategies that are inclusive of everyone — especially communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis.
On Friday April 22nd, AMPLIFY Girls and the Girls Opportunity Alliance brought together a global community to talk about girls' education and climate change. The conversation reinforced our belief that communities need to be deeply supported to help mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis.
In the course of this conversation, it also became clearly apparent that women and girls around the world are facing a climate crisis in acceleration. In Vietnam, Diane Trương of Pacific Links Foundation has seen an increase in forced climate migration which has also accelerated child trafficking issues. In Haiti, we see similar issues of girls being increasingly vulnerable to child marriage, female genital mutilation, and also trafficking due to natural disasters created by climate change, according to Soeurette Rigodon from Lide Haiti. In Tanzania, the climate crisis has accelerated forced early child marriage, teen pregnancy and FGM due to extreme droughts and food insecurity. Jackie Bomboma of Young Strong Mothers Foundation works with teen mothers on a daily basis and foresees these issues increasing due to climate instability.
However, while the crisis rages forward at a perilous rate, community-driven organizations see solutions.
"The work must be community-led and inclusive of everyone. What we need is to listen to the communities who are most affected, listen to their solutions and trust in their vision. We need to include everyone and take a systems-based approach, otherwise we will still be having these conversations in years to come" said Wendo Aszed, Dandelion Africa.
As Christina Kwauk added, the climate crisis is not only about keeping girls in school, it's also about ensuring that their education is gender-transformative and geared towards climate justice. She stressed that girls and communities need to understand what is happening due to the climate crisis and we must embrace their knowledge about green jobs and building their agency to create localized change.
Diane Trương encouraged all organizations to actively teach school children about climate change within their own programs so that they understand the issues, can take action and be prepared for future crises. She also stressed that in order to achieve gender parity and equity even during climate change, it must not be only women and girls who fight for the rights of women and girls. Solutions must be inclusive of boys and community members, inclusive of education and economic empowerment.
Ultimately, we need to recognize that so many of the issues that girls and their communities are facing are due to climate change as a core issue. We need to create awareness not only at the global level but also at the local level. Girls should be aware of what is happening and why.
As a collective of community-based organizations we challenge the global community to move towards trust based philanthropy — empowering community-based organizations to implement solutions they see as viable and critical to change. As Wendo Aszed so clearly said: “Grassroots organizations are not just a box to check, we are innovators!” We call on all governments to include community-based organizations when making decisions related to climate, girls’ education policy and funding mechanisms. In addition, we ask everyone to invest in developing girls’ agency and engaging girls in gender-transformative education. This will ultimately lead to girls being more resourceful, more hopeful and more resilient when facing climate-related crises.
As Jackie Bomboma shared, this isn’t about just “going green”; this is about educating everyone from global to local and engaging everyone in these conversations, regardless of their mission statements. Climate change has and will impact everyone; in order to create meaningful change, everyone must be engaged.
Margaret Butler has over 15 years of experience working alongside communities in Eastern Africa to support female leaders. After living in Rwanda and working with Partners In Health and The Clinton Foundation on health-related projects, Margaret founded Komera to support adolescent girls and their community. Margaret is also the co-founder of the East African Girls Leadership Summit, which brings together promising young women from across Eastern Africa to be effective change makers in the world. Noticing the need for a network of community-based organizations to share best practices and learn to scale ideas, Margaret co-founded AMPLIFY in 2017 alongside 18 other partners in East Africa. Margaret holds a BA from the University of Washington, a B.Ed from the University of British Columbia and a Masters in International Educational Development from Teachers College, Columbia University.