Spotlight Initiative at COP28: links between gender-based violence and climate change

Panellists at Spotlight Initiative COP28 event
Panellists at Spotlight Initiative-organized COP28 event, 'Climate change and violence against women: Zero degrees of separation,' on 4 December 2023 in Dubai. From Left to right: Sara Pereira, Dr. Meghna Ranganathan, Casey Camp-Horinek, Hira Amjad, Jaha Dukureh, Sinéad Bovell and Flora Vano. Credit: Spotlight Initiative/Koye Adeboye.
November 29, 2023

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Spotlight Initiative participated in a series of events exploring the links between climate change and gender-based violence at the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai.

The largest event was a talk show-style discussion, 'Climate change and violence against women: Zero degrees of separation'. Moderated by futurist Sinead Bovell with high-level participation from UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly and Deputy Executive Director for UN Women Sarah Hendriks, this event addressed the relationship between climate change and gender-based violence, and the women and girls-centred solutions that accelerate global climate action.


"Data tells us that climate disasters are 14 times more deadly for women and children," said Ms. Waly. “Last year we saw 100 million human beings being displaced – the highest number ever… When women are displaced, on the move, they lose access to justice systems, they are more vulnerable to human trafficking and smugglers. They are at greater risk of different types of violence and exploitation.”

"Climate disasters are 14 times more deadly for women and children" - UNODC Executive Director, Ghada Waly

Ms. Hendriks spoke about the need to improve data around solutions and to improve financing for local women's organizations: "We need evidence-based policies and we need to unlock investment into flexible and adaptive financing, especially financing that reaches local grassroots women’s organizations who are standing at the front lines responding to violence against women and girls in all of its forms.” 

Longtime Native rights activist and environmentalist Casey Camp-Horinek of the Ponca Nation spoke about the impact of the climate crisis on Indigenous women and communities, as well as the link between patriarchy, colonization and environmental exploitation. “Any violence against our mother the earth is a violence against women," she said. “It is men in the extractive industry, it is patriarchy looking at everything as a commodity as opposed to a sacred source of life. The disconnect is the colonized mind.”

"We need evidence-based policies and we need to unlock investment into flexible and adaptive financing, especially financing that reaches local grassroots women’s organizations." - Deputy Executive Director for UN Women Sarah Hendriks

Dr. Meghna Ranganathan, Assistant Professor in Social Epidemiology and Deputy co-director, Centre for Evaluation, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, echoed Ms. Hendriks's calls for more data on what's working: "Not just evidence on the linkages [between the climate crisis and violence] but evidence to show what works, for whom it works, and in what context."

Jaha Dukureh, a Spotlight Initiative champion and Regional UN Women Ambassador talked about the impact of the climate crisis on women in The Gambia, who primarily work in the agricultural sector. She said that there was a need for a more inclusive approach to the climate crisis. "Climate issues are women’s issues, just like they are human issues… My vision is a more inclusive climate policy that includes women and girls."

This was supported by Hira Amjad, a feminist social and climate justice leader from Pakistan and the Founder and Executive Director of DASTAK Women Rights and Awareness Foundation (DASTAK Foundation). "The climate crisis does not discriminate, but we do," she said. "When decisions are being made, when conversations are being had about them, women are rarely seen at the table. That is something that needs to be addressed."

Sara Pereira, an educator and coordinator of the FASE Amazon Programme spoke as a formal responder, as did Flora Vano, a feminist climate change activist and human rights defender from Vanuatu.

Taking stock

COP28 presented a milestone moment for the world to take stock of its progress on the Paris Agreement. It provided a comprehensive assessment of progress since adopting the Paris Agreement, and aimed to align efforts on climate action, including putting measures in place to bridge the gaps in progress.

As one of 12 High-Impact Initiatives of the UN, Spotlight Initiative is driving progress across all of the Sustainable Development Goals, including climate action. Our partners work with governments to strengthen the resilience of institutions and communities to respond to violence against women and girls, and to integrate gender-based violence prevention as part of climate change readiness and response plans.

On December 3, the Initiative hosted a conversation at the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Pavilion to introduce Spotlight Initiative to new audiences and engage them on the realities of climate change and gender-based violence.


The following day, Spotlight Initiative held a press conference to launch a new publication that illustrates how climate change practitioners can integrate gender-based violence prevention into climate action. 

DOWNLOAD >>  Integrating gender-based violence prevention into climate action: Three simple steps for practitioners

Five facts you should know about climate change and gender-based violence:

  • Climate change and weather disasters lead to increased migration and refugees, of which women, girls and people facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination are disproportionately affected.
  • Weather-related disasters can lead to increased domestic and intimate partner violence.
  • The extractivism model (the removal of large quantities of raw or natural materials) contributes to climate change and rapid environmental degradation around the world and human rights violations including gender-based violence, particularly against indigenous peoples and local communities.
  • Gender-based violence (GBV) against women environmental human rights defenders is on the rise to discourage and silence them as they lead in the protection of natural resources and the environment.
  • Climate change impacts in many countries have put more girls at risk of early marriage as families struggle to cope with impacts and see this as a way to lighten the financial burden in the household and secure their future.

Click here to find out more. 

Read more about Spotlight Initiative's work on climate change and gender-based violence:

'In Vanuatu, women lead climate change resilience efforts'

'How climate change fuels violence against women and girls – and what can be done about it'

'We are tired of starting over - how climate change affects women and girls in Mozambique'

'No climate justice without gender equality: women leading climate action in Uganda'

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