On March 8, 2022, SAEDI Consulting (Barbados) Inc., with No-Line Communications, hosted a special webinar in honour of International Women’s Day. For this first webinar of 2022, we chose to highlight IWD’s 2022 theme of ‘Gender Equality Today For A Sustainable Tomorrow.’ Working with this theme, our webinar series this year will spotlight vulnerable and marginalized groups: persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, women farmers, the elderly and others.
We were thrilled to begin the discussion by ‘Exploring Gender & Climate Justice in the LGBTQIA+ Community & Their Experiences.’ To share learnings and experiences on this topic, we were honoured to have with us for our first webinar in this new series, an esteemed group of panellists:
Kevin Blanchard, Director of DRR Dynamics
Nicole Hendrickson, Country Coordinator at CARIMAN
Jeannine Kayembe-Oro, Co-Founder of Life Do Grow Urban Farm
Lee Dibben, Engagement Officer at GiveOut
Marissa Hutchinson, Program Officer at IWRAW Asia Pacific
Leisa Perch, CEO and Founder of SAEDI Consulting, moderated the discussion and provided an overview of the topic exploring emerging challenges at the intersection of climate change and gender equality with a focus on how marginalised persons within the LGBTQIA+ community are disproportionately impacted. Nozipho Ndiweni, Founder of No-Line Communications, SAEDI’s Consulting partner in the webinar series, also welcomed participants and panellists.
Through this discussion, we aimed to uncover more about the experiences of the community, some lessons learned and important steps that can be taken to promote inclusive and gender sensitive climate action. These include:
1. Acknowledging LGBTQI+ persons in climate change policy and frameworks
Kevin Blanchard, Director of DRR Dynamics, began our discussion with a look at the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) that aims to ensure a more inclusive disaster risk reduction framework than its predecessors, with an inclusion of various marginalised groups (women, girls, elderly, indigenous peoples etc.). Despite an ambitious goal of enacting all of society, he noted how the Framework has missed any mention of the LGBTQIA+ community and non-binary persons. A lack of specific inclusion of gender and sexual minorities in the framework results in there being little in the way of guidance or policy for countries to look to implement their own initiatives. Having these excluded groups acknowledged within policies and frameworks gives countries a greater incentive to engage these groups in constructing solutions to fight climate change.
2. Combining top-down and bottom-up approaches for inclusive and gender sensitive climate action
Kevin Blanchard stressed that the first step in supporting inclusive and gender sensitive climate action should be engagement with the community of focus. Lee Dibben of GiveOut also stated the importance of creating a space for LGBTQIA+ groups to engage in international decision- making processes, where they have traditionally been overlooked and underrepresented. While including consultations at the local level are paramount, leadership at the national level and top-down frameworks are also important as NGOs working within communities are hungry for national policy guidelines that create support and focus for the work that they do.
3. As marginalised people, LBGTQIA+ communities already possess strong resilience needed to cope with climate change
Nicole Hendrickson, Country Coordinator with CARIMAN, discussed how LGBTQIA+ communities are frequently the hidden victims of climate change. Due to social stigmas surrounding these groups, they are already uniquely vulnerable to exclusion, violence, and exploitation. In coping with climate change, LGBTQIA+ persons are likely to face additional struggles, for example – in relocation situations, being refused rental or shelter opportunities based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In coping with challenges due to climate change, they face an added layer of hardships derived from negative social perceptions and exclusion. At the same time, these communities that have struggled for the longest time for their rights and visibility possess the coping skills and willingness to fight the additional challenges from climate change, often achieved through a unique sense of social cohesion and mutual support. Their social networking and capital have been developed accordingly.
Through her work as Co-founder of Life Do Grow Urban Farm, Jeannine Kayembe-Oro fills a missing space in her community, bringing black and brown queer artists together for events in a lush urban farm they have created and filled with arts and culture. Among her community, Jeannine has discovered that the marginalization has evolved into a culture of community support and social organization. Black and brown people have had to rise up to become first responders for their communities, providing mutual aid in their community as part of their everyday lives. These survival tactics are the same that are needed to respond to climate change challenges. To arrive at environmental justice, we must first walk the path toward gender and racial justice. Jeannine sees art as having the power to act as a pathway toward expression and understanding that can help to get us there.
4. To support this work, more data is needed at the intersection of climate change and the LGBTQIA+ community
Lee Dibben works with the LGBTQIA+ community foundation GiveOut to further develop its world-first LGBTQIA+ Climate Fund that was launched in March of 2021. Advocating for the importance of LGBTQIA+ inclusive approaches to tackling the climate crisis, GiveOut is passionate about empowering funders to provide equitable and sustainable support to grassroots movements. To better mobilize even greater resources and funding for this work, Lee emphasized that more data is needed on the climate crisis and its effect on the LGBTQIA+ community.
Marissa Hutchinson, Program Officer with IWRAW Asia Pacific, further reinforced the need for greater investment in climate change and LGBTQIA+ specific data. Disaster preparedness is a fundamental element in dealing with the issue of climate change, and this issue requires investment in gathering better data to support disaster preparedness. In the Pacific, she noted that information gaps are a huge issue that needs to be addressed, and both the lack of involvement and information put LGBTQIA+ persons at a disadvantage in the form of explicit and implicit bias biases and further discrimination. Without better access to information, LGBTQIA+ persons that experience homelessness face greater difficulty locating shelters and other welfare resources where they can be safe and access support.
Through improved data collection and greater access to information, policy inclusion and combined top-down and bottom-up approaches, greater resource support can be available to this community and the inclusion and dialogue gap highlighted earlier can also be narrowed.
SAEDI Consulting greatly appreciates all of our panelists for taking the time to share their experiences in and for Gender & Climate Justice in the LGBTQIA+ Community. We also want to thank our participants for lending their thoughtful questions and comments to the rich discussion.
Discussions take place every 2nd Tuesday of every second month, except for special international days and periods like IWD and CSW. We gather at these times thought and do with leaders to explore new ideas on topical issues. Around these virtual conversations, we will identify the factors that drive, spur, include and deter participation of vulnerable and marginalized groups, as well as what more is needed, to reach the goal of inclusive and just societies.
We look forward to having you join us at the next one!