London: Women`s voices should be heard in the ongoing global climate change debate as they have played a stellar role in raising environmental consciousness, Congress President Sonia Gandhi has demanded and asked the Commonwealth to take a fresh initiative on this.
Branding climate change as the most difficult challenge facing the humankind, Gandhi said the climate debate had so far been gender-blind, ignoring the role played by women in raising environmental consciousness.
Delivering the Commonwealth lecture 2011 on `Women as Agents of Change` at the Royal Commonwealth Society here last night, she reminded that investment in women had the "highest-
return", and said the society owed it to the women to give them "greater security" in rapid urbanisation.
Gandhi, also the chairperson of ruling UPA on a five-day "private visit" here, was given a standing ovation as she walked to the podium to deliver the lecture as a packed hall which comprised High Commissioners, Ambassadors and British lawmakers.
Gandhi said that she sometimes wondered whether women`s greater empathy with nature and concern for their children`s future might not help the world to find a new, more sustainable, less consumerist path of development.
"In 1989, the Commonwealth became the first major international organisation to publish a landmark scientific study on the devastating effects of climate change. Commonwealth Heads of Government also agreed on a Climate Change Action Plan in 2007, where, among other things, they called upon the support of women to ensure effective action.
"How can such support be extended if women`s voices and concerns hardly figure in the global climate negotiations, or in national and local climate management plans?" she asked.
"Perhaps it is time for a fresh initiative to help the world bridge this gap. Such an initiative could suggest ways to bring women`s participation and perspectives more squarely into the global negotiations. We need climate justice not only between countries, but also between genders," she said.
She said enhancing the role of women in protecting the environment is necessary.
"But what about protecting women themselves? Economic growth is leading to mass migration to cities. Disturbingly, this is being accompanied by growing violence against women. If urbanisation is the world`s future, we must design urban environments and services in ways that will give women greater
security, and educate and involve citizens in this cause. A Commonwealth initiative bringing together our great cities to collaborate on this issue would be timely," she said.