Press Release: Feminists take first steps to launch platform for climate justice in the Western Balkans and Turkey

Feminist activists (both female and male) from across the Western Balkans and Turkey took the first steps towards setting up a Climate Justice Platform at a recent She Talks consultation. This second of four planned consultations concluded that action on climate change in all countries across the region was inadequate and too slow. New ways of engaging both decision makers and the wider public were urgently needed, especially if the disproportionate impact of climate change on women is to be addressed. In response, consultation participants vowed to establish the feminist Platform for Climate Justice of the Western Balkans and Turkey.

Date: Wednesday, September 30, 2020

"The region needs a new discourse,” stressed İlayda Eskitaşçıoğlu, a human rights lawyer from Turkey and a member of the Beijing+25 Global Youth Task Force. “This means, first of all, putting pressure on decision makers, then publicly and clearly disseminating information and facts about the situation in the region, to set new criteria and motivate people to start changing their habits," she said. Eskitaşçıoğlu is also one of the main organizers of the She Talks consultations.

Climate justice links the impact of climate change on the environment to social justice and human rights. It also examines historical responsibilities for climate change. The connection between climate justice and gender equality is clear across the world, yet it often remains overlooked, consultation participants pointed out.

Women are disproportionately affected by climate change. Women have fewer opportunities to learn about environmental issues, and even if they are fully informed, they are often left out of decision making processes that would protect their interests because management positions are predominantly still held by men. One of the conclusions that emerged from the consultation was the need to work on women's solidarity to tackle the predominantly male perspectives and policies that are preventing and slowing down action on climate change.

Participants also concluded that protecting water, air, and forests is just as important as protecting women's rights. They drew parallels between the mechanisms of violence against women and violence against nature as coming from the exploitation of others. They called from violent patterns in the Western Balkans and Turkey to be further deconstructed so that the region can have the future that citizens want. Attitudes towards natural and social resources is a matter of basic justice, participants concluded, and gender equality in the region will only be possible when joining forces with the environmental movement.

The new Platform will aim to address climate justice and enable young women and men across the Western Balkans and Turkey to make real change, especially as climate change is mostly about their reality and their future.

Right now, protest is still the only and most visible way for young people to express their disagreement in the region. But, protests are still misunderstood, while the safety and security of ecofeminists is also not guaranteed as it should be in the Western Balkans and Turkey. Consultation participants noted that these accumulated problems can only be solved by working simultaneously across a number of levels. This includes working in local communities, raising awareness about the value of small changes and personal actions, also raising climate justice issues across the education system, and connecting national as well as regional networks and platforms for climate justice.

The new Platform will pay special attention to the inclusion of Roma women and other minority groups. It will be open to the LGBT+ community, as well as gender responsive approaches and will create contextualized knowledge in preventing harm and combating climate change. The climate justice platform exemplifies  the global Generation Equality campaign, where young women take a leading role in the protection of our planet for happier and healthier communities in the region. Activists for women's rights and other underrepresented groups in the societies of the Western Balkans and in Turkey are actively contributing to this global campaign from September-November 2020.

The four planned She Talks sessions are part of the Future of Equality consultations, designed to raise burning issues, seek common solutions and spark new initiatives. This series of consultations are organized by the Women's Platform for Development of Serbia in cooperation with UN Women as part of the Support to Priority Actions for Gender Equality project. This project is funded by the European Union. With these discussions, activists for gender equality and women's rights also mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most visionary and ambitious roadmap set for gender equality.