‘Young women are a vital part of shaping the future’ – Rio+20 interview

A Rio+20 interview with Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda is the General Secretary of the World YWCA, a global federation in 125 countries, and a human rights lawyer with extensive experience in CSO governance and transition management. She is also the Vice Chair of CIVICUS. She is active in trying to ensure that young women are able to help shape the future sustainable development agenda, and that the women's human rights impacts of climate change and sustainability challenges are taken into account. She talks to CIVICUS about her hopes for Rio+20 and the work of the World YWCA.

How is the World YWCA planning to advance women's issues, and participation at Rio+20?

The World YWCA will have a small delegation of YWCA representatives at Rio+20 with two clear goals – to ensure young people, and particularly young women, play a role in shaping the sustainable development agenda, and to ensure the agenda coming out of Rio+20 is inextricably linked with advancing gender equality and women's human rights. It is also essential that commitments are adequately resourced and that we continue to strengthen accountability mechanisms.

How did the recent UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) help advance efforts and activities towards Rio+20?

The CSW provided a platform to explore how climate change impacts on the lives of rural women and how this vital group can play a role in advancing sustainable development and climate justice in their communities. Through the Troika+ of Women Leaders on Gender and Climate Change (a group of high-level women leaders) we were able to hear from grassroots rural women's groups on priorities for improving rural women's access to energy. In lobbying efforts with governments, the World YWCA was able to promote greater attention to the impact of natural disasters and climate change on women and girls in rural areas. We were also pleased to partner with CIVICUS and other organisations to bring attention to these important issues through a side event at the CSW, and, in particular, to promote the importance of young people's participation in discussions and decision-making around sustainable development and climate change.

Do you feel that Rio+20 is adequately addressing issues of gender and human rights within the sustainable development context?

The World YWCA supports the recommendations made by the Women Major Group on the Rio+20 zero draft document, particularly the need to strengthen the gender equality language, which should contain a reference to women's rights as human rights as well as concrete targets. We also support the importance of including health and wellbeing and, in particular, ensuring women's sexual and reproductive health and rights in advancing sustainable development.

How do you see the World YWCA network contributing to the follow-up and implementation of Rio+20 outcomes?

The World YWCA is a global movement of 25 million women and girls in 125 countries and can play a crucial role in holding governments accountable to commitments made at Rio+20 and monitoring implementation at both country and international level. YWCAs are grassroots-based organisations which also have significant capacity to mobilise local communities around the sustainable development agenda, and particularly to ensure that women are engaged in local decision-making and understand the role they can play in sustainable development. Rio+20 reflects one of the global priorities of the World YWCA movement. At the YWCA World Council held in Zurich, Switzerland in July 2011, YWCA delegates adopted a Resolution on 'Women Creating a Safe World through Climate Justice' and agreed that the response against climate change will guide the collective actions of YWCAs over the coming years, so there is a movement-wide mandate to prioritise this work. Through the resolution, the World YWCA movement resolved to:

  • Participate in the global climate justice movement by integrating advocacy and action on climate justice, and its link to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in all aspects of YWCA work including:
    • Adopting the principles of climate justice;
    • Using an international human rights framework;
    • Supporting effective and meaningful participation of communities affected by climate change.
  • Work with partners and networks to pressure governments and global decision-makers to make all necessary commitments to achieve climate justice.
  • Highlight the importance of women and young women's leadership for the achievement of both climate justice and the MDGs.

The World YWCA is already engaged in important actions in the area of climate change, including, in 2009, partnering with the Alliance of Youth CEOs and UNICEF to produce a climate change manual by and for young people. The manual is intended to empower young people to take action on climate change by providing in-depth case studies and examples to inspire and motivate youth-led initiatives. It highlights positive actions that girls and young women can take on climate change mitigation and adaptation. In addition, I am part of the Troika+ of Women Leaders on Gender and Climate Change, which is being led by the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice and UN Women and is designed to influence the Rio+20 process.

Care for the environment is central to the World YWCA's vision and purpose, and advancing sustainable development and climate justice continue to be important priorities for the YWCA movement. We are also committed to intergenerational leadership and ensuring young women are a vital part of shaping the present and future.

World YWCA: http://www.worldywca.org