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A step forward for women fighting climate change

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Women carry firewood back to their home village of Caicaoan, Uganda. The women place a cushioning loop of cloth on their heads, and then help each other to lift and balance the heavy loads. “We travel further and further for firewood every year, and it takes us to less safe places,” says Martina Longom, a Caicoan woman and one of Oxfam’s Sisters on the Planet (Go to www.oxfamamerica.org/sisters to hear her story.) Photo: Geoff Sayer / Oxfam
Women carry firewood back to their home village of Caicaoan, Uganda. The women place a cushioning loop of cloth on their heads, and then help each other to lift and balance the heavy loads. “We travel further and further for firewood every year, and it takes us to less safe places,” says Martina Longom, a Caicoan woman and one of Oxfam’s Sisters on the Planet (Go to www.oxfamamerica.org/sisters to hear her story.) Photo: Geoff Sayer / Oxfam

I’ve noticed there’s a rhythm to the way we work with US lawmakers here at Oxfam. Things don’t always move fast, since it takes time, energy, and dedication to sway legislators on the issues.  Occasionally, though, everything comes together, and that’s when we see real results on Capitol Hill.

Last week I wrote a story about a group of truly amazing women–Oxfam’s Sisters on the Planet Ambassadors–who went to Washington, DC, to call on Congress to help women in the US and abroad fight climate change. They explained that although the climate crisis affects everyone, it’s often women who bear the brunt of its consequences, including droughts, floods, storms, increased conflicts, and even forced migrations from their homes.

This week, as a direct result of that visit, three women US Representatives introduced a new Congressional resolution that “affirms the commitment of Congress to support women globally to prepare for, build resilience for, and adapt to the impacts of climate change.”  This support comes at a key moment, since an important new global warming bill is already in the works in Congress.

When I interviewed Wisconsin’s Barbara Lawton for the story, I asked what motivated her–a public official whose job as lieutenant governor must certainly keep her busy–to travel to DC to speak out the issue.

“I look at climate change from the point of view of women’s security. If you get it right for them, then you get it right for everyone,” she said. “They are the world’s most vulnerable population, and have the least representation.”

But, Lawton told me, climate change is not just about women’s vulnerability; it’s also about their role as agents of change. “Women need to provide the leadership to get this job done,” she said. “And this [resolution] is an important opportunity for women in Congress to set the pace.”

Well stated, indeed! Looks like those leaders are well on track so far–now, let’s hope they keep it up.

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