UNEP TUNZA Youth Website: #COPFriday Reflections - YMCA as Youth Gender Ambassadors


#COPFriday Reflections — YMCA as Youth Gender Ambassadors

By Andrea Gadnert 11 December, 2015

On Tuesday 8 December 2015, the YMCA team engaged with #GenderDay as youth gender ambassadors for the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Gender Program (IUCN). Gender equality is important for us, and we as an international team have a wide range of perspectives on the issue. Each team member spent time at the IUCN exhibition or booth, raising awareness on Gender Day and sharing our youth perspective on gender issues with negotiators and other observers.

Friday 11 December was also a great opportunity to learn more about the connection between environmental issues and gender equality. This knowledge will be relevant in all our work with the aspect of environmental issues and climate change. Here are some of the team's reactions to gender day.

Alexandra Brewer (USA), Amanda Karestrand (Sweden) and Clifford Collins Omondi Okwany (Kenya) in the IUCN booth.

Alexandra Brewer: "It was important for me to be a gender ambassador today and spread the message that you HAVE to consider gender in any solution to climate change. In my own life, I'm committed to fighting for concepts like equal pay for equal work (because women make less for the same amount of work even in very wealthy countries) -- we can't add to the suite of inequalities that women have to overcome because we neglected to think about it when we had the chance! I hope that our role today as youth gender ambassadors shows that gender equality in this climate deal is not a niche issue, or something trivial -- it is VITAL to fighting for justice for future generations."

Stefanie Tornow (Germany) and Sukhen Joseph Gomes (Bangladesh) are very happy gender ambassadors!

Stefanie: "Climate change affects all of us, but women and children are the ones to suffer the most. When I first heard this sentence I didn’t really realize this. But in this time, where gender equality should be a logical thing, women end up taking on more risks because of climate change. To raise awareness and fight for gender equality, this is the reason why I am a youth ambassador today. Women must get the same chances as men to survive. They need access to education and work, where they can change something. Because those who suffer should be the ones to get the chance to change something.”

Petter Bjersér and Vindar Fritzell from Sweden

Petter: “I see climate change as a two faced calamity, stemming from one inequality causing more inequality. The same is true with gender inequality, placing limitations and obstructing everyone in it's path. What is true for both is that they disproportionately affect women.

I believe that we will save our planet and ourselves through love and to achieve that we need climate justice and gender equality. I find strength to fight for this from my sister and my mom, from every girl that I know and don't know. From those not yet born and from everyone else.” 

Vindar: Meeting people who fight for gender equality here at COP is really empowering. There are no other participants with that much of a positive glowing spirit. Although, working as an ambassador for the IUCN Gender Program also made it clear that many of the delegates here don't have a clue of what gender equality connected to climate change is about. Therefore I felt very privileged to be able to address such a fundamental part of a sustainable future in this context. Especially thanks to Lorena Aguilar, a truly inspiring woman who enlightened me and facilitated my representation at the IUCN pavilion at COP today.

Andrea Gadnert (Sweden) talking to a delegate from Congo about gender day

Andrea: “We cannot have another agreement that is mainly made by, and for, one group of society. The gender inequality in decision-making is something we cannot ignore. I am so happy to be part of the gender day today, to help spread the awareness. And even though I have considered myself aware of gender equality issues, I have definitely opened my eyes to many new aspects of how this is linked to climate change“

Ending gender day, IUCN brought together women working in the science and environmental sector in a side-event called “Momentum for Change”. The panel was specifically asked to give youth (with a mention of the YMCA youth gender ambassadors) a message on how we can successfully continue to work for gender equality. The advice that was given to us was primarily that we have to be resistant and patient, and not lose motivation when changes are not happening as fast as we would like.

But it is also worth to noticing that positive change is happening, we have learned from the people that have been working with the gender issues at IUCN for many years that they are seeing change; both men and women are starting to becoming more aware and active.


Outreach Unit
Division of Communications and
Public Information UNEP
P.O. Box 30552,
Nairobi, Kenya

+254 20 7623937