10/12/2012 08:58 GMT | Updated 09/02/2013 05:12 GMT

The Role of Women in the Fight Against Climate Change

At the recently concluded UN climate change deliberations in Doha, Qatar, the COP 18 approved the draft decision to reinforce women's participation in the negotiations and representation bodies established under the Framework Convention or the Kyoto Protocol.

All too often women are missing from key discussions on climate change yet we know that due to existing gender inequalities and development gaps, climate change ultimately places a greater burden on women. Men and women are affected by climate change in different ways, because of social and cultural roles and responsibilities placed on them within families and communities. Women are usually the primary food producers, providers of water and cooking fuel for their families, and generally have a greater responsibility for family and community welfare. However, women's contributions - political, economic, social and environmental - are central to tackling the global challenges we face today.

There are a few areas we can highlight to work towards building and creating specific gender-differentiated strategies, policies and actions that tackle climate change at the heart of where it strikes.

Some simple steps to engage and create an equal playing field include:

Empowerment: Ensure women are empowered at all levels of government and the private sector. Women are well placed to develop the strategies and actions to alleviate the effects of climate challenge on disadvantaged women as we understand the challenges. Putting gender-specific climate change solutions at the top of the agenda can help build a sustainable framework, be it more inclusive land ownership rights, resource utilisation policies or protection measures in disaster prone areas.

Education: We must do more to encourage women to engage in the climate change debate. Women have a lot at stake and we should actively push for better access to educational grants and scholarships so that women can pursue advanced careers. In the rural areas, more must be done to educate women on their rights and provide training and assistance to be economically-independent and move away from agriculture as the primary source of income.

Knowledge-sharing: Create action-oriented platforms that encourage open dialogue and unite women fighting for climate change across the globe. We need more forums and networks that can globally mobilise men and women working to address the gender dimensions of climate change.

Sustainable change can only be achieved with a significant and fundamental shift in mind set about gender roles and abilities, among both women and men. At a recent majlis panel discussion in the United Arab Emirates, highlighting the role Arab women can play in addressing climate change, participants stressed how social conditioning and cultural barriers in the region inhibit women from being active participants in the debate.

Panelists also concluded that a basic lack of awareness about climate change is a problem both in the region and around the world.

Findings like these are evidence that much more needs to be done to improve awareness about climate change and that knowledge-sharing cannot be restricted to policymakers and thought leaders.

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time and all of us, both rich and poor nations, men and women alike, need to understand, participate, motivate and galvanise each other to find solutions. We have a moral, economic and environmental responsibility to do so.