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Youth Stake in COP27 Climate Action and Reproductive Health Issues

Africa which is rated to have world’s largest population stands to suffer from the massive impacts of climate change, young people are not robustly included in decision-making tables but this narrative is changing progressively. Climate change is a challenge but also represents an opportunity to build transformational change and the youth are at the forefront of taking this up. Climate adaptations presents an opportunity to equip African youth for new green jobs which promotes innovation and growth of young people in climate resilient jobs and through youth economic empowerment. There is a need to have effective youth inclusion in the adaptation agenda and planning but also decision-making and implementation of adaptations actions.

Climate change is now affecting every country disrupting national economies and way of life. Women and girls bear the major effects of climate-related crises and environmental degradation. Women comprise approximately twenty million of the twenty-six people estimated to have been internally displaced by climate change. Climate crises denies women the ability to control their own lives. Looking at the 2020-2021 Ipas research in Zambezian, Mozambique and Khulna, Bangladesh which sought to understand how women’s experiences with climate change impact their sexual and reproductive health, decision-making, behavior and outcomes in cyclone-prone communities. Pregnant women particularly are at a risk of experiencing a miscarriage, early labor and pregnancy complications that could lead to injury or death. On the other hand, adolescents experience increased risk in sexual and gender-based violence, early marriage and even pregnancy.

There is need for women-led justice because they also have solutions to these specific problems they face. Women play a critical role in helping their families and communities survive extreme weather conditions but women’s participation in climate action decision-making tables is scarce. Climate justice that is not gender inclusive fails to address the real issues thus making the problems even worse. Increased women’s opportunities for paid work is sustainable to women and adolescents during the crises; It is important to consider women’s needs when building spaces for shelter after the harsh climatic conditions; Improving access to healthcare particularly sexual and reproductive healthcare that experiments resilience to climate change; Investing in women’s and adolescents education to give them power to critically make informed choices and intentionally bringing onboard women, youth who are most affected to develop and lead climate action efforts that include reproductive health and rights. Collaboration and partnership is thus key in pushing for this agenda.

Gender norms and power differentials magnifies the impact of climate crises which denies women the ability to make decisions in regards to their health issues. Women fail to seek emergency healthcare after massive cyclones and even floods simply because her husband is not at home to grant her permission. In places such as Bangladesh, where there is the practice of purdah meaning women bodies are fully covered to avoid being seen by other men. This type of traditional clothing restricts movement, hindering their ability to propel in water which presents risks such as drowning and injury during the harsh climatic conditions. Some women are shying away from getting pregnant during these crises due to increased vulnerability and lack of sufficient food to feed and care for their children while others feel the opposite with the thought of bearing more children to protect them against becoming childless during the climate disaster.

Climate change, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) need to be considered as a fundamental component of climate adaptation and of climate justice. Instead of using contraception to minimize population and as a strategy for climate change mitigation, it is better to continue raising awareness on the intersections between climate change and SRHR by promoting collaboration and cocreating solutions from available research findings that shed light on this critical issue with a focus on inclusion of all persons to avoid leaving anyone behind. Engage girls and women in their identities, youth serving organizations to prioritize and work on mitigating climate and sexual reproductive health crises through promoting leadership of women locally, nationally and internationally.

Nation states need to demonstrate preparedness for certain climate change driven sexual and reproductive health impacts, like for instance financial support on harms and extreme heat on pregnancy health and implementing the minimum initial service package for reproductive health in the context of natural disasters. Climate health needs to be understood as article seven in the Paris Agreement says, “adaptation action should follow a country driven, gender responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems.” To fulfill this vision, Nation States need to make quick progress in improving comprehensive and reproductive health and gender equality. Inadequate response to this quick progress on equitable access to affordable. Quality comprehensive reproductive healthcare leads to health injustices which could lead to so many deaths. In the Paris Agreement the aim to keep the global average temperature increase to below two degree Celsius(2C) and even better at one point five degree Celsius (1.5C) is closely interlinked with the global goal on adaptation and the need to mobilize sufficient finance flows for a climate resilient environment.

The success of COP27 will greatly depend on whether the needs on loss and damage are met. Leaders need to demonstrate ambition on mitigation, deliver financial commitments to the developing nations, support adaptation efforts and embrace meaningful action on loss and damage because there no much time left. Youth need to move out of their comfort zone and meaningfully involve themselves in these climate action discussions because they bear very important solutions. There is power in their new ideas and keen they are to imprint a difference globally. Youth are key drivers to accelerate climate action. Every individual has a role to play to turn the climate ambition to climate action. In today’s rapidly warming world the climate crises will not wait for anyone and this exactly where innovators like you need to step up together for implementation actions without making more false promises that bear no fruits.

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