Published on Voices

Women at the Forefront of Climate Action

Mussarat Farida Begum Mussarat Farida Begum runs a small teahouse in Garjon Bunia Bazaar, a rural community in Bangladesh. As part of a program which has helped Bangladesh reach more than 2 million low-income rural households and shops with electricity, she bought a solar home system for $457, initially paying $57, and borrowing the rest. She repays the loan in weekly installments with money she earns by keeping her now-lighted chai shop open after dark. Her business is booming and her family lives much more comfortably with their increased income. They now have electricity at home and their children can study at night.

Women like Mussarat are at the forefront of our efforts to secure development by tackling climate change. On the one hand, they are disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of extreme events. But it is also women who can make a difference to change entrenched behaviors. It is their decisions as entrepreneurs, investors, consumers, farmers, and heads of households that can put our planet on a greener, more inclusive development trajectory.

As I set out to New York for Climate Week and the UN General Assembly, my first meeting will be at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit to meet with women from all over the world, many of them international leaders in the fight against climate change, to discuss how women are affected by a changing climate and – more importantly – how our leadership, creativity, motivation and commitment can move the needle on effective climate action.

I hope that this conference will strike a note that will resonate through the events and meetings of the days to follow. On Monday, Sept. 23, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim will be speaking at the opening ceremony of Climate Week in New York. Then on Sept. 27, the United Nations will release the findings of the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC.  The report is expected to give predictions of rising sea levels and of the increasing likelihood of heat waves and other extreme weather.

Our president, Jim Kim, asks me repeatedly where the movement for action on climate change is. It is, after all, the most serious threat to development and public health of our time. I feel strongly that, as in the other movements of the recent past, it will be women who grind this out. This is where the restlessness, the simmering anger, but also the vision of something very different that provides for people’s needs is coming from.


Rachel Kyte

Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change

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