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Programme Director’s June 2021 Message

Climate and Covid to Collaboration and Consensus

Where do you stand on the two most pressing current problems? Are they dependent on each other or are they two separate issues? My own understanding is that they have a lot in common.

Climate change is affecting us all in some way – changing local environments such as the rise in sea levels, higher daily temperatures and greater fluctuations, insufficient rain to irrigate crops – and so it goes on.

The rise in sea level means greater coastal erosion – in the Sundarbans (Bangladesh and India) this has led to the need to plant mangroves to counter it. In the UK cliffs are collapsing taking homes with them. Planting trees will not help in either of these situations. So what else can we do to address the problem, as individuals and together in partnership?

Our food consumption is a good place to start since that is within our personal control – as long as the farmers can continue to produce it. Can they? Too often there is drought and then the opposite, floods. Transport of food from one country to another increases carbon dioxide and methane emissions which increase the global temperature. For ideas on how to help respond individually, take a look at the ActNow programme from the UN.







We are encouraged to eat more fish but what about the seas? The UN’s Ocean Conference advises that ‘The ocean covers 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, is the planet’s largest biosphere, and home to up to 80 percent of all life in the world. It generates 50 percent of the oxygen we need, absorbs 25 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions and captures 90 percent of the additional heat generated from those emissions.’ It is thought that plastics will outweigh fish by 2025. And Covid contributes to this through the use of single-use facemasks. Another reason to use 3-layer cloth facemasks, used properly, as advised by WHO.

Another area where can act is transport. As individuals our use of cars and/or public transport is a key issue. Should we fly as much as we used to do? Transport of food and other goods from countries far away so that we can, for example, have vegetables out of season – is this a good idea or should we eat seasonal foods grown in our own countries?

As well as the desertification of the land, destruction of coastlines, pollution of land and sea, there is the increase in migration (including trafficking and slavery) of people needing to find sustenance and employment. Women are most affected by all of this so what can we do? Both climate and migration come together in Bangladesh with the monsoon, for example, where 200,000 refugees, mostly women and girls, are at risk.

A young Rohingya girl stands in the rain at a refugee settlement in Shamlapur, southeast Bangladesh. © UNHCR/Patrick Brown

A number of upcoming UN Days of relevance to this agenda are in June and July, for example World Oceans Day on 8 June and the World Day against Trafficking in Persons on 30 July – for the complete (2021) list look at

Our Day of Action is on 17 July 2021 and we are asking you to concentrate on climate change. How much CO2 do you emit? Give this link a try – My result? I must do better!

Those of you who joined The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65) this year will be aware that the priority theme was:

  • Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
  • For 2022 it will be ‘Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes.’

It will be virtual again so another opportunity for more soroptimists to take part? Our chance to contribute to COP26 in Glasgow in November is highly relevant, therefore. Will you join in for both COP26 and CSW 66? I hope so.

If you are not a soroptimist, come and join us –

Kay Richmond
SIGBI Programme Director