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Voices from the ground on Earth Day: how sexual and environmental well-being are connected 

No one is immune from the devastating consequences of the climate crisis. It concerns everyone and those who are most marginalised, will be most affected. RFSU’s vision is a world in which everyone is free to make decisions about their own bodies and sexuality - but can this vision be upheld in a world where everyone’s lives will be more and more impacted and possibly restricted by the climate crisis?   

To help us answer this question, RFSU turned to some of our partner organisations in Liberia, Kenya, Brazil and Cambodia. We asked them what linkages they see between the climate crisis and SRHR, and what are their calls to action. The key takeaways from these conversations are that

  1. More evidence is needed
  2. Human rights must be at the centre of addressing the climate crisis
  3. Climate policy processes must be inclusive
  4. SRHR is critical to climate change adaptation and resilience   

More evidence is needed

There is still little research specifically on the interlinkages between climate change and SRHR. More and better evidence is needed on how the climate crisis may negatively affect the realisation of SRHR, as well as on how SRHR may positively contribute to adaptation and resilience. Naomi, who works as Executive Director for RFSU’s partner Community Healthcare Initiative in Liberia, highlighted that this is especially true in regards to underrepresented groups.

It is for example particularly important to collect evidence and data on how the climate crisis affects the SRHR of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities (SOGI). Evidence is critical to ensure that communities and civil society can hold duty bearers accountable.

Human rights must be at the centre of addressing the climate crisis

Almost thirty years ago, UN member states committed to fulfilling a broader SRHR agenda anchored in human rights. In many contexts, these commitments still need to be realised at the national and local level. Any responses to the climate crisis that also affect SRHR, must be in line with human rights. Rachana, who is the Executive Director of Klahaan in Cambodia, underscored that global policy commitments aimed at responding and preventing the climate crisis, must be translated into action at the national level for there to be any effect.

The rights of persons already at risk of marginalisation and discrimination, such as women, girls and LGBTQI-persons, must be especially considered. Sinara, who is from Brazil and works for RFSU’s partner organisation Fòs Feminista, stressed that it is particularly important to protect the rights of indigenous people and to understand how racism and racialization not only impact people but also territories and land.

Climate policy processes must be inclusive

Naomi from Liberia drew attention to the fact that national decision-making processes related to the climate crisis need to include those who are most affected. Similarly, Sinara from Brazil, recommended that civil society needs to be strengthened as they are also often the first to respond to the climate crisis.

Kadiam, who works for Q-initiative in Kenya, also highlighted that community and political leaders can be engaged and encouraged through campaigns, petitions and the media for such causes. 

SRHR is critical to climate change adaptation and resilience

Sinara from Brazil, noted that any response to the climate crisis must put SRHR at the centre, otherwise many risk being left behind. Rachana from Cambodia adds that for climate crisis policies to have an effect, we need financial and human resources as well as skills and infrastructure supporting SRHR.

In a similar vein, Kadiam, from Kenya, noted that there is a need to fund climate change and SRHR and focus on generating more awareness on the interlinkages between mental, sexual and environmental well-being. Finally, Evance, who also works for Q-initiative in Kenya, highlighted that climate change policies must be gender inclusive and transformative.

We want to thank Naomi, Kadiam, Everlyne, Evance, Sinara and Rachana for sharing their lived experiences and knowledge with us. You can read more about the organisations they work with below: 

  • Klahaan is an organisation that builds evidence, organises and campaigns on issues that affect women in Cambodia. Their actions are guided by intersectional feminist principles. Klahaan means ‘brave’ in Khmer. You can follow them on Instagram and Facebook. 

  • Q-initiative is a community of SOGIE persons. Their mission is to provide a transparent, membership driven, empowered and inclusive space for the LGBT community through creating events focused on education, outreach and advancement of opportunities. You can follow them on Instagram and Twitter.
  • Fòs Feminista is a new platform for international action and feminist solidarity for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). It brings together more than 135 organizations worldwide focused on sexual and reproductive health care and activism. You can follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Read about the meaning of their name and their recent publication on Climate Change and SRHR. 

  • Community Healthcare Initiative is an organisation which aims to strengthen and promote healthcare, social services, women’s rights and child rights, especially girls, persons living with disabilities and sexual minorities in Liberia. You can follow their work on Facebook. 

Illustrations by: Ipsita Divedi