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We Should Think Creatively About Climate Financing for African Women: An Interview with Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr interacting during COP28 held in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on December 2023. Photo: Kate Okorie, bird story agency

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr: We Should Think Creatively About Climate Financing for African Women

Kate Okorie, bird story agency

Approval and funding for the eagerly anticipated Loss and Damage Fund on the first day of the United Nations climate change conference, or COP28, in Dubai, was widely lauded. The Fund will assist developing countries battling climate crises.

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Sierra Leonean politician and finance professional currently serving as Freetown's mayor and Co-Chair of C40 cities, called for the fund to be distributed in a collaborative manner, with emphasis on African women who bear a disproportionate burden in the face of the climate crisis. bird story agency caught up with Aki-Sawyerr, in Dubai, to hear more.

What is the significance of the Loss and Damage Fund in addressing climate challenges in Africa?

The Loss and Damage fund just got a major boost here at COP28. We have actual funding pledges, and we're talking close to $500 million from several countries. This funding will eventually go to those hit hardest by the effects of climate change. The most important objective, of course, is to secure the necessary funding.

The loss and damage fund is just in its infancy. There's still a lot of work regarding its design and the distribution of funds. And when the time comes, we'll join our voices for women to be major beneficiaries.

In what ways do you see the fund addressing the needs and concerns of African women?

After floods, fires, or landslides, the women are left to piece things back together; they also have to figure out what will happen to the children.

Beyond their roles as caregivers at home, many African women work as traders in markets, sitting under the heat all day long, making them vulnerable to rising temperatures. And a lack of access to water compounds that.

The fund is crucial in addressing African women's specific needs and concerns by recognising and mitigating the multifaceted challenges they face due to climate change. So when we talk about the cost, it's the cost of livelihood, homes, employment, and health; it's also the cost of the future generation we are investing in.

The Loss and Damage Fund is expected to recognize and address these costs, ensuring that its application naturally reaches those who bear the brunt of the challenges and women, many of them in Africa.

How can the Loss and Damage fund address the multiple vulnerabilities faced by African women, ensuring an inclusive and equitable approach?

Something we've been discussing in my network, especially as it concerns women, is that there is no insurance. The vast majority of African women aren't insured for anything.

Climate vulnerability represents a risk that may or may not happen. It is similar to the uncertainty associated with having an accident where you may or may not need to claim your insurance premium. In this scenario, you may not require it, but someone else might.

Now, we've got this Loss and Damage fund kickstarting with around $500 million, but you can easily identify one billion low-income, badly affected climate-vulnerable people. Does that mean we have 50 cents per person? That doesn't add up.

We need to be thinking about how the Loss and Damage Fund can be leveraged to access more capital and effectively insure women.

Also, we need to explore creative approaches to the concept of loss and damage, creating opportunities for women to come together and be supported. In Sierra Leone, we call it "Osusu," which involves pooling money and distributing it among the participants.

The critical question becomes: how can we implement a model of "Osusu" for Loss and Damage?

Lastly, could you share insights on the leadership role, particularly emphasising gender-inclusive leadership, in driving successful climate initiatives like the Loss and Damage fund on both local and international levels?

History has shown us that when women are at the table, we end up with the best solutions, and I say this not because I am a woman. It's encouraging that this conference recognised gender as an important element of the climate debate.

I participated in a panel during the gender day, where I highlighted the Women4Climate initiative in Freetown supported by C40 Cities. These sort of interventions and platforms for women amplify their voices and contribute to better solutions. This is particularly vital because, as we know, women are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. If you're the most impacted, you're almost certainly going to be the one who comes up with the best solutions because 'she who feels it knows it'.

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1 Comment

Smith Joel
Smith Joel
Feb 22

where you'll have the chance to connect with individuals from diverse backgrounds fireboy and watergirl

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