WICA Fellows Attend COP27

Launched by USFS in 2021, the Central Africa Women’s Initiative for Climate Action, also known as WICA, is a training program that focuses on increasing the involvement of women in Cameroon, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic in national and international climate change processes. To date, the program has trained 198 women through a series of seminars, workshops, webinars, a rigorous diploma program, and internships. During their yearlong fellowship, WICA participants get the chance to increase their knowledge about national and global climate responses, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, greenhouse gas accounting, and climate negotiations.

WICA fellows pose for a photo with their mentors at the Coalition for Rainforest Nations pavillion. Photo courtesy of Rinyu McLaura BEKWAKE.

In November 2022, nine fellows were able to attend COP 27 in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt. They spent two weeks participating in meetings, attending side events, supporting their national delegations, and networking. Thanks to their mentors, who included Mr. Leonardo MASSAI and Ms. Eloïse GUIDI of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRN), Mr. Timothée KAGONBE, the UNFCCC Focal Point for Cameroon, Martine BADIBANGA, the Climate Change Focal Point at the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Mr. Janvier NDONG, the National Communications Coordinator for Gabon, fellows even had the unique experience of witnessing global climate negotiations unfold in real-time.

For some of the fellows, the timbre of the negotiations came as a surprise. “It was very interesting to be in the negotiation room and to see each country defending its interests, sometimes forgetting the collective good. The spirit of solidarity in the fight against climate change was sometimes put aside by some countries to defend their interests,” observed Kyliane Bérénice SONWA MOMO, WICA fellow from Cameroon.

Rameaux Mondésir DIAMBWANA speaks about the WICA program during a side event at the COMIFAC pavillion. Photo courtesy of Rinyu McLaura BEKWAKE.

In addition to their attendance at negotiations, WICA fellows also supported USFS side events.

Hilary DASSI NGOUABO and Rameaux Mondésir DIAMBWANA, 2021 WICA fellows, even took center stage during a side event at the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC) Pavillon, sharing their experiences from the program’s first year. For Ms. DIAMBWANA, the COP was an exciting step for her in her continuing climate education.

“As a WICA recipient, I have had the opportunity to build relationships with various people and personalities, become well-informed about transparency under the Paris Agreement, participate in negotiation meetings, and speak about the program in front of a mixed and diverse audience. All these highlights made my first participation in this international conference extraordinary and it was a great moment for learning and sharing,” she said afterward.

WICA Fellows at COP27. Photo courtesy of Nelly Houtsa, USFS-IP.

While WICA fellows spend much of the year completing a rigorous diploma program in carbon accounting with the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute as well as taking on internships, experiences like attending the COP allow them to create professional connections with national and international climate actors. It also gives the fellows a chance to build relationships with other women from around the region passionate about climate action.

Martine BADIBANGA, the Climate Change Focal Point for the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is one of the WICA mentors and has been more than happy to help them get acquainted with the day-to-day work of climate action. “We are particularly proud of the WICA program, as I have welcomed two of the laureates in our offices and I must admit that it is a pleasure for me to see their interest in the issue of climate change. In addition, since the beginning of COP 27, they have been accompanying me to the negotiation rooms to get acclimatized and to get a feel for the negotiations […] I wish full success to this program and encourage the women to continue pursuing this work.”

To learn more about WICA and meet our other fellows, click here.

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