Celebrating Women Working to Save the Planet on International Women’s Day

BY RINYU Mclaura Bekwake

On the 49th International Women’s Day, centered around the theme “Invest in women: Accelerate progress,” the importance of strengthening the capacity of women and promoting inclusivity in fostering a healthier planet is at the forefront.  Globally, women are disproportionately impacted by the destructive effects of climate change. In Central Africa, this is particularly evident as women form much of the agricultural workforce, a sector significantly contributing to, and affected by, greenhouse gas emissions. However, empowering women in climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts can position them as key agents of positive change in addressing climate challenges.

Beyond helping women adapt to day-to-day challenges, it is also essential that women are included in local and high-level decision-making, technical roles, and international climate change reporting processes to ensure their interests are accounted for. By involving women in all aspects of climate action, we can equip present and future generations with the necessary knowledge to tackle climate change effectively.

WICA fellows celebrate at the diploma ceremony in Cameroon in July 2022. Photo by RINYU Mclaura Bekwake.

To help address gender gaps in technical climate roles, the U.S. Forest International Programs (USFS) launched the Central Africa Women’s Initiative for Climate Action (WICA) in 2021. WICA works with national, regional, and international partners to strengthen the capacities and involvement of women from Central African countries in national climate change processes. The program has trained over 200 women in the Central African Republic, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of the Congo on national and international climate change processes since its inception.

With the knowledge acquired throughout the training, former WICA Fellows are already making significant contributions and have taken jobs with national agencies and NGOs working on climate issues and sustainable development in the region. The women are securing seats in national climate institutions, closing the gender gap of women involved in climate change processes, and promoting sustainable development at different levels. Today, we celebrate two former fellows who are inspiring positive change within their countries.

DIAMBWANA LOUHOHO Lychielle

DIAMBWANA LOUHOHO Lycheille Rameaux Mondesir

Republic of the Congo

 

DIAMBWANA LOUHOHO Lycheille Rameaux Mondesir, reflecting on her journey before participating in the program, shared that she was initially a student without any prior professional experience. She emphasized the transformative impact of the program, stating, “Currently, I am the sole staff in the Congolese Agency for Standardization and Quality with skills in environmental management, in charge of all environmental issues. I have earned recognition by crossing significant milestones in this domain.”

In addition to her current responsibilities, she shared her aspirations, saying, “I am currently pursuing a prospective title of the first lead female auditor in ISO 14001, an international standard that provides a framework for organizations to design and implement environmental management systems.”

MEWAMBA Ariane Prisca

Cameroon

 

Before joining WICA, MEWAMBA Ariane Prisca worked as an intern tasked with data collection on carbon footprints in the bimodal and monomodal agroecological zones of Cameroon. Her role was limited, given that she didn’t have the skills to estimate greenhouse gas emissions and reductions using the data she had collected. As a WICA fellow, she undertook a rigorous six-month diploma program with the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute. She gained expertise in international norms, quality control, and quality assurance for measuring, reporting, and verifying greenhouse gas emissions and removals utilizing guidelines from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other international standards. Once she was given the skills to succeed, she did, and her bosses took notice.

“Thanks to the knowledge from the diploma program I participated in, I was able to produce reliable and comparable results on carbon footprints, national greenhouse gas inventories, and the sustainable management of natural resources at the National Climate Change Observatory in Cameroon. My performance earned me a job,” she said.

Mewamba Ariane Prisca

These women are just two of many who are already making significant impacts in the climate sector. Seven former WICA fellows have been nominated by their respective governments to join the roster of experts for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Experts on this roster play vital roles in reviewing and contributing to the technical assessment of greenhouse gas inventories and other climate-related reporting processes submitted by countries to the UNFCCC. Additionally, many former fellows have embraced the role of mentor for new fellows, providing essential support and guidance as they begin their journey with WICA.

Recently, a new cohort of women from five countries has been selected to participate in the expanding WICA program. Promoting equity is an important part of reinforcing global efforts to stabilize the climate, and a crucial step in the success of conservation, climate change, and development initiatives. Together, these women exemplify the pivotal role women play in advancing global efforts to stabilize the climate and create a sustainable future for all.

WICA fellows at COP27. Photo by Nelly Houtsa, USFS-IP.

The WICA program is currently supported by SilvaCarbon, an interagency technical cooperation of the US Government working to enhance the capacity of selected tropical countries to measure, monitor, and report carbon in their forests and other lands and USAID’s Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE).

RINYU Mclaura Bekwake is a former WICA fellow and a current intern with the USFS Central Africa Program in Cameroon.

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