How the Oak Foundation is Embracing Women-Driven Solutions in their Climate Strategy – Women Deliver

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December 21, 2016 Anne Henshaw Ph.D., Programme Officer Oak Foundation

How the Oak Foundation is Embracing Women-Driven Solutions in their Climate Strategy


Climate change is undoubtedly one of the most pressing issues of our time and threatens to undermine a range of internationally recognized human rights including the right to adequate food, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to health, the right to housing, and the right to water. It is in this context that the field of “Climate Justice” has emerged with women at the center: not simply for the reason that they will disproportionately suffer the acute consequences of climate change, but because they are proactively advancing a rights-based approach to addressing the threats of a warming world across the globe.

For much of the last 15 years, Oak’s investment strategy on climate change has centered on the development of climate progressive policies aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions in different sectors like transportation, the energy industry, and in major carbon emitting countries like China, India, Brazil and the U.S.

But as a foundation, largely known for its work on social justice, the trustees increasingly recognized the importance of meeting the current and future needs of people most negatively affected by the impacts of climate change.  Beginning 2014, the foundation formed a cross programme steering committee to develop a vision and a strategy for a more people-centered rights-based approach to climate change aligned with much of our work across the foundation.


From the vantage point of the Oak Foundation, Climate Justice basically recognizes that climate change has a disproportionate impact on certain key constituencies important to different programs and one of the main goals of the initiative was to bring greater attention to the plight of such communities – in particular youth, Indigenous Peoples and women.

Oak chose these constituents because they are both the most vulnerable to climate impacts and have the greatest ability to catalyze new and innovative thinking in terms of coping with impacts and creating solutions. In this sense it reflects a real shift from a charity-based model of giving to ‘victims of climate change’ to one that emphasizes agency and the belief that local communities, especially women, are best positioned to develop their own solutions to the problems they face.

Women have a long history of engaging in the international climate change negotiations and continue to have a big impact on infusing a gender lens at the UNFCCC. Leaders like Eleanor Blomstrom and Bridget Burns of the Women's Environment and Development Organization a key member of the global Gender and Women Constituency   network which put forward 18 Key Demands at the recent Conference of Parties (COP 22) in Marrakesh in November 2016.

From a cross movement perspective, women are also at the center of advancing Indigenous Peoples rights and adaptation practices necessary to cope with a changing climate. In the lead up to Marrakesh Joan Carling, Chair of the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact, helped organize a major gathering in Yangon, Myanmar of 32 indigenous women from eight countries across Asia to develop a set Asian Indigenous Women recommendations for climate change policy-makers. The recommendations build on share experiences; best practices and lessons learned on the impacts of climate change in their communities, and the importance of establishing specific mechanisms for the effective participation of indigenous women in monitoring, data collection, evaluation and reporting on climate change actions and interventions by state and other actors in areas of Indigenous Peoples lands and territories.

In 2016, Oak launched the Climate Justice Resilience Fund - a new collaborative funding mechanism to ensure the rights of women and other most impacted by climate change remain front and center.  Oak is inspired to work with others to ensure we can grow the funds available and encourage you to reach out to the new fund director, Heather McGray to learn more.

Photo courtesy of Trocaire/Wikimedia Commons

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