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Interwoven SDGs: Connecting Gender & Climate Action

By Brynn Hopper

Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.

Image 1: JPC Brynn Hopper

Last week, I presented my final report on gender management to my UNDP Indonesia team and an expert from UN Women. When I finally shut my laptop that evening, I had one of those moments where I couldn’t help but think to myself, how did I get here? Did I just do that? This used to be something I dreamt of as a teenager. I hope in the following blog entry you’ll learn a bit more about my background and my role as a JPC at the United Nations Development Programme in Indonesia.

I received my undergraduate degree in Political Studies from Queen’s University in 2021. This coming fall, I will begin my law degree at the University of Ottawa. In the two years between degrees, I’ve been fortunate enough to explore my interests by interning with the Canadian Centre for The Responsibility to Protect, The NATO Association of Canada, The United States Embassy, and The Office of Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Through these experiences, I developed a keen interest in human rights, diplomacy, and international law.

As the principal international organ that stands to uphold these principles, working for the United Nations felt like the right next step in my career. My consultancy placement with UNDP Indonesia was an unexpected but pleasant surprise. When I applied to the program and went through the various interview stages, I emphasized my passion for gender equality. Overcoming gendered adversity in my own life has taught me that justice and fair treatment, especially for women, is not always a given.

Image 2: SDG 13 Climate Action and SDG 5 Gender Equality

The day I opened the email with my ToR, however, I remember feeling slightly confused at first. How had I been assigned to work in the Environmental Pollution Unit? Typically, when we think of the fight for women’s rights, the first thing that comes to mind is defending existing fundamental rights that are under attack. Whether that be the right to a life free from violence, the right to make decisions about one’s own body, the right to be educated or the right to fair and equal wage, I could go on (seriously, this is my favourite topic).

My role however, would be to assess and report on the current state of gender parity in Indonesia’s Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (RAC) sector and provide gender sensitive recommendations that would shift the male dominated field. Under the Kigali Amendment, effective as of January 2019, nations committed to phasing down hydrofluorocarbons; a compound prevalent in the RAC Industry and destroying the ozone layer. As part of stage three of this process, the consideration of gender equality analysis was recommended.

After doing some research of my own, I realized that my position demonstrates how interwoven the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are. If women are not put in positions to contribute to climate action activities, how can we call it sustainable or reflective of the population it intends to protect? The idea that the climate crisis is gender neutral is misguided. Through an intersectional feminist lens, we know there is a disproportionate risk increase for marginalized groups. Overlooking the professional spaces that women do not take up, and just assuming disinterest is dangerous as it allows for the continuation of inequalities and harmful gendered stereotypes deemed “too subtle” to address.

The opportunity to apply my perspective on feminism coupled with my newfound interest in how SDGs overlap was an absolute privilege. Thanks to UNAC, I have gained invaluable exposure to the UN system, expertise working in cross-cultural environments, and a new bfound confidence in my abilities to lead a major project. In addition, the remote nature of this opportunity allows for work-life balance and prioritizing what matters to you. This is something that we as hustling 20- somethings neglect in a fast paced world of never ending updated Linkedin statuses.

My biggest takeaway from this experience is how inspired I feel to return to issues such as this one from a legal standpoint later in my career. If you’ve made it this far, I encourage you to apply for this life changing opportunity!


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