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NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women must take a greater leadership role in fighting climate change because its effects fall hardest on women, the head of UN Women said this week.
"Women are on the frontlines, bearing the brunt of climate change," said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of the United Nations agency dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.
She spoke on Monday at the start of a discussion focused on the needs of women in terms of climate policy. Her comments before an audience of women leaders and former heads of state from around the world came on the eve of the U.N. Climate Summit, which began Tuesday, and at the beginning of Climate Week NYC.
Climate change and gender equality are inextricably linked, Chile's President Michelle Bachelet said in her keynote remarks.
"This is a crucial debate because we know those who are in an unequal situation are most at risk," said Bachelet, who was the founding executive director of UN Women in 2010.
She noted that women and children are 14 times more vulnerable than men in climate change-related natural disasters, such as the floods and droughts.
Women also feel the negative effects of climate change on agriculture, a sector in which they represent 43 percent of the global workforce and 65 percent of those involved in raising livestock, Bachelet said.
To mitigate the effects of climate change on these women farmers and ranchers, programmes are under way to train women in more efficient livestock management, organic farming that reduces the carbon footprint, and hydroponic farming that uses recycled water, she said.
When it comes to climate policy, Bachelet said, more women need seats at the table.
"Female leaders should be present in the corridors of political power," she said, adding that Chile recently mandated that 40 percent of all candidates for political office must be women.
In an effort to encourage women's leadership, she said Chile will host a conference early next year in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, a landmark agreement by governments to commit to gender equality and women's empowerment.
The conference, which will include male and female leaders from around the world, will assess women's progress in the last 20 years and also address the United Nations' Post-2015 sustainable development goals which should include gender and climate change, Bachelet said.
Reporting by Lisa Anderson, Editing by Alisa Tang