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View from the Basílica del Voto Nacional in Quito's historic center.

An initiative of the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI), the Innovation Station amplifies women and girls developing creative, translatable solutions to climate-related challenges in their communities.  In addition to a virtual event series, podcast, and newsletter, the initiative boasts a growing network of women and girls implementing their solutions and sharing best practices around the world. 

South American communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis must manage the impacts of water excess and water scarcity on agriculture, balance conservation needs with sustainable development, and more.  Many of these communities are leading the way in recognizing the intersection of gender equality and the climate crisis, including through the development of Climate Gender Action Plans (cGAPs).  Following the recent release of the first-ever U.S. Strategy to Respond to the Effects of Climate Change on Women, I traveled to Quito to learn about Ecuador’s priorities as they put the finishing touches on their own cGAP, and to identify opportunities to share best practices through S/GWI’s Innovation Station network. 

In a meeting with the National Council for Gender Equality, I learned how Ecuador’s cGAP will be tied to its National Agenda for Gender Equality 2021-2025.  Like the U.S. National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, this document underscores the relevance of climate change (and climate action) in promoting gender equality.  Representatives from the National Council on Gender Equality shared their desire to better understand how to integrate Ecuadorian women into climate mitigation, improve women and girls’ safety in public transit, and empower women economically through the tourism industry.  

Dr. Aubrey Paris meets with the National Council for Gender Equality. There are six people at the table, some wearing headsets for interpretation.
Dr. Aubrey Paris meets with the National Council for Gender Equality. [State Department photo]

It’s not only imperative to have climate conversations in gender equality forums, but also to facilitate gender integration into climate-focused spaces.  With the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, I engaged in conversations about the need to build rural women’s capacity in sustainable agriculture, and I learned about programs the Ministry is implementing to do just that.  Agroforestry, soil health, and irrigation solutions were top-of-mind, given the importance of agriculture to the Ecuadorian economy. 

Action on the gender-climate nexus is occurring beyond government, as well.  In meetings with organizations like Fundación Pachamama, I listened to stories about Indigenous women in the Amazon fighting for wildlife conservation.  Fundación Pachamama shared their work empowering Indigenous women in forest monitoring, climate finance, and more.  The organization made clear the role of Indigenous women as environmental defenders and the gender-based violence (GBV) they often face as a result. The conversation illuminated opportunities for further engagement from the U.S. government. 

Relatedly, the U.S. Embassy in Quito hosted a panel discussion with local environmental organizations—World Wildlife Fund Ecuador, Charles Darwin Foundation, and Wildlife Conservation Society—to learn about their work tackling unsustainable natural resource use.  I joined the panel to reflect on how this challenge affects women and girls by increasing GBV risk and limiting economic opportunities.  My counterparts explained how social conditions such as poverty and exploitation may exacerbate wildlife trafficking and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and they illuminated the role of Ecuadorian private sector actors (such as grocery stores, chefs, tourism companies, and banks) in demanding traceability. 

 Dr. Aubrey Paris participates in a U.S. Embassy Quito-hosted panel on wildlife crimes. Five people are seated at a table. The U.S. flag, a TV screen, and a clock are in the background.
Dr. Aubrey Paris participates in a U.S. Embassy Quito-hosted panel on wildlife crimes. [State Department photo]

While in Quito, I also learned how young women entrepreneurs are facilitating climate and environmental action.  For example, the women-owned company Sula Beachwear partners with manufacturers in Ecuador to turn recycled plastic bottles into fabric, which is fashioned into swimsuits, beach towels, and other apparel.  The company has recycled 60,000 plastic bottles to-date, and as they expand to locations like Florida and the Dominican Republic, they have committed to donating 20 percent of their profits to local research and conservation efforts facilitated by the Galapagos Science Center. 

During my conversations, it was abundantly clear that young people in Ecuador are especially motivated to tackle climate and environmental challenges.  It was exciting to engage them directly during a colloquium at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, where our conversation focused on elaborating the breadth of the gender-climate nexus and introducing the U.S. Strategy to Respond to the Effects of Climate Change on Women.  

 Dr. Aubrey Paris presents a colloquium at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. She stands on stage next to five empty chairs. A backdrop is behind her.

Dr. Aubrey Paris presents a colloquium at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. [State Department photo]

While in Quito, I noticed the frequency with which tourism arose in conversation, specifically as a sector that can contribute to climate change mitigation while building economic security.  Opportunities to improve the sustainability of agriculture were also identified (I learned that you can grow almost anything in Ecuador because of its myriad elevations and microclimates!).  And the clear need for meaningful participation of Indigenous women and girls underpinned all my conversations.  Upon returning to the United States, I considered these local priorities and made more than 20 introductions for Ecuadorian organizations with women and girls in our Innovation Station network who are experts in sustainable agriculture and tourism, irrigation, flood management, wildlife conservation, and Indigenous women’s engagement.  We are eager to facilitate the sharing of best practices between those working to empower women in these spaces—a true exercise in diplomacy at the nexus of gender equality and climate change. 

Thank you for having me, Ecuador! 

About the Author: Aubrey R. Paris, Ph.D., is the Senior Policy Advisor for Gender, Climate Change, and Innovation in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI), where she leads the Innovation Station initiative.  Dr. Paris received her Ph.D. in Chemistry and Materials Science from Princeton University and B.S. in Chemistry and Biology from Ursinus College. 

U.S. Department of State

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