I am one day away from flying to Paris, the city of love. I am thrilled and nervous, anticipating the best and the worst things that could happen. But I have no intention of falling in love with strangers, I'll save that for another trip.
This coming week, I have one main mission and that is to spread love and awareness through stories, in the context of gender, climate change, and human rights.
Since late November, Paris has been hosting world leaders, scientists, advocates, NGOs, and journalists from all over the world all in the name of climate change.
The two-week event, known as COP21 or the 21st Conference of the Parties, mainly consists of negotiations, lectures, exhibitions, and debates on how the world should combat climate change.
At the end of COP21, a new climate agreement is expected to be born. For that to happen, countries have to agree on how they can keep global warming under 2°C. To do this, each government must commit to reducing its carbon emissions, among other steps they could take to save the environment.
So where does gender come in? Everywhere.
Women's rights and gender equality advocates are present during the negotiations, as they are pushing for the climate agreement to be gender-fair and inclusive.
This means minority groups such as poor women, indigenous women, among many others, must be included in the fight against climate change.
If the gender gap in agriculture is closed – if women have the same opportunities as men – their yields can increase up to 30%, significantly improving a country's overall rural economy, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reported.
At the same time, increased agricultural outputs can help reduce the world's hungry by as much as 17%.
Women have a big role to play in this battle. In many parts of the world, especially in indigenous communities, it is the women who take charge of feeding families, caring for the environment, and passing on indigenous knowledge about nature.
And yet it is also the women who are badly impacted by events brought about by climate change such as lower yields due to extreme weather events and emergency situations after typhoons.
Aside from pushing for #GenderIssues to be included in the climate talks, I am also hoping world leaders will shed more light on the rights of indigenous peoples.
I learned that these indigenous farmers are often blamed for the destruction of forests, dismissing the many other factors that are really at fault – illegal logging, violations of IP rights, land grabbing, climate change, poor governance, weak agricultural support, and so on.
In Southeast Asia, the issue of kaingin or shifting cultivation is a hot one. For years, kaingin has had a negative reputation, with many people taking in myths as facts. But there is so much that we do not know about their environmental knowledge and practices.
I am hoping that more discussions on this will happen during COP21. This is not only for the sake of IPs, but for everyone.
So tomorrow, I fly to Paris and I take my advocacies with me.
I am looking forward to meeting like-minded groups, but more importantly, I am also very excited to meet those with opposing views. I want to learn their reasons for not supporting such advocacies, as much as I want them to hear the voices of women and IPs.
To those who also care about the environment, as well as human rights, I encourage you to follow the negotiations, read what NGOs have to say, look out for what world leaders are not saying, and voice out what our sisters and brothers cannot say.
Be part of COP21 online and offline. Even if you are not in Paris, you can do something – read up, debate, support petitions, and share whatever you learned with others.
Au revoir, Manila. I'll be back soon, with several stories to tell. – Rappler.com