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Climate activist Aniek Moonen to give Annie Romein-Verschoor Lecture

Every year Leiden University holds the Annie Romein-Verschoor Lecture on or around International Women’s Day on 8 March. This year’s lecture will be given by Aniek Moonen, chair of the Young Climate Movement. What is the role of women’s rights in the climate crisis and which female climate activists inspire her?

Aniek Moonen is really glad that, on International Women’s Day of all days, she gets to speak about the role of women in the climate movement, particularly because the link between women’s rights and the climate crisis is not always clear. ‘With climate justice people are quick to think of justice for lower incomes and sometimes for future generations. But justice for women is often forgotten, whereas as a marginalised group they are hardest hit by climate change.’

Female shoulders bear the heaviest climate burden

To explain why that is Moonen takes the example of the recent floods in Zuid-Limburg (July 2021) and Pakistan (June-October 2022), both caused by climate change. ‘With a flood there’s a lot going on. People lose their homes, get into debt because of the cost of recovery and are traumatised by such a disaster. Those who suffer most are women. They are often the ones that clean up their homes, tend the homefront or, as in Pakistan, are taken out of school by their parents to compensate for the lost harvest. This is because women are expected to come home and take care of their families and those around them. Traditional roles are reinforced in such a crisis.’

Women in the climate movement

At times, Moonen suffers from these traditional roles, mainly because she is aware that as a young woman she is initially taken less seriously at climate negotiations. ‘If I join new negotiations where I haven’t been able to prove myself yet, I often notice prejudices. Young people, and women too, are interrupted more often, for example, and are asked for their opinion less. I’m often interrupted too. When I was starting out, I just let this happen but nowadays I’m good at standing up for myself. Such situations motivate me to show how committed I am and how much expertise I have.’

Inspiring female climate activists

Moonen is not the only articulate young woman to take a leading role in the climate movement. Women like Greta Thunberg, Luisa Neubauer and Vanessa Nakate have gone before her and are all an inspiration. ‘They are all activists who have taken the stage and can organise big climate events. They tell it like it is, without mincing words and that keeps me on my toes as chair of the Young Climate Movement. We deliberately choose to talk to politicians and policymakers instead of holding protests. I think that this is an effective method but you have to make sure you don’t blithely go along with everything. That’s why it’s good to keep on listening to activists and to have a kick up the backside every now and then. That something is difficult politically doesn’t make it impossible.’

Aniek Moonen is giving the main lecture at this year’s Annie Romein-Verschoor Lecture. In her lecture, ‘The role of women in the climate movement’, she will talk about the overlap between the women’s movement and the climate movement. As every year, a speaker will reflect on the main lecture in a short presentation. This year it will be Fatimazhra Belhirch.

Text: Sabine Waasdorp

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