Women diplomats call for greater focus on mental health and climate action

16 November 2023
women diplomats

A high-level event on the intersection of climate change and mental health has considered how policymakers can best address the needs of vulnerable people, especially vulnerable women.

The event ‘Climate Vulnerability and Mental Health: Voices of Women’ was held this week at Marlborough House, the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters in London.

It was hosted by the Women in Diplomacy network, in partnership with the Bangladesh High Commission and the Shuchona Foundation.  Speakers said the key to greater resilience is including the perspectives of the most vulnerable, including women, when policies and decisions occur.

HE Saida Muna Tasneem, High Commissioner of Bangladesh to the UK chaired the event. The audience included government ministers, High Commissioners, Ambassadors, leaders from Commonwealth accredited organisations, as well as other diplomats and dignitaries.

Commonwealth Secretary-General the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, KC, referencing her recent trip to the Cook Islands for the Pacific Islands Forum, cited a tangled knot of crises, each of which has had an impact on mental health. She noted that women are disproportionately impacted, which has a ripple effect on society as women are often the caregivers.

The Secretary-General. called on the audience to learn from today's conversations and while there, think of three initiatives that will inspire positive change and commit to. She told the gathering:

"It's always easy to think that what we say or do does not matter. Can I say to you - it does! And if we collectively choose, we can be that difference. So, I want to thank you in advance, not just for being here and not just for listening, for what I know you will do as a result of being here".

The Secretary-General also commended the men in the audience and their show of solidarity. She said their participation was critical as the challenges outlined by the speakers require urgent action for meaningful impact.

The organisers included the voices of the young people during the event. One of the speakers was Rawan Al Faqir, the President of Young Diplomats in London and First Secretary at the Embassy of Jordan.

In her remarks, she gave some recommendations, including:

"We need to advocate for mental health support systems as part of climate adaptation and disaster response plans. Lastly, we need to highlight the importance of youth involvement in climate action and the decision-making process. These people will be the future leaders, and we need to empower them."

Other speakers addressed about impact of climate change, particularly on small states, as well as the need for an increased focus on STEM education, social protection, and nature-based solutions. Issues, including the challenges of conflict and migration, were also discussed.

The event took place the day before Commonwealth women leaders gathered to address the urgent issue of safeguarding women and children from domestic violence. Discussions will focus on the effects on the physical and mental health of women and children, and the ability to affect positive change in hard-to-reach populations across the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth Says NO MORE

An initiative bringing together the Commonwealth Secretariat and the NO MORE Foundation. It is the first-ever pan-Commonwealth platform to address domestic and sexual violence.

Commonwealth Says NO MORE

Media contact

  • Charmaine Wright  Head of Media Relations, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat

  • +44 20 7747 6242  |  E-mail