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International women day

Twenty-five years ago, the Beijing Platform for Action committed to address and remove systemic barriers that hold women back from equal participation both in public and private life. 

To mark the International Women’s Day on 8 March 2020, we asked female delegates working for the Montreal Protocol to share their insights on women’s role and contribution at national and international level to discussions and policy making 

What follows are the inspiring messages of trailblazer women underscoring the vital role women play in protecting the ozone layer.

Annie Gabriel, Assistant Director, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Australia

Women are critical to the effective implementation of the Montreal Protocol, as equal partners and voices for their countries and for the environment.  

I found it hard to identify attributes that only women bring to discussions and policy making, as I have seen amazing attributes and skills from both men and women during the time I have been involved with the Montreal Protocol. 

On balance, however, I think that women do tend to bring more inclusivity, a more accommodating approach, more sensitivity and more understanding to negotiations, but that is not always the case. Women can also be tough, focused, and persistent, and negotiate down to the last dollar or the last comma in a late-night Friday negotiation!

Women need to bring their particular strengths to negotiations and policy making – not try to be someone else. But at the end of the day, both at home and internationally, the most important message is to turn up, represent your country and work with others to protect and restore the ozone layer. 

There is nothing more important than protecting our environment for future generations. The restoration of the ozone layer is necessary to protect our fragile planet and the humans, animals and plants that inhabit it. 

Working on ozone protection and the Montreal Protocol provides a great opportunity to both protect and restore the ozone layer, building on expertise and honing skills - from negotiation and policy making at the international level - to the nitty gritty of on-ground implementation, such as regulating importers and working with technicians. 

It also provides a bridge between science and policy making – the Montreal Protocol is informed by the most amazing scientists and technical experts. Not only is the Montreal Protocol restoring the ozone layer, but it is also making a huge contribution to mitigating climate change! 

It provides the opportunity to meet amazing people committed to the Montreal Protocol and ozone protection who are happy to share their expertise and help you find your feet.  In fact, we call it the Montreal Protocol family! Fundamentally, working on implementation of the Montreal Protocol is critical to protecting our environment – for this generation, the next, and many more to come.

Azra Rogović-Grubić, Ozone Focal Point, Bosnia and Herzegovina 

Being a mother of three boys and wife to my beloved husband, all of whom have very strong personalities - I believe women have distinct advantages working in fields that involve discussions and policy making. 

From my experience, and with all due respect to our male colleagues, women’s strengths are many! They include the ability for inclusion, a strong sense of commitment, persistence, the patience and passion in their work in order to achieve goals, ensuring action is taken at the national, regional and international level. 

Women are natural consensus builders and therefore have a natural advantage when it comes to conflict and crisis management; able to resolve contentious issues during negotiations and discussions in the policy making process. A case in point is the Kigali Amendment negotiations and the vital role women played in drafting the amendment and the work behind the scenes which led to its adoption. 

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we are in the advanced stages of Kigali Amendment adoption and this is mainly due to the determination of female colleagues that have been involved in this important and complex process. I would go as far as to say that mother nature decided to give women the necessary stamina to make things happen and to create new values. 

In my regional Europe and Central Asia ozone network I have had the privilege and opportunity to work with some remarkable women, and learn from their experience, but also with some remarkable men. That collaboration provided us with a strong platform for an exchange of experiences in support of our everyday work. 

Our network is the embodiment of knowledge sharing, positive energy, respect for gender issues and for cultural diversity, and we are living proof that the ozone family is strongest when we work together, using the best of both worlds and creating equal chances for women, as well as men. 
I graduated civil engineering in class of predominantly male colleagues and that was the start of my achievements. I say this without any gender prejudice from my side and firmly believe that knowledge, hard work and professionalism will win in any situation. 

As the serving Ozone Officer for, Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the past 15 years I would highly recommend all young women should seize any possible opportunity to participate in the work of ozone layer protection, and to fight for their chance to be involved in the implementation of one of the most successful multilateral environmental treaties to date. Currently we are working with vocational schools to introduce a curriculum to train students to become refrigeration and cooling service technicians and are specifically encouraging young women to consider this very rewarding and lucrative career.

Looking back at my career, working in the capacity of Ozone Officer has been a great challenge and privilege: it has also enabled me to evolve both professionally and personally beyond my imagination, as well as gain the experience and skills that have made it possible for me to participate in other multilateral environmental agreement negotiations and policy discussions. 

Lara Haidar, Project Coordinator, National Ozone Unit, Lebanon

The role of women is pivotal in development and stability, since they bring different attributes, perspective and skills to national and international policy discussions. Women, considered agents of change, bring a different set of values and concerns to the negotiating table, they help foster dialogue among different sectors of society and bring a grassroots perspective to policymaking. In their book “Critical Mass Theory”, Marwell and Oliver stated that “women would achieve solidarity of purposes in the interest of society when represented in any decision making.”

Ozone protection is one of the greatest careers you can have. If you enjoy science and the challenge of applying new solutions nationally and internationally, then this will be definitely a satisfying career!  You are at work a long time of your life so try and make it rich and rewarding; and when that work is protecting the ozone layer, so crucial for life on earth, it doesn’t get much better. 

The new century will place a greater demand and burden on the planet. Ozone protection is one way of ensuring that humanity can continue to live in a healthy environment. It gives me great satisfaction to know that the work I am doing will not only benefit my immediate family, but also the people of my country and further afield.  The impact you can have working for the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer should not be underestimated: the benefits are literally global.   

Shontelle Wellington, National Ozone Officer, Barbados 

Based on my professional and personal experiences, women who participate in discussions and contribute to policy making do so with a distinct level of preparation, thoughtfulness and depth. 

When approaching an issue, we generally tend to put a great deal of thought into our input because we want to ensure that our contributions have impact, are heard, and are respected. 

When we speak on, or write about an issue, we typically do so with passion and often utilise a holistic viewpoint from inception. Our inclination to be more instinctively caring is often demonstrated in the way we approach discussions and policy making. We typically tend to take the time to identify and communicate the possible implications of proposed actions on others, especially the most vulnerable in our societies; and then to passionately propose, support and/or pursue solutions to problems for the benefit of our children, our families, our nations, our regions and the world as a whole. 

If you aspire to be a part of a community that challenges you to elevate your thinking past your own self-interests, to consider what is best for future generations of your country, your region and the globe; if you seek to serve in an environment that requires you to be conscientious, innovative, solutions oriented, adaptable, cooperative and persistent, then the ozone protection community is right for you. 

Any contribution in the area of ozone protection will support and develop you both personally and professionally, as well as foster an environment that continuously nurtures and reenergizes your passion and commitment to the work you do. Most importantly, ozone protection will provide you with opportunities and platforms to inspire other women. So whatever role you may consider, aspire to make your contribution meaningful and unique.

Maryam Al-Dabbagh, Legal Consultant, General Authority of Meteorology & Environmental Protection, Saudi Arabia

Good negotiators and policymakers, regardless of their gender, share similar attributes: top-notch communication, critical thinking and great research skills; creativity in reaching solutions; and the ability to ‘zoom out’, keeping in mind  the bigger picture while maintaining a focus on the immediate issues at hand. To succeed at the highest level, both men and women need to possess this diverse skills-set, and as a group, both genders tend to display complementary strengths. 

Numerous studies show that women generally tend to excel in interpersonal communication and facilitating dialogue. The arena of international affairs is often portrayed as a zero-sum game, a hotbed of conflict and competition. To counter this grim outlook, women can leverage their unique strengths for collaboration and cooperation to achieve outcomes that yield the best possible results for everyone involved. In short, I think enabling women to play a greater part in such discussions brings about a win-win situation for both people and planet.

I would highly encourage any young women considering such a role to “go for it!” One highlight of a career in this area is the unequivocally positive role one gets to play, however small, in contributing towards the implementation of an environmental agreement that is both highly effective and remarkably successful – a unique attribute, these days. 

Being surrounded by colleagues who share similar ideals relating to the environment is another plus. There’s no reason why you won’t be welcomed, your efforts appreciated, and your sense of purpose reinvigorated by your day-to-day work in this field. Overall, my advice would be to embrace opportunities that come your way, don’t second-guess your own abilities, and have confidence in your own potential.