In an exclusive interview with Dr. Gale T C Rigobert, Dean of Academics, University of St. Martin, she is also the former Deputy Political Leader of of Saint Lucia United Workers Party, holding that position from 2013 to 2023, and the former Minister for Education, Innovation, Gender Relations, and Sustainable Development of of Saint Lucia (with responsibility for climate change).
《The Icons》team members delve into two crucial aspects of addressing the climate crisis: empowering vulnerable groups and the role of education in shaping a sustainable future. former Minister Rigobert’s insights shed light on the urgent need for inclusive climate action and the transformative potential of education as we approach COP 28.
Empowering Vulnerable Groups in the Face of Climate Change
One of the most pressing issues in the realm of climate change is the disproportionate impact it has on marginalized and vulnerable groups. former Minister Rigobert, hailing from the English-speaking Caribbean, has witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of climate change on her region, particularly through severe weather events like Hurricanes Maria and Irma and, more recently, Tropical Storm Bret.
In our conversation, she highlighted that sectors such as agriculture and tourism, which employ a significant number of women, are among the hardest-hit. “Additionally, women are actively involved in peasant farming and agro-processing, contributing significantly to their local economies. Yet, much of this economic contribution goes unaccounted for due to a lack of comprehensive data.”
However, former Minister Rigobert noted that there is hope on the horizon. International organizations and development partners are working to rectify this issue by improving data capture in the informal sector, “especially focusing on documenting and corroborating information about the role and economic impact of women in these sectors. It is a crucial step in addressing the challenges posed by climate change and ensuring that vulnerable groups are not left behind”.
former Minister Rigobert stressed that while progress has been made, there is still much work to be done to build resilience in these sectors and protect the livelihoods of those affected by climate change.
The Transformative Power of Education for Sustainable Development
As we navigate the complex landscape of sustainable development and diplomacy, former Minister Rigobert emphasized the pivotal role of education. She underscored that education is not just a sector but a driving force behind ensuring that sustainable development and the various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) become integral parts of our daily conversations and policymaking.
former Minister Rigobert pointed to a conference she participated in, co-hosted by the World Association for Sustainable Development and Queen Mary, University of London, which aimed to encourage universities to integrate sustainable development into their curricula, particularly at the tertiary level. This initiative seeks to prepare the next generation to address the world’s most pressing challenges.
Furthermore, former Minister Rigobert highlighted the United Nations General Assembly’s Transforming Education Summit, convened by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “One of the key concerns raised at the summit was the extent to which sustainable development has been integrated into the formal curriculum in schools.” This encompasses both the subject matter and the operational practices of educational institutions.
On the operational side, the focus is on embracing renewable energy and sustainable practices such as water harvesting to make schools climate-smart. “In the curriculum, the emphasis is on teaching the SDGs and infusing the spirit of sustainability into various subject areas, from hard sciences to social sciences, and even play.” former Minister Rigobert said.
former Minister Rigobert stressed that there is a significant role for education at all levels, from primary and secondary schools to post-secondary and tertiary institutions, “in integrating issues like climate change within the wider umbrella of SDGs. Education not only equips individuals with knowledge but also empowers them to become active participants in building a sustainable future.”
former Minister Gale Rigobert’s insights underscore the urgency of addressing climate change’s impact on vulnerable groups and the transformative potential of education in shaping a sustainable future. As COP 28 approaches, it is clear that inclusive climate action and education must be at the forefront of our efforts to tackle global challenges and create a more equitable and sustainable world.
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