Patience Damptey has been in public service for almost all of her life. With a background in chemistry, environmental science, and gender policy planning, Patience began her career in 1973 as a high school teacher. Thirty-eight years and multiple government and ministry positions later, Patience is officially retired, but can still be seen walking the halls of the UNFCCC as one of the top negotiators for Ghana and the Africa Group. Back home, she works tirelessly for the coalition she co-founded, Gender Action on Climate Change for Equality and Sustainability (GACCES); a coalition of individuals and organizations from all regions of Ghana who are committed to the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality in climate change responses.
Climate change has put a stress on livelihood activities in Ghana. In rural areas, extreme weather events and erratic rainfall patterns have left little crop certainty, forcing people to take on other livelihood activities to support themselves and their families. Women and children often must travel long distances to collect food and water, precious time that interferes with their education.
Patience has long understood the disastrous effects of climate change on livelihoods in her country. Through her work with the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, Patience has been involved in climate change negotiations for the past thirteen years, attending her first meeting at COP4 in 1998. She was always very focused on the human face of climate impacts, and particularly, the impact on women. When the Women Delegates Fund was launched in 2009, then-retired Patience was one of the first to be recommended to receive support. Her consistent participation and strong leadership resulted in her being nominated the coordinator on adaptation for the entire Africa Group at COP15 and, just this year, being named to the Consultative Group of Experts (CGE) to the UNFCCC. For Patience, the WDF has been instrumental in helping her achieve her goals. “The WDF has really given me confidence. I am able to better articulate the inputs that I want to see within adaptation and the rest of the negotiating text.”
Patience’s participation in the WDF reaches further than the UNFCCC. In her work with GACCES, Patience brings knowledge and resources provided through the WDF to the national level to raise awareness and help cultivate a clear understanding of the causes and impacts of climate change.
Negotiating at the UNFCCC can be both challenging and frustrating. Disappointment in
Copenhagen affected Patience’s mental and physical strength to return to the table. However, in spite of this, Patience believes that these are battles worth fighting. “The motivation for me is that after the sleepless nights and deadlocked talks we have shown we are able to get a result.Even just getting something like the Adaptation Committee is fulfilling to me. The sleepless nights haven’t come to nothing, we were able to get something for the people who are suffering and for
the developing communities.”
Patience remains driven by a passion to integrate and maintain gender in UNFCCC text and strives to see an increase in women’s participation in climate change decision-making at the conferences. Away from work, Patience spends her time gardening, playing tennis, and lately, anticipating the upcoming births of her grandchildren.