Climate change: is it true that it impacts more on women?

Women and Climate Change

“Patriarchy = climate emergency”, patriarchy = climate emergency, the luminous writing suspended on the Dior catwalk at Paris Fashion Week, leads us to ask ourselves if the structures of male power are really responsible for the climate crisis that our planet is facing.

If it is true that this is not such a simple equation, there is no doubt that women are often the ones most affected by climate change. “The inequalities within society are exacerbated by the climate crisis,” he says Vogue Fleur Newman, gender affairs officer of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The impact on women

The effects of climate change on women vary by context, although there is a common denominator globally. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), women often find food, water and fuel, and this means that the scarcity of these resources has a direct impact on them. In the event of a drought, women walk miles to get water to drink and cook, “explains Nitya Rao, professor of Gender and Development at the University of East Anglia, who studied the impact of climate change on women in Asia and Africa. “In populations with an agricultural economy, the effect of climate change on crops causes the migration of the male population to cities or other countries to find work. Women therefore find themselves with a greater burden of responsibility ”.

Women winnowing sorghum in Lesotho

© Photography Mike Abrahams / Alamy Stock Photo

A recent IUCN study highlights that climate change causes increased violence against women all over the world, given that the largest burden to obtain already limited resources reinforces the imbalances of power present within communities and domestic environments. Trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation of women may increase as a result of an environmental disaster, because traffickers target the most vulnerable layers of society: for example, trafficking in human beings has tripled since Typhoon Haiyan of 2013.

Think about that the increase in child marriages is also linked to environmental disasters generated by climate change: families marry their daughters who are still children for economic reasons in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and South Sudan. And the increase in violence against women in the Pacific area is very worrying: after two tropical cyclones that hit Vanuatu in 2011, an organization that deals with domestic violence has shown a 300% increase in cases.

What to do immediately after a natural disaster is also a real problem for women. “When you have to decide where to seek shelter, how do you know that you will be really safe in an emergency center?” Asks Noelene Nabulivou, co-founder of Diverse Voices and Action for Equality (DIVA), a collective of lesbian, bisexual and transgender of the Fiji islands.

The birth of female networks

Women at the forefront of the fight against climate change are forced to develop strategies to deal with the growing threat of environmental disasters, such as the creation of networks of women who help each other. “In East Africa women create families with other women,” says Rao. “Or they create collectives, like savings groups, or groups for job sharing or childcare. “

In Fiji, women who take care of the family are often the first to rush to the field when a tropical cyclone occurs, sharing information and resources within their communities. “We arrived a few hours after the passage of Cyclone Winston (in 2016, editor’s note), working with our networks,” says Nabulivou. “It is one of the most interesting things we see worldwide: women simply go on“.

People gather at a local produce market in Tanna, Vanuatu

© Photography Mario Tama / Getty Images

Globally, the response of women at the forefront has led to the creation of campaigns such as The Women’s Global Call For Climate Justice, a network that includes more than 200 organizations founded in 2015. “Feminist and women’s rights organizations have been working on this for decades,” said Bridget Burns, director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), one of the organizations on the committee. campaign coordination. “We wanted stronger mobilization to bring a broader feminist analysis, which we collectively carry out, into the mainstream public space.”

The inclusion of the female point of view

Given the important challenges that climate change poses for women around the world, it is essential that their voice is heard. A 2019 UN report highlights that women are under-represented when it comes to making decisions on climate-related issues, and is an even more prevalent problem at local community level. “Often women are not in the halls of power, even if they have all the necessary skills”, Underlines Nabulivou.

A woman carries bamboo on a street in Vanuatu

© Photography Mario Tama / GettyImages

However, it is also crucial to invest in women who work to combat climate change, such as those who have innovative ideas. “We have frontline activists offering solutions, ”explains Burns. “Everyone is looking for the optimal solution to solve the climate crisis, when in reality it is a question of investing in inclusion on a larger scale.”

Mostly, deal more broadly with gender inequality it will help women most affected by climate change, as well as allowing them to be part of the solution. “Being able to achieve gender equality and empowering women worldwide and in all areas more quickly will make the policies and actions undertaken more effective, and the initiatives of individual countries more ambitious,” concludes Newman .

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