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Women and Climate Change: Exploring the Disproportionate Impact of the Climate Crisis


Women and Climate Change: Exploring the Disproportionate Impact of the Climate Crisis

Women are among the most vulnerable groups affected by the climate change crisis. In many ways, they’re on the frontline, experiencing the impacts disproportionately. 


It’s true that climate change serves as a threat multiplier for women. The climate crisis exacerbates existing gender inequalities, making them more susceptible to its adverse effects. Women, particularly in developing nations, face heightened risks due to their roles in agriculture, limited access to resources, and increased vulnerability to climate-related disasters. 


In this article, we will discuss the many challenges women face in the wake of climate change and shed light on their resilience and unwavering strength as formidable catalysts for positive transformation.


The Challenges Women Face as a Result of Climate Change 


Agricultural Challenges

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women constitute approximately 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries. Despite this, they face significant discrimination in land and livestock ownership, equal pay, and access to credit and financial services. A study by the FAO revealed that if they had the same access to productive resources as men, women could increase yields on their farms by 20-30%


Climate-induced changes in weather patterns, such as irregular rainfall and extreme temperatures, directly affect crop yields and food security. As females frequently manage food cultivation and domestic food stability, they encounter amplified challenges resulting from these changes.


Water Scarcity

The United Nations has reported that women and girls are responsible for water collection in 80% of households without access to water on premises. Collectively, women from Sub-Saharan Africa spend about 40 billion hours a year collecting water. 


Climate change exacerbates water scarcity, and in turn, the burden on women and girls increases, with significant implications for their health, education, and overall well-being. As droughts become more common, women and girls are forced to travel farther distances to retrieve water for their households resulting in less time allocated for education and other activities. On top of that, this water is often contaminated with heavy metals such as arsenic which can lead to a myriad of additional health issues such as skin lesions, swollen limbs, and numbness.


Health and Safety

Women and girls have higher death and injury rates due to climate disasters. For instance, during heatwaves, pregnant women are at a higher risk of complications such as preterm birth and low birth weight. 


A study in the Lancet Planetary Health journal found that climate change is likely to increase the incidence of vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, which pose significant risks to women's health, especially during pregnancy.


Women as Agents of Change

Despite being disproportionately affected, women are not just victims of the climate crisis; they are also powerful agents of change. 


Women around the world are leading initiatives to address climate change, from grassroots movements to international advocacy. Recognizing and empowering women in environmental decision-making processes is crucial for sustainable solutions. 


Below are a few ways to include women to create positive change in the face of the climate crisis.


Governmental Action

Studies show that countries with higher female representation in parliament are more likely to adopt and implement environmental policies. Women's unique perspectives and experiences can lead to more comprehensive and effective environmental governance.


In fact, A study published in the European Journal of Political Research found that female parliamentary participation in renewable energy policies was significantly positive.


Climate Resilience

Women's knowledge and leadership are critical in building climate-resilient communities. Including women in the decision-making process for urban planning ensures that infrastructure and policies consider the needs of all community members. 


A report by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme highlights the importance of gender-responsive urban planning in enhancing climate resilience and sustainable development.


Advocacy and Education

Empowering women and girls through education is essential for nurturing future climate leaders. Education equips women with the knowledge and skills to advocate for environmental sustainability. 


Highlighting female climate leaders in educational materials can inspire young women and girls to take action. The Malala Fund's report on girls' education and climate change emphasizes the potential of educated girls to lead climate solutions. It’s about ensuring women use education to drive change. 


Business

Women entrepreneurs are increasingly incorporating sustainability into their business models. A report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) found that women-led small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are more likely to adopt environmentally sustainable practices. 


Supporting women in business not only advances gender equality but also promotes environmental sustainability. When we bolster women in business, we bolster climate action. 


Female Climate Activists

There’s no question that climate change affects women, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Today, there are plenty of women who are making valuable changes at every level of the movement. If you’re looking for some inspiration, here are a few key female leaders in the fight against climate change. 


Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim

An indigenous environmental activist from Chad, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim is known for her work in advocating for indigenous peoples' rights. She specializes in traditional knowledge of climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. Ibrahim is the President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT).


Christiana Figueres

The former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Figueres played a key role in the negotiation of the Paris Agreement in 2015. Figueres is also co-author of the book “The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis” which delves into what the year 2050 will look like if we fail to meet the climate targets outlined in the Paris Agreement. 


Katharine Hayhoe

A climate scientist and professor, Katharine Hayhoe is known for her work in communicating the science of climate change and bridging the gap between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Hayhoe is the chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy. Additionally, Hayhoe is the author of “Saving Us: a Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World” which is a masterclass on science communication and an exemplary call to action in the face of climate change impact on women.  


Vanessa Nakate

A Ugandan climate activist, Nakate is known for her work in highlighting the disproportionate impact of climate change on African communities and advocating for climate justice on a global scale. Nakate is the founder of the Rise Up Climate Movement and has been a leading voice in the campaign to save Congo’s rainforest from devastating deforestation. 


Conclusion

The climate crisis is a complex challenge that touches every aspect of human life. Understanding its gendered impacts is vital for creating effective and inclusive solutions. By acknowledging and addressing the specific nuances of women and climate change, we can work towards a more equitable and resilient future where no one is left behind. It is time to amplify the voices of women and recognize their indispensable role in shaping a sustainable world for generations to come. 




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