But what exactly is the relationship between gender inequality and climate change? How does climate change affect women and girls? Does international climate policy pay enough attention to gender?
Climate change disproportionately affects women and girls, exacerbates existing gender inequalities and threatens their livelihoods, health and safety. That comes in different forms.
Climate change increases social, political and economic tensions in regions affected by conflict. At the same time, climate change is fueling more conflict, making women more vulnerable to gender-based violence, sexual violence, human trafficking and child marriage.
In disaster situations such as hurricanes and floods, women are at greater risk of being affected by unequal access to adequate information, transportation, financial resources and health care. And even after disasters, access to aid is more difficult for women and girls, making them more vulnerable to subsequent disasters.
In many places, women bear a disproportionate responsibility for food, water and fuel. They are more dependent on natural resources, but their access to them is more limited. For many women in lower-middle income countries, agriculture is the main source of employment.
But increasing drought and erratic rainfall make it increasingly difficult to generate a steady income. This, in turn, means that many girls have to miss school to help their mother.
Climate change is also dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn children. There is mounting evidence showing that extreme heat is leading to more stillbirths and that climate change is increasing the spread of things like malaria, dengue and Zika virus, which can negatively affect pregnancy and (premature) birth .
Although women and girls are generally the most affected by the consequences of climate change, the differences between them are great. This is underlined by intersectionality theory, which examines how different forms of inequality interact and exacerbate each other.
“If you are already invisible in everyday life, your needs will not be thought of in a crisis situation,” said Matcha Phorn-In, a Thai feminist human rights advocate.
It can be seen, for example, that the consequences of climate change are often even greater for additional marginalized groups: indigenous or black women, LGBTQ+ people, and women living in rural or remote areas.
“If you are already invisible in everyday life, your needs will not be thought of in a crisis situation,” said Matcha Phorn-In, a Thai feminist human rights advocate. “Humanitarian programs are often heteronormative and regularly reinforce the patriarchal fabric of society if they do not take sexual and gender diversity into account.”
Role in climate policy
Women and girls make up half of the world’s population and bear the brunt of climate change, yet are underrepresented in climate policy. For example, women occupy a minority of senior positions within UN climate departments. At the national or regional level, this proportion is much lower. This is not only unfair but also reckless, says nature conservation organization Both Ends.
Women have a crucial position in many projects and organizations that support biodiversity and climate adaptation. Women have a lot of knowledge, especially local, about biodiversity, about forestry and agriculture, soil management and water management.
In many places it is also women, mostly from indigenous communities, who are leading the resistance against fossil projects and the degradation of ecosystems. This makes them more vulnerable to intimidation and violence. Women climate and human rights activists are more likely to experience sexual violence and intimidation, research shows.
A 2019 study shows that higher representation of women in national governments leads to stronger climate policies, which translates to lower emissions.
Especially in extractive sectors, such as large-scale mining, women are at significant risk of violence. Nearly 30 percent of women climate and human rights defenders killed since the Paris climate agreement have campaigned against extractive industry projects.
This is why, say civil society organizations, it is so important that women receive support and become much more involved in politics and political decision-making.
A 2019 study shows that higher representation of women in national governments leads to stronger climate policies, which translates to lower emissions. At the local level, women’s participation in natural resource management is associated with better resource management and conservation outcomes. Female leadership is associated with greater transparency about the climate impact of companies and organizations.
Putting gender equality at the center of solutions to climate change means incorporating different gender perspectives into sustainable policies and climate programs, experts say.
Therefore, the equal participation of women in decision-making processes must be the highest priority in the fight against climate change, says UN Women, the United Nations Organization for Women’s Rights and Equality. Gender. According to the institution, a sustainable and more egalitarian future is unattainable without gender equality.
Climate solutions should also invest in gender-specific data to get an even clearer picture of the relationship between gender and climate, but also, for example, to strengthen land rights and promote women-led or women-focused sustainable solutions. women. Finally, climate solutions must take a gender-sensitive financing approach.
Mining projects that damage the environment also disrupt social structures, affecting entire communities and women in particular, says Rachel Cox, an activist with the environmental organization Global Witness. This is why we must require companies to review their social and climate impacts against much higher environmental and human rights standards. Governments should hold companies that fail to do so legally accountable.
“Gender inequality is closely related to the climate crisis,” Cox said. “And vice versa, we will not solve the climate crisis as long as gender inequality persists. Solving both requires a paradigm shift.”