Women and Climate Change: The Critical Role and Disproportionate Impact
Women and climate change are closely linked to each other as women are more likely to suffer from the consequences of climate disasters. This is because they make up the majority of the world’s poor (nearly 10 million women live in deep poverty) and are more dependent on depleting natural resources as compared to men.
Other climate-related areas also show this disproportionate distribution, with decision-making, opportunities, roles, and responsibilities being the main ones. In order to achieve the target of keeping global warming below 1.5°C, the world needs to acknowledge, appreciate and engage women in climate leadership. In this post, we’ve had a look at some of the stats showcasing the gender gap in climate change impact and why women need to be at the forefront. Let’s get started.
Impact of Climate Change on Women in Numbers
Here’s how women and climate change are interrelated in terms of negative impacts:
- The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) reports that women constitute 80% of the people displaced due to climate change, including extreme weather events like floods and droughts.
- Out of 130 peer-reviewed studies, 68% (89) found that females are more likely to be impacted by the health issues associated with climate change as compared to males.
- In developing countries, women make up 43% of the agricultural labour force but lack the same resources as men. Addressing this inequality could increase their average agricultural yields by 20% to 30%, resulting in a 2.5% to 4% improvement in those countries’ agricultural output. This may result in reducing world hunger by 12% to 17%. The technological access will increase sustainable farming, and poverty reduction will enable improved climate adaptation.
- Bangladeshi rural women are forced to spend up to 30% of their expenditure on protecting their households against climate change. This is double the expenditure incurred by households headed by men.
5 Reasons Why Women Need to be at the Centre of Climate Solutions
Here are 5 reasons why women need to be at the forefront of climate action:
More Stringent Climate Change Policies in the Parliament
In 2019, a study examining the relationship between gender and climate change discovered that more rigorous climate legislation is associated with a greater number of women in national parliaments, which ultimately results in reduced carbon emissions. Unfortunately, currently, women’s representation in national and global climate negotiating bodies is lower than 30%, which showcases the lost potential in essential climate-related decisions.
Potential to Reduce Poverty, Food Insecurity, and Health Issue
In most societies, specifically those in developing countries, women are responsible for gathering food, water, and fuel. In addition to this, they are the primary caregivers and take on cleaning and subsistence farming responsibilities. All these duties are affected by climate change as they depend heavily on climatic conditions. For example, extreme weather events can destroy crops and homes, making it more challenging for women to provide for their families. These challenges can lead to increased poverty, food insecurity, and health issues, particularly for women and children.
However, when women in such communities are given leadership roles related to climate change, they can play a key role in developing and implementing solutions that address these challenges. Their experience as primary caregivers and food providers gives them a unique perspective on the impacts of climate change and the needs of their communities. For instance, the Indigenous Information Network (IIN) works on conserving and managing water resources in rural communities to enable sustainable water availability for everyone and avoid water-borne diseases.
Women Prove to be Better Leaders When Met with a Crisis
In many cases of climate change effects and other similar emergencies, it was seen that women stepped up and made innovative and brave decisions. These include:
- In Bangladesh, where floods are a regular occurrence, women participated actively in developing houses having wind and flood resistance in their communities.
- In rural Sudan, a group of women established the country’s first-ever Women Farmers Union to counter famine and drought by improving food security.
- The indigenous women of Nicaragua created the Harvesting Hope Project. It trains women to improve small-scale organic farming and livestock management.
- In Puerto Rico, architect Carla Gautier and her friend Maria Gabriela Velasco partnered to build houses using shipping containers that were affected by Hurricane Maria.
- A study showed that the Covid-19 response was systematically better in countries led by women.
Women Started the Environmental Movement
It is believed that the modern environmental movement was started by women when Rachel Carson shed light on the harmful impacts of pesticides on songbirds in her book, Silent Spring, released in 1962. This led to the start of Earth Day and set the foundation for the US Environmental Protection Agency.
In addition to this, approximately 60% of women so far have won the Goldman Environmental Prize, which is considered the equivalent of the ‘Nobel Prize' in the environment.
Women Drive Economic Growth and Innovation
Providing leadership positions to women has proved to be economically beneficial for companies and countries, meaning, if provided with necessary funding opportunities, women could lead the environmental sustainability sector, resulting in lower carbon emissions and reduced climate change. Here’s why:
- A study of over 350 startups has shown that women-led ventures gained over 2 times the dollar invested in them.
- In a study conducted in the US, after two years of a woman becoming the CEO of a company, its stock prices performed 20% better than those led by male CEOs.
- Female-led startups outperformed male-founded companies by 63% in a major VC portfolio.
Based on all the stats and the steps taken by women in countering climate change discussed above, it is clear that women suffer the most when it comes to the ongoing climate crisis. This shows that they need to be at the center of policy and decision-making if the world wants to reverse the consequences of what it has done to the planet. Thus, we must start focusing on the connection between women and climate change and on empowering women to fight the current climate scenario by providing funding and leadership opportunities.
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