Climate change is a real threat to humanity, it devastates many aspects of our life including health, water safety, and even food security. Climate change kills and affects more people worldwide than terrorism yet, Donald Trump argues that leaving Paris Agreement, the agreement that the whole world has been relying on, is the right decision for The US because the funds paid for this agreement are being “raided out of America’s budget for the war against terrorism” which [to him] is more important than Climate change. The threat of Climate change manifests in the increase of extreme weather conditions and the adverse effects of these events are already felt in many areas around the world, however the impacts of climate change vary among regions, income groups, generations, and even gender.
Women constitute the majority of the world’s poor, they are more dependent on natural resources for their livelihood which is badly affected by climate change. The severe environmental hazards like droughts, uncertain rainfall and deforestation make it harder to secure those natural resources, and therefore women who are charged with the responsibility to secure water and food, face great challenges to obtain their family’s livelihood. Furthermore, women face economic, social and political barriers that limit their coping capacity, thus in order for us to respond to the environmental and humanitarian crises caused by climate change we must identify gender-sensitive strategies and make sure that gender experts are consulted in climate change processes at all levels.
In most of the developing countries, people do not have access to clean water and unfortunately, women and girls are the ones who bear the burden of fetching water for their families and spend significant amounts of time daily hauling water from distant sources. The process of fetching water is unsafe, physically demanding and time-consuming. In 2012, UNICEF estimated that women in 25 sub-Saharan countries spend 16 million hours collecting water each day. “I think there are multiple manifestations in which the gender difference in relation to climate change is noticed. In terms of its impacts, disasters on the environment are already beginning to account for this problem especially in rural and more vulnerable areas where the man is usually the economic sustenance of the families and if something happens to him after the catastrophe, the woman is alone, without help, and without possibility of getting ahead,” says Tais Gadea Lara, an environmental journalist and Climate Reality Leader from Argentina
During Hurricane Katrina, an extremely destructive storm that hit the Gulf Coast of the United States in August 2005. 80% of those left behind during evacuations were women. “Women are more vulnerable to climate related risks, especially in the rural areas of developing countries, because they usually have lesser access to education, information, and technology that would allow them to manage and cope with circumstances,” says Rabiya Shabeeh, an environmental activist from UAE. ” For example, most women in rural areas have less access to critical information on weather alerts and what to do when exposed to a climate-related risk. This affects their capacity to respond effectively to climate variability.” women also face a high risk of gender-based violence (physical, mental and emotional violence perpetrated due to the gender of the victim) at the time of the disaster and during the immediate response and years that follow. The reported cases of gender-based violence in the year following Katrina incidents were 4 times higher than they had been before the storm. “Cultural constraints on women’s mobility hurt their ability to escape in time. And for those that manage to escape, the aftermath usually involves being placed in unsafe, crowded shelters, where they face sexual harassment, mental torture, and exposure to all sorts of violence” adds Shabeeh.
Women play major roles in the development of our communities and when they are empowered, they are extremely effective agents of adaptation to climate change. “The gender difference must be worked on as a matter of cultural and conceptual change in societies. Specifically as regards climate change, it is necessary that gender equality is included in climate change mitigation and adaptation policies at the regional and local levels, not as an isolated issue but as a cross-cutting axis to all actions. This would be a way of responding to catastrophic situations by preparing women, but also by giving them tools to respond effectively. Women are one of the most vulnerable groups to climate change, but they are also proving to be protagonists in climate action. And we must not forget about it, on the contrary, we must accompany and empower It.” says Ms. Lara
Empowering women and achieving gender equality are not just important goals, they are critical components of managing climate change and guarantee the creation of a sustainable future. “As a woman and an environmental activist currently living and working in the developing world, I think that a lot of focus needs to be put on infrastructure development, increasing access to education, dismantling corrupt institutions, and giving voice to the marginalized. I’ve realized that we won’t succeed in making a positive change on any of these issues if we don’t prioritize women. They are often most connected to their communities and family and have a huge, unique potential to contribute to create real and lasting change, even on a small scale, in rural areas. By sharing the stories of such women, we can build a culture where their role in climate activism is recognized, valued, and supported.” Say Ms. Shabeeh “On a slightly more urban level, it can make it easier for women who are trying to take forth a more activist role in their communities to organize themselves into climate groups and even NGOs. Through this, perhaps, the disparity in gender representation when it comes to drafting policy and strategies to tackle the causes and impacts of climate change can also be fixed in the long run.”