Mar 08, 2023 • Annie Cao
Climate change, especially natural disasters, affects everyone around the world. But its impact is felt differently across different communities. In frontline communities, extreme weather events emphasize social, political, and economic issues. And unfortunately, women have to cope with the heaviest parts of the environmental burden. However, women and gender equality may also be the key to climate action and saving our planet.
When looking through an intersectional feminism lens, climate change disproportionately affects Indigenous and Afro-descendant women, as well as LGBTIQ+, disabled, migrant, and older women. Out of 1.3 billion people in poverty, women make up seventy percent of that population. Women also rely heavily on agriculture and local natural resources for food and income. Because of these factors, extreme weather events and other consequences of climate change impact women and men differently.
For low and middle-income countries, agriculture is the most important employment sector. Women make up 50 to 80 percent of global food production, yet own less than 10 percent of the land. Girls often have to leave school to help their mothers with the workload. When it comes to securing food for the household, that responsibility usually falls on women. This means that weather changes and natural disasters can impact women’s’ workloads and their chances of employment.
In frontline communities, women and girls are more vulnerable to gender-based and conflict-based violence. This shows in forms of domestic violence and human trafficking. In other situations, child marriage, which is an example of gender-based violence, is seen as a solution to securing funds and assets when recovering from natural disasters.
In some African countries, men will migrate from rural to urban areas to find employment, leaving women to take care of the home and family. Sadly, although women would then be considered the head of the household, they still lack the legal rights and social authority.
In these urban areas, women take care of 40 percent of the poorest households. Even with added pressures and responsibilities, women don't get to share the same rights as men do.
Women lack access to training, education, and learning skills to earn income. This is further emphasized by the fact that women usually take care of the most time-consuming and labor-intensive work, such as traveling long distances to gather water and firewood.
Health-wise, women are more likely to be injured in natural disasters, reducing their chances of surviving. Pregnant women are especially likely to face increased risks during a dangerous climate crisis. Although health care is essential in these situations, women lack access to these resources, which means the chances of survival are lower.
Although women struggle with gender inequality, they have also shown amazing resilience and have a vast amount of knowledge when it comes to adapting to climate change. Over the years, women have gained skills in water harvesting and management, food preservation and rationing, and natural disaster mitigation. If women are given the chance to share these skills on a larger scale, it would certainly make a global difference in how we handle climate change.
Women need access to educational resources, such as credit, training services, and technology. Adaption initiatives should identify and address gender-specific issues such as water, food security, agriculture, health, energy, disaster management, and conflict. Women’s priorities and needs should be reflected in development planning and funding. Women should also be part of policy decisions at the local and national levels. These are just some of the changes that need to be made to put women on equal footing so that we can all work together to fight against climate change and adapt where needed.