“If you take away land from women in rural areas ,you take away their livelihoods: you take away the very thing that they identify with. We fight. Because we have nothing else to lose." - Melania Chiponda, land defender in Zimbabwe working with the WoMin African Gender Extractives Alliance
"Gender equity is on par with wind turbines and solar panels and forests, This does not mean women and girls are responsible for fixing everything. But we probably will.”
- Katharine Wilkinson, environmentalist and author
Gender and Climate Change
We began this project by using art and art making to mitigate the distress and denial that sometimes overwhelm us at the unthinkable losses we are experiencing in the natural world. In our discussions, we pondered how to resist what separates people from coming together to make changes? Changes that create and maintain a world we all want to live in. Why is it so hard to agree on what to do? The costs of climate change are not borne equally by all people, often affecting those with the fewest resources.
Why Climate Change Disproportionately Affects Women As we seek a world that is sustainable for all it's inhabitants, it is essential to highlight the ways that climate change burdens some people much more than others, and each of us need to understand our part in the larger effort and act.
These factors, and many more, mean that as climate change intensifies, women will struggle the most. In fact, the Paris climate agreement includes specific provisions to ensure women receive support to cope with the hazards of climate change.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals urge countries to mitigate climate change under Global Goal 14 and promote gender equality under Global Goal 5. You can join us in taking action on these issueshere.
"Across societies the impacts of climate change affect women and men differently. Women are often responsible for gathering and producing food, collecting water and sourcing fuel for heating and cooking. With climate change, these tasks are becoming more difficult. Extreme weather events such as droughts and floods have a greater impact on the poor and most vulnerable – 70% of the world’s poor are women.Despite women being disproportionately affected by climate change, they play a crucial role in climate change adaptation and mitigation. Women have the knowledge and understanding of what is needed to adapt to changing environmental conditions and to come up with practical solutions. But they are still a largely untapped resource. Restricted land rights, lack of access to financial resources, training and technology, and limited access to political decision-making spheres often prevent them from playing a full role in tackling climate change and other environmental challenges.Unleashing the knowledge and capability of women represents an important opportunity to craft effective climate change solutions for the benefit of all."
Where you live makes a difference. Great disparities remain. "The 12 percent of the world’s population that lives in North America and Western Europe accounts for 60 percent of private consumption spending, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounts for only 3.2 percent. "...."The United States, with less than 5 % of the global population, uses about a quarter of the world’s fossil fuel resources—burning up nearly 25 % of the coal, 26 % of the oil, and 27 % of the world’s natural gas."
Mothers of Invention is an initiative with a series of podcasts showcasing the work of grassroots climate activists at a local level, as well as globally resonant initiatives under way in numerous jurisdictions to force governments to adhere to the Paris agreement goals. Scientists and politicians feature alongside farmers and indigenous community leaders from Europe, the US and Australia to India, Kenya, South Africa and Peru.
"The territory is our body. It Is also the location of the natural resources and social wealth of our communities, We are the guardians of the territories, of the rivers, of the continuity of life. We understand the cycles of the moon, the spirituality of our grandmothers, the secrets of all the rituals of our communities, So when a corporation comes in and tried to distroy that social fabric and symbols of the community, the damage done is very deep. We are there to prevent this, Women defenders are making a lot of contributions and often they are not recognized."
-Ana Maria Hernandez, land defender and director of grantee partner Consortio Oaxaca, a coalition of feminist activists in Mexico
In June 2015 a new major report backed by the UN World Health Organization contends that climate change threatens to undermine half a century of progress in global health. Direct risks to health from climate change includes heat waves, floods and droughts, and equally devastating indirect risks include air pollution, spreading diseases, famines and mental ill-health.
"What’s to come for more gender-responsive climate policy?" from the Gender Policy Report of the University of Minnesota asks, how, given that the effects of climate change are, and will continue to be, disproportionately experienced by women, the administrations' stepping back from engagement on climate change politically and financially will be weakening many domestic and international institutions that work to address gender disparities in the context of climate change.
Climate change has consequences . In 2014 the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released a report that was the work of thousands of scientists stating that climate change has already increased the risk of severe heat waves and other extreme weather and warns of worse to come, including food shortages and violent conflicts. We know that that poorest people in the world are the worst affected, and that while the carbon footprint of the poorest billion people is about 3% of the world's total footprint, loss of life is expected to be 500 times greater in Africa than in the wealthy countries.
Such shortages can lead people to migrate as climate refugees, leading to further health problems, and conflicts. People forced to move, whether by food shortages, floods or extreme storms may suffer serious mental and physical health problems.
Climate Change, Gender Violence and Human Trafficking
Increasingly it seems that there's a link between a damaged environment and growth in modern-day slavery/human trafficking, Trafficking strikes all genders and ages regardless of religious affiliations, sexual orientation or country of origin. It is ethnically diverse as well as happening to all socioeconomic classes. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently carried out the biggest and most comprehensive study on the relationship of gender violence to climate change. It found gender-based violence to be pervasive, and that there is enough clear evidence to suggest that climate change is increasing gender-based violence. Gender-based violence includes domestic violence, sexual assault and rape, forced prostitution, forced marriage and child marriage, as well as other forms of the exploitation of women. The report found human trafficking rises in areas where the natural environment is under stress, and links between gender-based violence and environmental crimes such as wildlife poaching and illegal resource extraction. Globally, about 12 million more young girls are thought to have been married off after increasing natural disasters, and weather related disasters have been shown to increase sexual trafficking by 20-30 percent.
Statistics vary widely from different sources, but the Secretary General of the United Nations (July 23, 2012 report) says 20.9 million persons have been trafficked into forced labor, with 43% of those trafficked for sexual exploitation. Today it is thought to be as many as 27 million persons. It is estimated that 70 percent of trafficking victims are female.
There are economic, social, political, legal, and other factors that can lead to vulnerability to trafficking. Increases in poverty due to climate change and environmental disasters increase the likelihood that vulnerable people may be more willing to take a risk and trust someone promising a job outside of the impacted area. Some organizations view climate change and situations within the physical environment the greatest risk factor in regards to human trafficking.
"If you take away land from women in the rural areas, you take away their livelihoods; you take away the very thing they they identify with. We fight. Because we have nothing else to lose."
-Melania Chiponda, land defender in Zimbabwe, working with the WoMin African Gender Extractives Alliance
Gender Sensitive Responses to Climate Change
Women can be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men, primarily as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent for their livelihood on natural re-sources that are threatened by climate change. They face social, economic and political barriers that can limit their coping capacity. Women and men in rural areas in developing countries are especially vulnerable when they are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood.
It is also important to remember that while women are vulnerable to climate change, they are also effective agents of change in relation to both mitigation and adaptation. Many women have a strong body of knowledge and expertise that can be used for climate change mitigation, disaster reduction and adaptation strategies. Additionally, women’s responsibilities in households and communities, as stewards of natural and household resources, positions them well to contribute to livelihood strategies adapted to changing environmental realities.
Four areas have been identified as critical building blocks in response to climate change: mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and financing. The first two blocks are linked to manifestations of climate change; and the latter two are linked to the means for achieving development goals. Women's voices need to be a part of the solutions and their participation in the planning of initiatives is critical to their success.
Mitigation involves a process of curbing greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.
Adaptation involves a range of activities to reduce vulnerability and build resilience in key sectors, such as water, agriculture and human settlements.
New and improved technologies and
Financing initiatives at all levels also need to receive attention as part of collective efforts to address climate change.
UN WomenWatch is focused on gender equality and the empowerment of women. Their fact sheet on Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change shares analysis of how women are affected globally by these issues; and how they respond. It provides information sources on agriculture and food security, biodiversity, and an additional focus on indigenous women, water resources, equality and health; migration patterns due to environmental degradation; climate change and women’s human rights; energy; financing technology, mitigation, adaptation and technology; and emergency measures during natural disasters.
“Grumbling about injustices, wrongs and frustrations doesn’t make anything just or better – however, sharing matters! Paying mindful attention and converting outrage into meaningful action in order to bring about positive change really works. Do something each day to make things better for yourself and for others, because we are in fact, consciously or not, making a difference with every action, and every choice we make – one way or another. I live and work by this African Proverb – If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito. It is incumbent upon each of us – as individuals – to share more, to involve more people, and to leave a healthier world for our children.”
- Lisa Borden, Founder Borden Communications, Strategist and Catalyst, Enthusiastic Philanthropist, Inspiration Agent, and Wannabe Organic Farmer. ClimateMama – October, 2016