“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. That’s because:
Climate change appears to exacerbate pre-existing gender equity gaps. We would expect, then, that the four critical building blocks of responding to climate change (mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and financing) include a gender lens
These factors, and many more, mean that as climate change intensifies, women will struggle the most. UN Women explains: "While women and girls experience disproportionate impacts from climate change at the global level, the effects are not uniform. Looking at climate change through the lens of intersectional feminism, the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other, it is clear that climate change risks are acute for indigenous and Afro-descendent women and girls, older women, LGBTIQ+ people, women and girls with disabilities, migrant women, and those living in rural, remote, conflict and disaster-prone areas."
"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." -IUCN, International Union for the Conservation of Nature
-Gender and the Environment Resource Center The Gender and the Environment Resource Center of the IUCN houses knowledge and action platforms that are designed to fill information gaps, promote learning, inform action and share the latest news and tools from key initiatives and partnerships on topics such as:
-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.
In 2022 at COP27, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a suite of programs to advance gender-responsive climate action, including:
funding for organizations working in over 37 countries to address gender-based violence connected to climate
support to national governments to increase gender equality in their national climate commitments, and
programs that advance green jobs for women and gender-smart climate information services.
USAID announced the launch of its new Climate Gender Equity Fund, which will leverage private sector funding to scale climate finance that advances gender-equitable climate action. This new initiative will increase access to climate finance for women-led climate organizations, as well as businesses that advance gender-equitable climate solutions in the least developed countries around the world.
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.
Climate change is not only a challenge faced by refugees. It’s also a leading cause of forced displacement. “Environmental refugees" are only increasing. In 2021 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the number of people forced to leave their homes because of climate-crisis–related events over the last 11 years had reached 21.5 million. Globally, numbers are only expected to rise — and more rapidly than ever before. The Institute for Economics and Peace estimates that, by 2050, there will be 1.2 billion people displaced around the world due to climate change and related disasters. If the global population reaches 9.9 by 2050, as predicted, that will mean 12% of the world will be climate migrants.
Those who bear the least responsibility for climate change suffer its effects the most. These effects include food and water scarcity, lost livelihoods, lower education levels, and gender-based violence. Climate change perpetuates poverty in general and for women disproportionately, as women make up 70% of people living in extreme poverty.
Climate Change, Gender Violence and Human Trafficking
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