How gender inequality and climate change are linked and what you can do to help
Rising sea levels, extreme weather and increasing temperatures are just a few ways in which climate change can be visibly seen around the world. But what are the invisible effects? Overwhelmingly, these issues have the most effect on poorer, developing countries and the women who live there! This leaves these, and other marginalised groups alone in trying to navigate this climate crisis.
"Women and girls experience the greatest impacts of climate change, which amplifies existing gender inequalities and poses unique threats to their livelihoods, health, and safety." UN Women, 2022
Men and women suffer the consequences of climate change differently, especially in lower socioeconomic counties. Women undertake an important role when considering climate change. In poorer countries, these women are leaders in villages and know the land, the needs and resources on the ground whether that be through the community or family. Not to mention, women make up 50% of the population.
For example, men typically work away leaving women to cultivate their own crops to feed their families. This is often on land that has no irrigation due to record-high temperatures and lack of rainfall. These women already have an unprecedented struggle when trying to access education which barriers them from achieving goals such as work or home ownership. Similarly, they also bear being the sole carer in childcare duties and being a homemaker whilst men are away working.
This leaves women voiceless, unable to raise concerns for climate change and left to suffer the consequences with vulnerability and fear. If men and women in developing countries are not able to access the same resources, how can they be treated the same and taken seriously when campaigning for climate reform? Equal rights create equal results, and this is not something that is currently accessible for these women, even though they are the ones that feel the effects the most.
"As climate change drives conflict across the world, women and girls face increased vulnerabilities to all forms of gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence, human trafficking, child marriage, and other forms of violence."
Let's delve deeper, what is an example of this?
To put things into perspective, let us take an example of a climate initiative that resulted in a regular bus service through a village in a developing country. A great idea to save on carbon emissions, right? But did you consider whether these women feel safe using public transport? Whether these women have funds to use this service? Whether the timetable works around childcare? Without considering all these outcomes, the initiative only serves one part of the population and instantly marginalises women.
As Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and renowned climate activist says “Climate change is a man-made problem with feminist solutions.”
Women make up 50-80% of the world's food production workforce and events like extreme heat, wildfires and floods etc can all reduce crop yields. Similarly, when these events make finding supplies such as food, water and fuel more difficult, girls are often pulled from education to help support the family.
Unicef estimate that 3.3 million children, predominantly girls, in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are at risk of being removed from school due to the drought.
There is also research to suggest that climate change has adverse effects on gender-based violence. Events such as natural disasters, extortionate temperatures and crop failures can lead people to commit sexual assaults. This can be a result of a lack of housing, law enforcement and displacement.
So the big question is, how can you help?
1. Use your voice
We now live in a society where the entire world is at our fingertips, whether that be a smartphone or a laptop - let's use it for some good! Get on your social platforms, follow inspiring accounts and share these with your friends. Sharing one important link to your profile could inspire one person to make a change or learn something new. Start up conversations with friends and educate them on these issues - don't let your thoughts go unsaid!
2. Educate yourself to help educate others
Stay up to date with current affairs and updates within the climate world relating to gender. Get the dates of COP28 in your diary and research any other events you may want to take part in. Go to marches and connect with other like-minded friends.
3. Share and interact with content surrounding these issues
Fill your newsfeed with inspiring accounts that endorse change and open up a dialogue to enforce change. There are 400 million stories posted each day. On average, people spend 29 minutes a day on the platform. You may be on the app 29 minutes, 2 minutes or 2 hours, even if you see one inspiring post to interact with, this is important! Keep these important issues at the front of your mind and continue to educate yourself.
4. Research support charities and lend a helping hand
There are lots of opportunities to fundraise, volunteer and donate to charities that support actual change to the women, girls and communities that need the support and offer their voices. A few Instagram handles have been added below, get following, get tagging and get amongst it! Be part of positive change and support women who are suffering at the hands of climate disaster.