Is climate change gender neutral?
22 August 2023
by Natasha Wagiet
“If you take away land from women in the 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.” – Zimbabwean activist Melania Chiponda
Warmer temperatures, increased droughts, loss of species, severe storms, food scarcity, health risks, poverty and forced displacement of vulnerable people have been increasing and are often directly linked to climate change.
It’s also becoming increasingly apparent that the impacts of climate change are not the same for men and women. Women, particularly in the developing world and in rural areas, are more vulnerable than their male counterparts. They are more likely to live in poverty conditions, and, although they predominate the world’s food production, they own less than 10% of the world’s land. They are also more reliant on the land and natural resources for their livelihood and they have less access to resources such as land, education, and skills training compared to men. This makes them less equipped to deal effectively with the impacts of climate change and to implement essential changes to mitigate its negative effects. Women also occupy far fewer leadership roles compared to men, excluding them from decision-making or having input on strategies to minimise the devastating effects of climate change. It is ironic that those most affected are not afforded a voice nor do they occupy roles where key strategic decisions are taken.
The effects of climate change are also often felt more acutely by women due to their traditional role in society. Largely home-based (particularly in developing and rural areas) women are tasked with a larger share of the mammoth task of securing living conditions and looking after children and the elderly. During extreme weather patterns such as droughts and floods, women tend to work more to secure the household. They may have to travel further (often by foot) to access water and viable food supplies, exposing them to danger. These burdens leave little time for women to access education, and develop skills that will enable them to earn and thrive in the 21st Century.
Climate change is arguably the most pressing struggle we face in the 21st Century, Women need to be at the forefront of decision making and be a key player in all aspects related to addressing the challenges posed by climate change. The sector of society facing the most devastating effects of climate change needs to be part of any solution devised. While climate change affects each one of us, it is evident that climate change is indeed not gender neutral. Vulnerable women are disproportionately negatively affected by climate change. All interventions thus need women at its core.
“Never before in history have human beings been called on to act collectively in defence of the Earth.” – Desmond Tutu
The time is now, we are close to the clock striking midnight and thus we need to work collectively and inclusively to overcome this most pressing challenge.
Pro Bono Manager