Featured Women

Climate Change Deepening Gender Inequalities: A Reality Check

How today’s most critical matter, the warming planet, and worsening environment is, linked to the long-existed issue of gender inequality? And how can women’s empowerment help combat climate change?

How Women are Disproportionately Affected by Climate Change

Climate change is not a male-female issue. On the contrary, it exacerbates already existing vulnerabilities, many of which are tied to poverty. For example, extreme weather patterns can limit access to food, water, and shelter and impede access to education and health care, especially maternity care, for those with the fewest means.

However, these consequences may be severe, particularly for disadvantaged groups, including women and girls, who account for most of the world’s poor and are heavily reliant on natural resources for survival.

Premature births, stillbirths, and low birth weight are linked to climate-related poverty, food insecurity, and air pollution, all of which severely impact mother and infant health.

Women and girls face heightened protection threats in the aftermath of catastrophes. For example, tropical storms in Latin America exposed girls to sexual exploitation and abuse, whereas cyclones in Asia-Pacific caused surges in gender-based violence.

Families unable to feed their children due to financial difficulty are more likely to take their daughters out of school and marry them. In addition, for decades, drought has harmed livelihoods and damaged social support networks in East Africa, thus increasing the possibility of harmful behaviors like child marriage.

Natural Disaster and Gender Inequality

The impact of weather and climatic events is impacted by societal institutions, much as climate change is hastened by human behavior. Disasters do not affect everyone in the same way.

For example, in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, an Oxfam assessment indicated that survivors in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and India outnumbered women by about 3:1.

While no one reason was identified, there were consistent trends throughout the region. For example, men were more likely to be able to swim, whereas women wasted valuable evacuation time caring for children and other family members.

Another research that spanned 20 years found that disasters reduced women’s life expectancy more than men.

How Can Empowering Women Help Solve Climate Change?

Empowering women is fundamental to building a sustainable future in both society and the environment. Here is how empowering women to solve climate change can help women help combat climate change:

Productive of Farms

Women make up over 43% of the global agricultural workforce. But, economic dependency presents countless hurdles.

In the low and middle-income countries, land farmed by women grows about 20-30% fewer crops than land cultivated by men. This gender gap in agricultural productivity highlights the lack of the same opportunities and resources, thus leaving them at a disadvantage.

For example, 50% of the countries globally deny property rights to women. In addition, they are often barred from leading money for agricultural tools and fertilizers.

If the productivity level of almost half of the farmers is suboptimal, then gender inequality poses an indirect threat to global food security.

According to a study, raising women’s productivity in agriculture could result in 100150 million fewer starving people globally.

The deepening of gender inequality is not just a threat to food insecurity but also a threat to the planet. By increasing the women’s productivity on land, more food can be produced on the already existing farmland, and fewer forest needs to be cleared to make more food for the skyrocketing population.

Thus, fewer emissions will be released overall.

Equal access to tools, information, land rights, and financing could help reduce gender inequality and be a step toward a more sustainable climate. For example, lack of access to sexual health education and treatments is one of the primary causes of mortality among displaced women and girls in humanitarian contexts.

Family Planning

Women are traditionally responsible for domestic labor, including tedious tasks like caring for children and the elderly, maintaining homes, preparing food, etc. This leaves women little to no time for enhancing their productivity or knowledge.

Simple solutions like sharing domestic responsibilities equally can free up the time for productivity and can help fill the gender gap in labor market participation.

According to Project Drawdown, education is one of the most powerful tools against climate change and limiting population growth. In addition, women with a higher level of education tend to have fewer and healthier children.

Children, Infant, Girl, School, Reading, Studying

Furthermore, providing family planning services, access to contraceptives, and reducing the stigma around contraceptives benefits women and the environment.

With widespread family planning, women will have fewer children, which would reduce global emissions.

Climate Leadership

Power distribution globally is unequal. As of October 2019, only 24.5% of all the country’s politicians were women. But, how can excluding 50% of the population from climate-concerning debates and decisions protect the environment?

Women’s opinions and perspectives tend to differ from men’s. Hence, policies based on both men’s and women’s views are likely to be more inclusive and sustainable.

For example, companies with women directors are more likely to report their greenhouse gas emissions, and countries with more women in politics are more likely to support climate change treaties.

With more knowledge and education, women are more likely to take the position of climate leader. Thus including women in the decision-making process will help improve the environment.