If you’ve watched our video, you know we call climate change “an issue that affects every one of us.” And if you’ve been reading this blog, you know that climate change affects each of us in unique ways. Canadians are observing transformation in their forests, Brits are planning for changes in water resource availability, and New Zealanders might see impacts off their coasts.
On September 14-15, we’ll leapfrog around the globe and highlight more specific consequences of climate change in our 24 locations. But as we zoom in and further examine each of these places, there’s a broad, crosscutting piece of climate reality we have to be careful not to hop over: Climate change is expected to disproportionately affect women and girls in developing countries.
A report issued earlier this summer takes a close look the personal experiences of adolescent girls in drought- and flood-ravaged communities of Bangladesh and Ethiopia. Using anecdotal evidence from focus-group interviews, it highlights that during or following climate shocks, girls had less time to go to school and were more susceptible to sexual exploitation. They traveled farther from home to collect water and firewood, were sent away to earn wages for their families, and were married early for a “bride price.”
These findings add to an ever-growing body of literature that shows the threats of climate change are far from gender-neutral. As the United Nations explains, women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change because 1) they make up a majority of the world’s poor and 2) because their livelihoods tend to be more dependent on the natural resources that are threatened by climate change. (Did you know, for instance, that in developing countries women farmers are responsible for 45-80% of all food production?)
Yet as big players in climate-sensitive economic sectors like agriculture, women are not just victims. They are also acting as powerful agents of change. Through programs like the Women, Food, and Climate Change Training Program, Indian women are finding empowering ways to build resilience to climate change. Watch their video and see how they’re experimenting with worm composting, learning to build elevated plant nurseries for times of flooding, and exchanging seed-saving techniques.
While it’s fabulous to see women innovating on (or should I say “in”?) the ground, it’s important to have policies that back these kind of initiatives up. India acknowledges in its National Action Plan on Climate Change that “the impacts of climate change could prove particularly severe for women” and calls for special attention to be given to aspects of gender in adaptation programs. But such a mention is absent from the climate change plans and policies of many other countries. In nearby Pakistan, for example, experts are calling for the inclusion of women in climate change decision-making processes.
In the coming weeks, we’ll do our part to keep the information on local climate change impacts coming. As we blog and tweet and live-stream you content, look for examples of how women are impacted by this climate crisis and what they’re doing to solve it. Then, share what you find below.