International Women's Day: The hidden impacts of climate change on women

Energy & Climate Change

International Women's Day: The hidden impacts of climate change on women

In honour of International Women’s Day 2019, let’s take some time to reflect on the disproportionate effect of climate change on women around the world and the action we need to take to achieve a #BalanceforBetter.

Climate change impacts the poorest in society more than any other group, despite the fact they bear the least responsibility for it. With women constituting up to 70% of the global poor they are therefore shouldered with a disproportionate share of the impacts of climate change on our day to day lives.

When communities are hit by extreme weather events such as flooding or drought and the resultant food and water shortages, it is the women in these communities who are most often left struggling to survive. Furthermore, women are more likely to be injured or killed by climate disasters, and when it comes to dealing with the aftermath, they have less money, fewer rights and resources and are more likely to be displaced.

In part, this is a result of the traditional roles and responsibilities imposed upon women by society. Rural women are responsible for producing half of the world’s food, this figure rises to as much as 80% in developing countries and as women are often restricted to domestic roles, they usually bear responsibility for collecting water, providing food and raising children. These tasks are all made more difficult and time-consuming by poor sanitation and resource shortages caused by climate catastrophes.

Globally, environmental activists are leading the fight against climate change and pressuring governments to act quickly to stay within the 2-degree limit of the Paris Agreement. They are met almost universally with appalling violence and brutality, the perpetrators of which rarely face consequences. Take Berta Cáceres as an example. Three years ago, in March 2016, Berta was found shot dead in her home. A leading environmental activist and campaigner for women’s rights, Berta was found to have been killed by a group of hitmen, hired by executives of a company whose dam building she had protested. The numbers of individuals killed for their actions is staggering, in 2017 a record-breaking 201 environmental defenders were killed globally, with a large proportion of those being indigenous activists and women.

Women are powerful agents of change and play an important role in influencing society. In rural and developing areas, women’s extensive knowledge of their surrounding environments and local farming practices will be key moving forwards, especially when it comes to adapting and surviving to our new and changing climate. We must forge a more gender balanced world to end all forms of discrimination against women, this is crucial to accelerate sustainable development. By empowering women and improving access to education and healthcare for women and girls around the world and affording women equal rights to economic resources we can make a huge difference on the fight for climate justice and the urgent, collective action we need to take to limit global mean temperatures.

Let's all help create a #BalanceforBetter.

Written by Olivia McLaughlin, 08/03/2019

Images courtesy of Environmental Photographer of the Year and Photographers (Main: Antonio Aragón Renuncio; Header: Thu Huynh)

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