A woman-focused climate agenda

(Eco Business, 27 Sep 2019) Addressing climate change effectively will be impossible without progress on gender equality, argue Alison Holder and Sivananthi Thanenthiran. Here they provide recommendations on how to progress on both goals.

From teen activist Greta Thunberg’s much-publicised transatlantic journey on a zero-emissions boat to attend the United Nations General Assembly to the proliferation of climate protests, the world is more aware than ever of the climate threat.

Yet this increased awareness has yet to translate into collective action by world leaders to mitigate climate change, let alone targeted efforts to protect the most vulnerable groups – beginning with women and girls.

The facts speak for themselves. Women are likelier than men to live in poverty, and gendered social roles that reproduce socioeconomic power imbalances leave women and girls particularly vulnerable to a wide variety of climate consequences, including reduced access to water, food, shelter, and vital services.

Not surprisingly, 80 per cent of people displaced by climate change are women. Moreover, women are more likely than men to suffer from increased workload and income loss due to climate disasters. In South Sudan – one of the world’s fastest-warming countries – droughts and flooding have forced girls and women to walk farther to gather firewood and obtain water, a time-consuming and potentially dangerous change.

As meeting households’ energy, water, and food needs becomes more difficult, girls are often taken out of school or married off at a young age. This exacerbates existing inequalities and entrenches these girls’ vulnerability.

Women are also more likely to face climate-sensitive health consequences, such as undernutrition and malaria, and to die in natural disasters, such as droughts and floods. An Oxfam report found that in India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka, surviving men outnumbered surviving women by almost three to one after the 2004 tsunami.

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Eco Business, 27 Sep 2019: A woman-focused climate agenda