When it comes to addressing climate change, gender matters

(Eco Business, 17 Sep 2019) Most low-income people worldwide are women, who face gender discrimination in addition to poverty. Both factors mean greater vulnerability to extreme events like droughts and floods as the climate crisis intensifies, a new report has found.

When it comes to addressing climate change, gender matters.

That’s the major takeaway from a new policy briefing published by the Centre for International Governance Innovation and the South African Institute of International Affairs. The report examines why gender equality is necessary for efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change in Africa, and how governments and other stakeholders can integrate the two. 

Most low-income people worldwide are women, and many women face gender discrimination in addition to poverty. Both factors mean greater vulnerability to extreme events like droughts and floods as the climate crisis intensifies. The report underscores the point that gender shapes how climate change affects humans — and how we respond to it.

One example is the impact of tropical cyclones and hurricanes, which scientists say will likely intensify as the world continues to heat up. When Cyclone Idai struck Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe in March, killing over 1,000 people and causing some US$2 billion worth of damage, women and girls suffered disproportionately. Nearly 75,000 pregnant women were particularly threatened, without access to clean water, sanitation or reproductive health care, the policy briefing says.

In the camps set up for people displaced by the cyclone, women and girls were at higher risk of abuse than men — even as they were saddled with a disproportionate share of the extra domestic and caregiving work created by the disaster. To handle realities like this, the report urges policymakers to take into account how programmes and policies might differentially affect women and men, a process it calls “gender mainstreaming.”

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Eco Business, 17 Sep 2019: When it comes to addressing climate change, gender matters