Gender Equality, Climate Change, and Intertwined Challenge
Written by Celia Buckman
As COP21 is underway, the media is following every step of negotiations: who’s there, who said what, who wants what. But as we pick apart this parade of world leaders, it’s equally as important to consider who isn’t there. The biggest players in negotiations--President Obama, President Hollande, Prime Minister Narenda Modi, President Putin, and President Xi Jinping among them--are representing some of the world’s most populous, developed countries. The voices of countries hit the hardest by the climate change crisis are conspicuously absent, as are the perspectives of one particular group perhaps more affected than any other: women.
Although global warming affects everyone, it is women who are bearing the brunt in developing countries where the harsh realities of climate change are already being felt. Women make up most of the world’s small-scale farmers, and when sources of food become unpredictable due to soil erosion, floods, or changing weather patterns, their incomes, and abilities to feed their families, are most likely to suffer. In times of drought and famine, families are more likely to prioritize the health of their sons, furthering cycles of structural gender inequality and creating long-term malnutrition for girls.
Women and girls have the responsibility of fetching water in 89% of Sub-Saharan African households. Desertification is making water sources sparser, making walks to fetch it longer and more likely to cut in time otherwise spent at school or earning an income.
But women are not simply victims to this crisis. Take, for example, Vanastree, a grassroots group of women farmers in southwest India that organized to share adaptation strategies in the face of changing monsoons and soil erosion. Or One Million Women, a female-led Australian movement that aims for one million women to pledge to lower their carbon emissions. Despite exclusion from climate negotiations, women have been, and will continue to be, at the forefront of fighting climate change. As we move forward in implementing the SDGs and in COP21 negotiations, it has never been more important to recognize.