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August 30, 2021

Women and the Climate Crisis: How Gender Equality Can Help the Planet

Women across the world are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis – but they’re also uniquely capable of solving it.

The climate crisis is a collection of phenomena that naturally affects us all, as inhabitants of the planet. But the effects of climate change, especially the impact of natural disasters, leave some populations worse off than others, with women largely bearing the brunt of climate-related consequences. On the other hand, studies have shown that the inclusion of women in climate action results in higher rates of success – so let’s delve into the facts to learn more.

What do you mean, ‘women are worse affected by climate change’?

First of all, the idea that women are more negatively impacted by climate change is something not entirely intuitive. For most, it makes sense that, for instance, people living on islands or in coastal regions would be affected more acutely than those living inland due to rising sea levels, but women live all over the world in all sorts of environments (just like everyone else!). But the fact that a) climate change affects those living in poverty more intently than other socio-economic groups, and b) women make up seventy percent of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty around the world, means that women are inherently disadvantaged by anything that has a bigger impact on the poor.

This ‘bigger impact’ is due to a variety of factors, such as the fact that if a poor person’s home is destroyed in a disaster, they’re less likely to be able to rebuild or relocate. Such a person is also more likely to rely on insecure income streams, which are often the first to be disrupted when a disaster occurs, and they’re less likely to be well-educated, limiting their options for adapting to new circumstances or re-establishing themselves following a climate-related disaster. All of these factors are also more likely to be experienced by women, who make up nearly 80% of all displaced persons, making the destruction of the home and local economy all the more dire for women living in poverty.

But these negative effects on women are not the end of the story. The other side of the coin is much more positive: Women around the world are proving themselves more than capable of tackling the climate crisis, from businesswomen and politicians to teenage activists and women-led NGOs.

Women at the Forefront of Climate Activism

Across the world, the United Nations has found that higher levels of gender inequality equate to worse environmental outcomes. Conversely, gender equality correlates with more successful climate action – seen most clearly in the Paris Agreement on climate change. Put simply, when women have the opportunity to participate in decision-making around sustainable policies and action, things improve.

Whether it’s women in high-power government or business roles, women working with NGOs and charities on the ground, or women who are supported by those organisations, all women have the capacity to combat the climate crisis.

It’s really important to emphasize that women aren’t merely helpless victims when it comes to climate change … Their participation and leadership can have transformative effects in their countries and communities.
MAYESHA ALAM, AN EXPERT ON CLIMATE, WOMEN'S RIGHTS, AND CONFLICT AT YALE UNIVERSITY.

There are many ways to support women in pursuit of a sustainable world. The most obvious way is at the governmental level, by voting for women whose policies reflect a green focus. However, we’d like to focus on initiatives that are working to help women on the ground – those women living in poverty who are hit hardest by climate change.

Many such initiatives focus on education and training, giving women the skills and knowledge to help themselves and their communities. For instance, Solar Sister is a women-led African initiative that trains and supports women bringing clean energy to their locale, having reached over 1.8 million people across Africa. The Barefoot College, which is an international organisation, also trains women to be solar engineers to install and maintain clean energy sources in their communities. Both of these initiatives promote clean energy and improve the lives of local women, supporting entrepreneurs across the globe.

Other initiatives include those that implement cleaner cooking appliances to improve health outcomes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in majority countries; Charlot Magayi, a Kenyan environmental activist, does just that, having won the 2019 Waislitz Global Citizen Award grand prize for her work helping people access clean stoves in Mukuru, Kenya. It’s important to note that there are many initiatives of different sizes, from Magayi’s city-wide reach to the United Nations’ Fund of Gender Equality that stretches across the globe. Any of them – all of them – are worthy of support as they do their best to empower women against the climate crisis.

To translate that into real action, consider supporting one of the initiatives mentioned above or searching out a similar organisation in need of support. Women4Climate, Women Deliver, and advocacy organisation WEDO are all great places to start!

If you liked this article, you might like our feature about Carbon Click, a NZ start-up helping businesses and individuals easily offset their carbon emissions.


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