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Role of Women and Girls in Climate Change

Closing the Gap – a series of Oxford University postgraduate student insights to the Skoll World Forum 2018

Gladys Ngetich, Rhodes Scholar and DPhil in Engineering Science at the Department of Engineering Science, reports on the Skoll World Forum session ‘Women and Girls: Catalysing Change in the Climate Crisis’.

 

The panel - Women and Girls: Catalysing change in the climate crisis

The panel – Women and Girls: Catalysing change in the climate crisis

Climate change is without a doubt one of this 21st century’s leading global challenges. Climate change-related disasters like serious floods, mudslides, droughts and severe heat waves continue to ripple across the world causing a staggering number of deaths and losses due to infrastructure damages. Organisations, governments and individuals have realised that there is an inevitable need to address climate change. Thus, they are working around the clock to mitigate climate change-related disasters.

Even as world leaders deliberate on how to counter climate change, it is essential for such discussions to recognise the strong link between gender equality and climate change. In fact, the recent UN Paris Agreement (1/CP.21) acknowledges the necessity for equal representation of both men and women in order to make further progress in the ongoing fight against the negative effects of climate change. Despite the clear link between gender equality and climate change, women in most parts of the world have been barely involved in addressing this grave issue.

The panel – Women and Girls: Catalysing change in the climate crisis

Why is women’s involvement essential in climate change deliberations?

There are obvious gendered impacts of climate change-related disasters, particularly where women, owing to their role as primary carers, are in charge of food, water and cooking fuel. This role and the disproportionately low socioeconomic power of women as compared to men globally, make women more vulnerable when disasters like floods, hurricanes and droughts strike. Indeed, it has been reported that women are more vulnerable than men in cases of climate change-related catastrophes.

Effects of disasters like droughts on women

Droughts affect women in many ways. Water scarcity forces women, especially those in rural areas, to walk long distances in search of water. The scarcity of vegetation and trees as a result of a drought causes women, most especially in developing countries, to spend a lot of time searching for firewood which is the primary source of cooking fuel. This particularly applies to rural women in most low-income countries. All these eat into the time women could be spending for education or starting and running a business. In addition, decreased crop production adversely affects women in rural areas who are largely depended upon for food production. According to recent statistics, women produce 60-80% of the food in most developing countries. Also, in pastoralist communities in Kenya, droughts have been reported as causing an increase in cases of early child marriages.

Women make up approximately half of the world’s population

According to research done by the Brookings Institution, women’s representation in climate change only amounts to ‘24 percent of the 173 focal points to the U.N. Forum on Forests; 12 percent of the heads of 881 national environmental sector ministries; and 4 percent of 92 national member committee chairs to the World Energy Council’. Yet, as highlighted above, women are disproportionately affected by climate change-disasters. Moreover, women constitute over 50% of the world’s population. So far, there has been good progress in terms of efforts to tackle climate change. However, this progress cannot be truly effective and cover all blind spots in addressing climate change, if women are only minimally involved in such deliberations. Efforts to address climate change will only double if women from different backgrounds are brought on board. This will largely be as a result of the value of including their lived experience and the diversity of thought they bring to the table.

Women can take control of family planning—a population-based climate change mitigation strategy

The world’s population continues to soar. The United Nation predicts that the current world’s population of 7.6 billion will shoot to 9.8 by the year 2050 with the largest growth coming from developing countries. Investing in women and girls’ empowerment and quality education will enable them to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health. Consequently, this will reduce the unsustainable population growth which accelerates climate change and its effects.

Importance of women’s participation in climate change deliberations

Owing to women’s unique lived experiences and the fact that they are disproportionately affected by climate change-related disasters, they have rich and diverse ground-based experiences, perspectives and knowledge that are essential for identifying and implementing potential sustainable solutions to address climate change. In addition, studies have shown that women play a crucial role in environmental conservation efforts.

In conclusion, climate change is no doubt the world’s greatest challenge which calls for an urgent and sustainable solution. There is a clear gender imbalance where women and girls are barely involved in efforts to address climate change. Going forward there is a dire need to bring them on board as they can be the much-needed agents who can contribute to sustainable climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

The generation that destroys the environment is not the generation that pays the price. That is the problem.

Prof. Wangari Maathai – 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Founder of the Green Belt Movement that has planted over 51 million trees in Kenya.

2 replies
  1. Ann Chepkoech
    Ann Chepkoech says:

    I totally agree with you. we need to address this challenge by first starting in our own African countries who are corrupt and have bad governance which do not have time to address the challenge. This is one of the major reason as to why the poverty rate is high in these countries. We need to achieve gender equality, we need to support women in science, those who try to address the issue of climate change and by doing so, I strongly believe that we will be one step ahead. Let’s educate and empower girls to fight for climate change.

    • Gladys C. Ngetich
      Gladys C. Ngetich says:

      Ann, thank you so much for getting time to check our blog and giving such an insightful feedback.

      Our African continent continues to face a myriad of challenges, as you have mentioned, poverty, climate change, poor governance, gender inequality are just but few examples. In the recent past, we have had quite a number of positive strides in the right direction but there is still a long way to go particularly on girls education and fight against climate change.

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