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One of the most significant challenges encountered by the world today is gender inequality and the disproportionate impacts of climate change on women. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the most vulnerable and marginalized people living in developing countries, bear the greatest brunt of climate change.

Among them, women are more vulnerable than men as the majority of the world’s poor population, consist of women. This poses threats to their life, livelihoods, health and safety, amplifying already existing gender disparities. According to UNDP, women and children are 18% more likely to die than men due to climate calamities.

Climate change impacting weather conditions

In lower- and middle-income countries, women depend on threatened natural resources, such as agriculture, which is the main resource of employment. In many parts of the world, especially those in the global south, they bear a disproportionate responsibility for acquiring food, water, and fuel. As agricultural workers and primary patrons, women struggle to secure income and resources for their families during drought and erratic rainfall, often forcing girls to leave school to help their mothers.

The long-standing impact climate change has on people’s lives, occurs when families affected by disaster choose or are forced to marry their daughters off at 16 or even younger or put their sons to work as child labourers.

This practice is very common in countries like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. For instance, there exists a positive correlation between early marriages and climate-related incidents, especially in the south-western district of Bangladesh, with an increase in child marriages right after natural disasters. This is aggravated by economic instability, mental stress, the fears of sexual harassment, and societal pressure. Similarly, rates of domestic violence and sexual abuse heightened in Uganda and Pakistan after drought and floods, respectively.

OPINION: The dire consequences of global warming

Ramifications of climate change can also be witnessed in the health sector. Research reveals that incidents of stillbirth are increasing due to extreme heat waves and posing threats to the mother’s and child’s health.

It’s also responsible for the spread of vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, and Zika virus, which have a direct link to worse maternal and neonatal consequences. The heavy drought in Kenya in 2022 is one of the many examples of women’s health being badly affected by malnutrition and dehydration.

As a result of climate change, around 158 million more women and girls will be pushed into poverty and face food insecurity by 2050, as per report launched at COP28 by UN Women. The risk of violence and unintended pregnancies will be increased. For instance, devastating floods in Pakistan in 2022 left around 650,000 pregnant women deprived of proper healthcare, resulting in giving birth under the open sky. It also left eight million women without access to basic menstrual hygiene and toilets.

OPINION: Climate change crisis: the world must do better and fast

Hence, it is urgent to fight for women against climate crisis, as it will affect women more than anything else. Already, the women displaced by the climate crisis are more than men i.e., 80%, as per World Economic Forum. Climate justice is not just environmental crisis; it’s a feminist issue too. Nothing is more important for the feminist cause today than saving this planet and each other.

They say gender equality is key to climate action. Therefore, women’s participation in spaces of power is essential to solving the climate crisis.

Research shows that countries with a larger representation of women politicians are more ambitious in passing effective climate policies. Climate change is a social injustice crisis that exacerbates already existing injustices in society.

Therefore, any discussion on climate action would be an empty talk and inefficacious without addressing the dilemma of women in climate crises.

In places like the Pacific Islands, women leaders advocate for climate policies that incorporate traditional knowledge and emphasize the protection of vulnerable communities. Their participation is crucial in crafting comprehensive solutions addressing environmental and social justice issues.

Budget 2024-25: a mixed bag for Pakistan’s climate change efforts

There is still a light at the end of tunnel for climate justice as women all around the world are voicing their rights and creating awareness.

From their mass protests against gender-based violence in France and Argentina; “Women, Life, Freedom” movement in Iran, to the large demonstrations by the Pan-African Feminist Climate Justice Movement, they have proven their potential to fight and raise their voices against injustices.

With only eight years left to deliver on the promise of the SDGs, this momentum must be harnessed in the form of increased investment, women’s leadership, greater recognition and participation in power spaces to enable social and climate issues valid and all-encompassing.

Pakistan ‘highly vulnerable’ to impacts of climate change: WB

I would like to end this article by using a quote by Greta Thunberg, a climate activist.

“The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.”

The time for change is now.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

Faiza Ihsan

The writer is a student of international relations with special focus on gender development and youth mobilisation


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KU Jul 10, 2024 04:30pm
Good read. What's missing are the numerous n painful milestones, over last 60 years, of women development projects, clean water schemes, electricity, health, etc., funds plundered n misery status quo.
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