Gender Dimensions of Climate Change. The Inequality Factor.
Inequality is seen as one of the primary indicators of unsustainable environmental pressures, while reduction of inequality being equated with reduction of the environmental threats.
Countering gender inequality and fostering healthy societies and a healthy relationship between humankind and the environment requires the mainstreaming of a gender perspective.
Climate change is a global phenomenon; all people are vulnerable to its impacts. And, yet, one major demographic in particular disproportionately bears the brunt of shifting weather patterns: women.
The fact that the world’s women must suffer the consequences of a warming planet more acutely than their husbands, brothers, and fathers is made all the more ironic by the fact that women have repeatedly found themselves at the margins of the political decision making process.
And, yet, while an increasing number of stories highlight the human costs of climate change, too few recognize the inherent gender dynamic present when discussing the causes, impacts, and response to global warming.
In the strictest sense, there is an argument to be made that climate change has claimed the lives of more women than men.
A 2006 London School of Economics paper studied 4,605 natural disasters in 141 countries and found that, particularly in countries with a high level of discrimination against women - say, not being able to move freely without male escort- casualties were higher among women than among men.
With the number of weather-related natural disasters having quadrupled in the past two decades, a pattern that is only predicted to exacerbate in the future, our changing climate is set to further endanger women’s lives. But the threat climate change poses to women is hardly limited to natural disasters. Often constrained by laws and cultural norms that limit their economic opportunities, many women in developing countries depend upon agriculture.
Indeed, women produce roughly 60 per cent of the world’s food; in Africa, this number reaches nearly 80 per cent. Even within the already challenging sector of subsistence agriculture, women face additional obstacles: land ownership restrictions (women own approximately 1 per cent of the world’s land) allow very few women to gain financial control any productive land upon which they may farm.
Women around the world can expect to face even greater hurdles in achieving sufficient education, greater economic opportunities, and gender equality. This gender imbalance on the local level is mirrored on the global scale, as evidenced by the dominance of men across the international decision-making process.
Women represent over half the global population, and not only does their disempowerment prevent us from understanding the true extent to which climate change is disrupting the way of life for our most at-risk communities, it also perpetuates the antiquated narrative that women are mere victims rather than agents of change.
Given today’s double biodiversity and climate crises, and most recently a global health emergency, we cannot afford to overlook half of the wisdom, practices and innovations in support of the sustainable use of nature.
This is as much a practical consideration as a matter of social redress and equality. We need the full participation of women at all levels of policy-making and implementation.
It is time to go beyond a focus on women's vulnerabilities to the recognition of women as agents of change and active participants in caring for the environment, in restoring and recovering biodiversity, and healing our relation with nature.
Women can be the actors to ensure that integration, and help bridge the inequality gap to move toward a healthier, more inclusive, equitable and equal world, and nature.