Climate change: the effect on women

Today is Gender day at COP21 in Paris. In my previous blog post I have stated that climate change affects the world’s poorest disproportionately. When taking an actual look at the world’s poorest, 70% of them are women. Climate change affects women more than men. How come?

The world’s poorest are dependent for their livelihood on natural resources. These resources are under threat by changes in climate. Climate change is to reduce crop yields and food production in some regions, particularly the tropics. Short-term effects of climate change are felt through floods, hurricanes and landslides, and long-term effects through a more gradual degradation of the environment.

In the developing world, women provide for food and collect water. With crop yields reducing and water being scarce in some regions, women are hardest hit. Additionally women are also at a disadvantage in preparing for the effects of climate change. They have less access to resources as compared to men and are more likely unable to swim. More women die than men as the direct and indirect result of natural disasters, this effect is strongest in countries with low social and economic rights for women. During the 1991 cyclone disasters in Bangladesh, of the 140,000 people who died, 90% of them were women. When the tsunami hit Sri Lanka in 2004, more boys survived, because they were taught to swim and to climb trees.

Women are most affected by climate change and in many cultures they are being left out of the decision-making process. This causes a vicious circle of not being able to make a decision on how to improve your situation and statistically having a higher chance of dying. Negative outlook to say the least.

Therefore Gender day at COP21 is an extremely important day. There have been negotiations for years on a draft document for the COP21 conference. Climate change is not a matter of only carbon emissions, quotas on emissions and finance. It is a matter of life, health, death and livelihoods. Climate change affects communities around the world, amongst them the world’s most vulnerable. Not bearing in mind the impact of climate change on human lives is ignoring the fact that we are trying to negotiate an agreement for the sake of humanity. Therefore climate change is a matter of gender equality and in a broader perspective, a human rights issue.



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Rene Perey

Rene Perey