The economic and social impact of climate change has become increasingly evident in the past few years. According to the World Economic Forum, the four biggest risks facing the world are failing to adapt to climate change, human-made environmental damage, biodiversity and ecosystem loss, and natural disasters—all related to and caused by climate change. However, climate change impacts different parts of society differently.
Globally, women, including young girls, spend two hundred million hours (equivalent to 22,800 years) every day collecting water, according to UNICEF. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 29% of the population lives more than 30 minutes away from improved drinking water sources. The burden of ensuring clean drinking water for the household falls on women and children, especially girls.
This has far-reaching consequences. The time these young girls spend collecting water takes away from the time they spend studying or playing; oftentimes, they are forced to drop out of school altogether.
According to UN-Water, higher temperatures and more extreme, less predictable weather conditions are projected to affect the availability and distribution of water and further deteriorate water quality. Thus, this problem is likely to amplify in the future if climate change is not curbed.
This is merely one way in which inherent and systematic discrimination has had a gender-differentiated impact and is evidence for the fact that climate change impact is not gender-neutral. According to the UN, entrenched gender biases in conjunction with climate change have also exacerbated impacts on women in other domains—food, health, food security, and human mobility, to name a few. Thus, it is important to work towards incorporating gender-responsive approaches to climate action.
Historically, climate finance has barely targeted the most disadvantaged socioeconomic strata who must deal with these heightened outcomes. In order to work towards mitigating the exacerbated impact of climate change on women, it is crucial that there is increased women’s participation in deciding the policies being implemented and the actions being taken to curb climate change.
As of January 1, 2019, 9 out of the 193 UN member nations had more than 50% women in ministerial positions and merely 3 out of the 193 nations had more than 50% women in Parliament. Thus, it is of great importance that governments focus on increasing the representation of women in their governing bodies.
On the positive, gender considerations have increasingly played a larger role in multilateral finance mechanisms, marking a positive change in the trajectory of women in climate action. It is important that nations continue to move in this direction.
Ensuring that both men and women’s insights—especially those of the people from more disadvantaged sections of society entering positions with the power to determine policies —are taken into consideration would lead to effective and equitable climate policy design. The consequent policy frameworks would not only lead to increased resilience of nations towards climate change and improved climate action but also to a more equitable allocation of funds in all domains.