Why Gender Equality is Crucial for Climate Action

Climate change is a global issue and its effects can be felt in every corner of the Earth; however, it is clear that these effects are felt more potently in some areas than others. Unfortunately, while industrialized countries (such as Canada and the US) contribute the most to climate change, developing countries and island nations are the ones who feel the brunt of its consequences the most. Women in particular are especially vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. This brings us to our two main questions this week: how does gender equality help tackle climate change? And why is it important to give women opportunities to participate in climate-related planning and policy development?  

Gender Roles

We’ll first look at the roles women play in society. In terms of agriculture, women make up to 45 – 80 percent of all food production in developing countries. When climate change affects the predictability and yield of crops, women face significant loses in their food sources as well as their income. In some regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, women collectively spend up to 16 million hours in a single day collecting water for their families and community. This is an incredible amount of time spent on collecting a resource that most of us in developed countries take for granted. This is an issue because it leaves little to no time for these women to get an education, earn an income, or participate in any type of decision making in their communities. And since the majority of these poorer communities are made up of mostly women, it doesn’t make much sense to keep them from being more involved. 

How Can Women Contribute?

The limitations placed on women are mostly social constructs and when climate related factors threaten their roles (such as food production) in society it makes them one of the most vulnerable and impoverished groups worldwide. Empowering women has significantly positive implications on fighting climate change. When given the chance, women are early adopters of new agricultural techniques, leaders in clean energy, and are the decision makers at home, but still, without these opportunities, women are often the last ones to eat and the last ones to be rescued after natural disasters. Their contributions in climate action are overlooked and their practical needs forgotten. They are more likely to experience poverty and have less socioeconomic power than men. Studies have shown that up to 80 percent of climate refugees around the world are women!

A statement by UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa on the issue:

“For the Paris Agreement to succeed, women and girls must be fully involved in climate policy. When we include women in climate solutions, we see enhanced economic growth and the outcomes are more sustainable.” 

Women Must Join The Fight

Women have a vital role to play in climate action and offer valuable insights in managing climate change. We can not afford to let gender inequality hinder the involvement of such an important group in climate policy and decision making. Fortunately, Canada played a leading role in helping the UN develop the Gender Action Plan. This plan aims to strengthen gender inclusive policy development and encourages participation of men and women in policy making and planning on issues such as adaption, technology, capacity building, and finance in regard to the needs of women and girls. You can also make a difference by supporting local organizations that specialize in gender equality!

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