Climate change is something that affects us all. However, most at risk are low-income earners in the least developed countries and the majority of poor worldwide are women.
Women in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change as they are more dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood. These groups also lack the resources needed to handle climate risks which makes them more vulnerable as they won’t have sustained income or are at environmental and health risk.
In fact women and girls are less likely to be educated and less likely to have the same opportunities than boys and men as a whole – 130 million girls are out of school. Education has great benefits – if every girl in sub-Saharan Africa was educated to a secondary level it could help save the lives of 1.2 million children, and it could benefit developing countries billions a year.
Women make between 30 and 80% of what men earn annually, 103 countries (out of 141) impose legal differences on the basis of gender. They are also less likely to participate in policy and decision-making processes, have an unequal access to resources due to their gender facing social, economic, poverty and political barriers. This renders them less able to influence policies, programmes and decisions that impact their lives. Due to this, policies and programming can have the unintended effect of increasing this vulnerability.
Despite this, women make up at least half the agricultural labour force (this varies by region and country), and in African countries as many as 90% of women engage in agricultural work. They play pivotal roles in natural resource management and the household and communities.
By drawing on women’s invaluable experiences, knowledge, and skills and supporting their empowerment climate change responses will be more effective. Women tend to share information related to community well-being and adapt more easily to environmental changes.
Women’s greater participation is also likely to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of climate change projects and policies. For example, women tend to be very effective at mobilising communities in the event of disasters and disaster risk management and reduction and have a clear understanding of what strategies are needed at the local level.
Walker Institute works on the ground directly with communities and those at risk. By involving women in training and empowering them, we will see a greater change worldwide. Our project PICSA focusses on small holder farmers including women. By using this approach Selina Sellas, a farmer and mother from Makoja Tanzania calculated that she could lose her maize harvest 7 out of 10 times because of insufficient rainfall. She now plants less maize and has introduced more drought resistant pearl millet.
Walker Institute director, Ros Cornforth will be talking about her experiences of being at the forefront of sustainability and environmental policy and the role of gender equality in action against climate change in the panel 'One Planet, Double Standards' on Friday March 10 at Women of the World Festival in celebration of International Women’s Day.
Check out these resources for additional information to learn more about gender and climate change and what we, as a global community are doing to reduce this gap.