Gender Inequality And Adaptation
by Aziza Fakher
What are the reasons behind women’s higher vulnerability and lower adaptive capacity to the climate crisis?
Women are one of the groups most affected by the climate crisis, notably in developing countries. This high level of climate vulnerability is tied to the intersection of gender with social, cultural, and economic factors that limit adaptation .
It is noted that women show higher mortality rates facing climate catastrophes. For instance, women’s mortality increased due to heatwaves, as shown in a study in India following the 2010 heat wave . Additionally, women who have to carry barrels of water for long distances due to water shortages are subjected to sexual assault and harassment . Women’s physical and mental health are impacted by water scarcity and food insecurity, which causes severe health conditions that make their lives difficult and limits their ability to adapt to these hazards . A study on mental health following the Cyclone in Myanmar outlined that the chances of women developing PTSD are 2.6 times higher than men’s chances . We also find that women in developing and poorer countries have unequal access to land, limited freedom, constraints on movement, and a reduced income production capacity to be able to take adaptive measures [1,4]. This vulnerability is notable in a study in Nepal that shows that female-headed households affected by climate change grow fewer crop types than male-headed households; in contrast, women in Mexico who have access to irrigation plant a greater diversity of crops compared to men [5,6]. In Ghana, women also have less access to important resources, such as fertilizers or insecticides, to adapt to rainfall variability .
Additionally, women and girls’ lack of access to education is intensified by poverty and gender based discrimination, as well as the obligation to travel long distances to reach education institutions which could explain why only 18% of appointed ministers are women . This lack of presence in decision-making positions also explains women’s lower adaptive capacity.
With fewer women in positions of power and decision-making, policies and strategies fail to take into account gender when tackling climate adaptation.
What are the solutions to overcome the higher impacts of the climate crisis on women?
In 2014 the UNFCCC adopted the Lima Work Program on Gender which envisioned five priority areas for gender-responsive climate action. Additionally, at COP27 the UNFCC established a ‘Gender Day’ that focuses on women’s perspectives and voices in COPs [9,10]. However, the representation of women in positions of power is still insufficient and much more still needs to be done. For instance, only 26.8 % of government ministers responsible for policies on environment and climate change are women . Therefore pushing to include women in decision-making positions is crucial to enhance women’s adaptive capacity to the climate crisis. The global gender and climate alliance (GGCA) also demands the use of gendered language in environmental policies . Moreover, there needs to be an awareness of the importance of a gendered adaptation that also studies the social and cultural implications of the climate crisis on women and raises awareness among women, and educates them about these implications . Launching mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund and the Climate Investment Fund can improve efforts to finance projects and strategies of gender-oriented adaptation in developing countries, which might not possess the necessary resources [4,9]. Another crucial element is undertaking gender studies during project design and connecting to women as stakeholders . Policies should acknowledge the vital role of women in climate adaptation and focus on mobilizing and empowering women to speak up about injustices and inequalities they face and to take up this leading role .
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