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Addressing sexism in climate change

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Addressing sexism in climate change

“Climate change is sexist,” declared a US government official on Gender Day at the recently concluded COP26 summit. Can we rightly blame this startling remark on mere emotions?

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 80 percent of people displaced by climate change are women. So, there you have it.

That climate crisis is a global issue that does not care about a particular group of people is a no-brainer. Be that as it may, extreme weather events such as drought, floods, and displacement are risking lives and livelihoods and bringing disproportionate harm to women and girls.

Why climate change is an issue of gender inequality

Consider a scenario of a family experiencing an economic downturn during climate disasters. In many cases, the girl child in the family is likely to get pulled out of school to help out on the farm or someplace else. At worst, she’s married off to alleviate that economic burden.

Also in developing countries, women and girls are primary caregivers. As such, they are usually responsible for obtaining food, water, and other essential products the family needs.

In drought-prone areas, it is a common thing to see women and girls walk long distances to get water for household use. The farther they have to travel away from home increases their risk of being assaulted.

Earlier in June, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published an eye-opening report for policymakers showing that climate change worsens many forms of gender-based violence.

In terms of displacement, women are more vulnerable than men when communities face climate-related disasters. For instance, it becomes difficult for these women to move especially if they have older parents or children they are responsible for.

And since men are less likely to be in caring roles and more likely to have access to identity documents, vehicles, and vocational training, they are often able to relocate faster and more efficiently.

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, the founder of the Association of Indigenous Women and People of Chad, recalled that during the dry season in her community, men go to the towns, leaving women to look after the community. When disaster strikes, there’s no denying that women would bear the brunt while their men are away.

Having seen the impacts of extreme weather events in the rising number of girls withdrawn from school, child marriages, gender-based violence, and high casualty rates, the international community has called for the inclusion of women in climate conversations.

Mainstreaming gender in climate action

It is remarkable that although women and girls are some of the most vulnerable categories of people confronted by the adverse effects of climate change, they are so far demonstrating resilience as they struggle to reshape their lives around it.

Women are great managers with the ability to work with very little. They are also highly resourceful innovators, doing impressive work to manage, adapt and even repair environmental damage driven by the industrial revolution- an all male-led affair.

Global and national organizations at COP26 have called for more women to be involved in the decision-making process, claiming that this would help fast-track attempts to tackle the climate crisis.

For one, women have the knowledge and understanding of what is needed to adapt to changing environmental conditions and to come up with practical solutions. In Africa, women are the front line of the fight against climate change and the same is true in other parts of the globe.

Rather than being the ones cleaning the mess, women should be the ones steering the boat such that messes that brought the world to near 1.5C are avoided. Hence, shutting them out of the conversation will make for a poor policy design and failed attempt to address climate change.

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