WHY WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP IS CRUCIAL FOR CLIMATE ACTION PLAN
In the 21st century, climate change is emerging as a major threat facing the planet. According to a report published by UNWOMEN, “catastrophic storms, of increased frequency and strength, are destroying lives, homes, and businesses. Severe droughts are stifling rural livelihoods. Sea level rise has put low-lying areas and island nations at risk”. It is estimated that between 2030 till 2050, 250,000 citizens will die per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrehea, and heat stress, as a result of climate change.
While the world is adapting several climate action mechanisms, it is crucial to recognize the complex relationship between women’s socio-economic vulnerabilities and climate change. In the fight towards protecting our nature, women leaders are coming at the forefront by implementing and demanding radical policies on emissions to advocating for the most vulnerable populations to climate change. From Anne Hidalgo, Paris mayor who tackled pollution in her first term, Carolina Schmidt, Chile’s Minister of Environment working for renewable and free energy to the famous Caroline Lucas, drafting a greener policy and reducing fossil fuel consumption, these women are setting up an example for encouraging more lead on climate action for tomorrow.
However, women are still underrepresented in climate policy decision making. Globally, less than 8% of women are represented in the cabinet. Rightly stated by John Sayer, “women’s perspectives and participation in climate leadership are ends in themselves, and also addresses the needs of women, and raise awareness of the needs of children and family”. There is a need for more women to enter political spaces and act as agents of change to be part of a sustainable future. But let us first understand why women’s leadership is vital for climate change action plan:
Climate change is a women’s issue
Women are inappropriately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Women are burdened with primary responsibilities of childcare, care for the elderly, and persons with disabilities. In most developing nations, it’s women’s responsibility to produce 40-80% of the food. They plant the crops, harvest them, fetch the water, and chop the wood, which allows their families to survive. And because of climate change, when crops are failing, and water is scarce, women sometimes have to walk for days and still may not find these lifesaving resources. Also, as the main providers of food and fuel, women are incredibly vulnerable when flooding and drought occur. “The U.N. estimates 80% of those who have been displaced by climate change are women.
Further, women often have less access to education, information and lesser control over economic resources. Given the reproductive role of women and the existing knowledge gap, climate change places more burden on women. Thus, women leaders must hold key decision-making roles to create policies on WASH and reduce gender inequalities.
Climate change impacts everyone, but not equally
Men and women are affected by climate change differently due to existing cultural norms. Studies point out that in conservative societies, young girls and women are not encouraged to learn swimming, climbing trees, or other essential survival skills during natural disasters. During food shortage or crisis, women are less likely to consume supplies than other family members. Emergency warnings are often broadcast in public spaces and the internet, which are not accessible to women. Research also points out that women are more vulnerable to sexual assault in refugee and crisis. There is evidence that rape, sexual violence, and domestic violence increase during times of stress and displacement. In emergency shelters, women often face inadequate hygiene, toilet facilities, and unsafe lighting, putting them in risky situations. Post-disaster recovery plans are dominated by male planners, who prioritize work-related infrastructure rather than domestic needs, school, health, and childcare facilities. Therefore, it is important to implement gender-sensitive policies that are informed by women leaders who address the unequal experiences of women during climate-induced disasters.
Women build climate resilience in communities
Communities perform better for climate action plan if more women at the grassroots are involved in planning for resilience and capacity building programs. As stated by the United Nations, “women tend to share information about community wellbeing that is important for the resilience and more willing to adapt to environmental changes since their family lives are impacted”. Furthermore, women are the first responders when it comes to the threat to their community including natural disasters, become leaders in disaster risk reduction, and contribute to post recovery by addressing the early recovery needs of their families and strengthening community building. Women are crucial in creating a habit of sustainable practices at home and their communities and advocate for local and environmental products to use at personal levels.
As women’s political participation has been shown to result in greater responsiveness to citizen’s needs and delivering more sustainable peace, women’s leadership in politics becomes although more important for the world in their fight against climate change.