Climate change affects women in a profoundly different way than men. Culture and tradition in many places puts the role of caring for families on women. It is women, for example, who are responsible for collecting firewood, fetching water, and growing food to feed hungry mouths. So as the impacts of climate change take grip, it is women who must be on the front lines of adapting and finding solutions: new sources of water; new ways to feed their families; new crops to grow and new ways to grow them; new ways to cook.
In my country – Uganda – women already walk up to six hours a day to fetch water. As dry seasons become longer, women will be forced to walk further still. As I told the (mainly male) leaders of the G7 on behalf of the Gender Advisory Council earlier this year – anyone who doubts the science of climate change should try debating it with women walking further each year to collect water.
Rich nations were put to shame at the climate talks for their failure to recognise the urgency to limit the impacts of climate change. While climate-vulnerable countries called for an emergency response, a handful of wealthy and largely oil exporting countries – including Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States – denied the science behind those calls for urgent action.
Climate change affects everyone, but poor people who already live in the ecological margins are hit hardest. They often rely on rain to grow crops, live in poorly built structures, and lack savings or insurance to fall back on when disaster hits.
When disaster strikes, like the hunger crisis in the Sahel right now, it is girls who are being pulled out of school to help struggling families make ends meet. It is women who go without when there is not enough food to go around. Women have fewer assets to fall back on – and they are largely absent from decision-making, compounding their vulnerability.
How vulnerable you are to start with – what your status is in our unequal society – has a huge influence on how you will be impacted by climate change. For women, already vulnerable, climate change exacerbates their existing burdens of care. [Continue reading…]