It is not enough that we discuss the issue of climate change, it is also needful that we examine the effects of climate change on individuals. Although environmental hazards such as flooding, desertification, temperature variation, weather irregularities etc. are general effects of changing climates experienced by individuals, these effects vary based on region and location and economic group. Now, importantly, the United Nations brings into light, the existing differences in the effects of climate on both genders. 

Individuals respond to problems differently, and thus, we can assume there will be some sort of gender-based response/adaptation to climate change. This becomes more likely when we consider the gender inequality in the world. The relationship between Climate change and gender inequality may seem distant but it isn't and this assumption is not unsupported. As in the case of any disaster, the most vulnerable are the most influenced. So, quite naturally, when environmental disasters arise as consequences of climate change, it affects women more, being the more vulnerable gender. Hence, there is a need to discuss the linkages between climate change and gender issues.

The difficulties experienced by women and girls in adapting to climate change stems from vulnerabilities in the form of economic, social and cultural constraints that are placed, traditionally, on the female gender. Solving this issue today is taking a step towards sustainability for tomorrow; however, it is primary that we examine, first, the prominent ways in which climate change impacts the female gender. 

It is no longer news that women represent the majority of the world’s poor, this factor makes women vulnerable victims to climate change. Women who live more under conditions of poverty directly depend on natural resources for food and energy. Due to changing Climatic conditions, there is a loss in basic natural resources such as wood, water, land, crops etc. With climate crisis and absence of women empowerment, it is difficult for women to provide for themselves and families in response to the raging climatic conditions. Indeed, “women bear the heavier brunt of the impact of climate change on livelihoods” as stated by Mohammad Abubakar, the Nigerian Minister of Environment.

Though often viewed as an environmental challenge, the impacts of climate change on the economy is a generic effect faced by both men and women, nevertheless, the economic impact of climate change on women is heavier. Women already suffer economic marginalization as a result of gender discrimination in work places, making them workers at the home fronts more than men. Sadly, even with jobs like farming, there is little regard for women’s right. 

For instance, FAO reports that about 75% of the agricultural labour force in Nigeria are women, yet customary laws prevent the female gender from being landowners. This unequal access to resources results in a loss in income, and contributes to the negative impacts of climate change on the economic status of women. As land availability and fertility conditions worsens, the economic status of women is at risk.

The health implications of Climate change on women are not trivial. In developing areas, the burden of gender-based roles further decreases the adaptive capacities of females in climate crisis. Traditional duties such as fetching of water, gathering firewood, etc. are more tasking in times of unavailable resources. In conditions of drought, food insecurity, erosion etc. women and girls undergo more physical labour in fulfilling these gender-roles, leading to increased physical stress and other health implications. 

Furthermore, climate change can be linked to the occurrence of different illnesses and diseases. For instance, the UN’s Women and climate change fact sheet opines that temperature rise is likely to increase the lifecycle of mosquitoes in spreading malaria. In the face of disease outbreak, women often spend more time taking care of the ill, this is likely one of the reasons more women die than men during outbreaks of diseases and natural disasters.

Perhaps the greatest harm done to women in the issue of gender inequality and climate crisis is the low representation of women in decision-making on matters relating to climate change. This has led to the gender-neutral climate policies and strategies often being implemented in the world.

At this point, it should be clear we need to achieve gender equality for a sustainable tomorrow. 

The big question is how?

There's only one way to go; Involving women in climate action to ensure the adoption of gender-sensitive approach to climate change. Watch out for our next blog post as we bring sustainable solutions to the table. 

Ifeoluwa Adeyemi

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