Women and Climate Change
Women are the most likely to suffer from climate change, but they are also the most capable of creating change and adaptation within their communities. Oxfam feels that women with agency and social power will minimize the effects of climate change.
Women are more likely to die during natural disasters than men. Over the past two decades, the number of weather-related disasters has quadrupled. A study by the London School of Economics of 141 disasters showed decisively that a higher death rate for women is directly linked to their lack of rights (when, for example, women can't leave their homes without a male escort).
In the past there was enough rain...but now things are different. The rains have disappeared... What can I do to address this thirst? I get so anxious. There aren't enough words to express the pain.' (Martina Longom, a farmer and mother in Kotido district, Uganda)
Climate change is deepening the food crisis for women and their families. Women are the majority of the world's small-scale farmers and produce most of the world's food. But climate change has made the risky business of farming all the more difficult. More frequent crop failures mean women work harder and families eat less.
Climate change leads to increased illness and disease and women are the primary caregivers for the sick. Climate change has increased both floods and droughts, contributing to outbreaks of diarrhea and cholera. It has increased the spread of malaria and dengue-carrying mosquitoes. Water-related diseases alone kill over two million people every year, most of them women and children.
Indigenous women bear a triple burden despite decades demanding international action on the environment. Drought, flooding, erratic temperatures and extinction of plants and animals weaken not just the planet but also indigenous women's identity, well-being and way of life.
Raquel Vasquez of Madre Tierra and Alianza De Mujeres Rurale in Guatemala describes the problems experienced by Mayan women in her country. Like rural and indigenous women everywhere, they face the greatest challenges in terms of human rights, livelihood and food security.
Climate change makes women's long workday even longer. When unpredictable rainfall makes food, fuel and water scarce, women have to walk longer and farther to collect them ¾ time that could have been spent studying, earning an income or working to better their communities. What's more, long remote treks often put women at a greater risk of violence.
Global warming increases the likelihood of armed conflict, including violence against women. The increasing scarcity of resources has already led to wars being fought over access to water and arable land. And with war, too often there is a surge in violence against women.
Women have the knowledge and skills to adapt to climate change and to find a sustainable path out of poverty. They need the power, tools and resources to turn this knowledge into solutions.
Women are the most likely to suffer from climate change, but they are also the most capable of creating change and adaptation within their communities. Oxfam feels that women with agency and social power will minimize the effects of climate change. Lorena Aguilar of Costa Rica’s International Union for Conservation of Nature describes the importance of women in dealing with an increasingly challenging environment.
What you can do!
- Become an Oxfam member and get connected!
- Donate to Oxfam Canada and support our partner organizations around the world. There are many ways to donate . For more information click here.
- Step up for women's rights! Check out the Climate Change section on our GROW site
- Write or visit your local Member of Parliament and let them know that women's rights and climate change are important issues for the citizens of Canada.
- Decrease your own carbon footprint reduce electricity use, bike, recycle, plant a tree in solidarity with women and men around the world working for climate justice.
What Canada should do!
Canadians and the Canadian government have an urgent role to play.
Canada should show the way forward on climate change by dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions and showing leadership at UN climate change negotiations. Canada must promote a fair and responsible global deal that:
- Significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming levels far below 2 degrees Celsius, the point at which scientists say catastrophe will result
- Prioritizes adaptation funding to help women living in poverty adapt to the impacts of climate change such as clean and accessible water and renewable energy sources, cooking fuels, re-forestation initiatives, and climate change related education
- Supports women's organization, and particularly their participation and leadership in climate change action
- Enables technology transfers that build capacities in poor countries to develop appropriate technologies, renewable energy solutions and sustainable transportation, with a focus on empowering women to adapt to climate change.