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Gender Inequality and Climate Change

Women across the world are more likely to suffer the negative effects of climate change than men, studies have proven. Women commonly face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change in situations of poverty, and the majority of the world’s poor are women. In many parts of the world, sexist gender roles mean that women are often responsible for gathering and producing food, collecting water and sourcing fuel for heating and cooking. As climate change worsens, these tasks are becoming more difficult. Not only are women more at risk to the negative effects of climate change but there is also a lack of women in positions of power and influence on matters of climate change.

A lack of access to financial resources, training and technology, and limited access to political decision-making spheres often prevent them from playing a full role in tackling climate change and other environmental challenges. Studies also show that countries with higher levels of gender inequality likewise have a higher vulnerability to the negative effects of climate change, whilst also seeing lower levels of climate action actualised. An analysis of 130 studies into this area highlights this issue with 68% of these studies showing women to be more at risk of the negative effects of climate change.

Extreme weather proves more of a risk to women than men globally. A study that focussed on 85 low to middle income countries over the space of two decades found that women were more likely to be killed or injured by extreme weather events in nations where their socio-economic status was below men. Women in high-income countries could also be more at risk than men of dying in some extreme weather events. A selection of research papers has found that women are more likely to die than men in heatwaves in France. One study, published in 2012, found that female deaths were more likely in nine major European cities, including London, Paris and Rome. In much of the world women are more likely than men to suffer from mental health issues, food insecurity and domestic and sexual violence because of extreme weather disasters. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, research found that there was a spike in the rates of reported domestic violence and sexual assault cases towards women in the area. After severe flooding in New Zealand in 2004, research found an increase in male on female domestic violence. Similarly, in the aftermath of the 2007 Bangladesh floods research again pointed towards an increase in violence towards women as a result of the disaster. While we cannot know for sure each of these natural weather disasters were a direct result of climate change, scientific research has proven that climate change is causing an increase in natural disasters across the world.

Climate-driven food insecurity is another issue in which women are baring the worst of the burden. Studies show that in low to middle income countries, climate-driven food insecurity is having a disproportionately large effect on the health of women, with 80% of studies showing this. It is assumed that due to gender power structures in some societies that if there is a limited amount of food available then the men will get it first. Studies show that, during times of climate-driven food insecurity, women were more likely than men to forgo food in India, Iran, South Africa, Ghana, and Nicaragua. In many regions, female children are also more likely than male children to go without food a study in the Philippines found that, in the months following typhoons, female children face a greater risk of infant mortality, whereas male children do not face a heightened risk. The researchers attribute this to the preferential feeding of male children when resources are scarce.

Mental health issues as a result of climate-driven extreme weather events is also effecting women more than men across the world. Research suggests that extreme weather events can aggravate the risk of mental illness through bereavement, injury and economic losses. 70% of studies show women are more likely to suffer from climate driven mental illness. The studies show that women faced a greater risk than men of suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder following cyclones in the US, Australia and Myanmar, and following flooding in the UK and China. Studies also show that women tend to face a higher risk of depression and emotional distress following extreme weather events. Maternal and reproductive health is another factor which is affected by climate change. Climate change threatens reproductive and maternal health in two main ways. First, it can raise the health risks for expecting mothers and foetuses. Second, it can limit access to reproductive and maternal health services.

Although climate disasters effect everyone they touch negatively, the effects are much worse for women. Not only in developing countries but also in more developed nations. This reflects gendered society, in which in many aspects of life men are better off. Women need to be given more of a voice in political and scientific circles concerning climate change, not just for the benefit of women but also the benefit of every human. You cannot fight climate change unless you also fight inequality and injustice.

Bond Morgan is committed to supporting the rights for all individuals whilst combatting climate change through sustainable and ethical practices.

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