Advancing global gender equality in the context of climate change and disaster risk reduction is one of the ‘greatest global challenges’ of the 21st century, according to UN Women.
The theme for International Women’s Day (8 March) this year was “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”.
The theme explored the ways in which women and girls are ‘leading the charge’ on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response around the world.
During the International Women’s Day official UN Observance, Secretary-General António Guterres emphasised the important role of women and girls in fighting climate change, saying, “We need more women environment ministers, business leaders and presidents and prime ministers.
“They can push countries to address the climate crisis, develop green jobs and build a more just and sustainable world. We cannot emerge from the pandemic with the clock spinning backwards on gender equality.”
UN Women says women are increasingly being recognised as ‘more vulnerable to climate change impacts than men’, saying they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent on the natural resources, which climate change threatens the most.
The accelerating crises of climate change and environmental degradation are disproportionately undermining the rights and wellbeing of women and girls
However, despite what it calls ‘increasing evidence’, it says there is still ‘hesitancy’ in making the connections between gender and climate change.
“We have seen the impact of COVID-19 in increasing inequalities, driving poverty and violence against women and girls; and rolling back their progress in employment, health and education,” said UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous.
“The accelerating crises of climate change and environmental degradation are disproportionately undermining the rights and wellbeing of women and girls.
“We have today the opportunity to put women and girls at the centre of our planning and action and to integrate gender perspectives into global and national laws and policies.
“We have the opportunity to re-think, re-frame and re-allocate resources. We have the opportunity to benefit from the leadership of women and girls environmental defenders and climate activists to guide our planet’s conservation.
“Climate change is a threat multiplier. But women, and especially young women, are solution multipliers”.
UN Woman says climate change also drives increased ‘vulnerability to gender-based violence’.
It says that, across the world, women bear a ‘disproportionate responsibility’ for securing food, water and fuel, tasks that climate change makes more time-consuming and difficult.
Scarcity of resources and the necessity of traveling further to obtain them may open women up to more violence, including increased risk factors linked to human trafficking, child marriage or access to resources to protect them from gender-based violence, it says.
Women and girls are taking climate and environment action at all levels, but their voice, agency, and participation are under-supported, under-resourced, under-valued and under-recognised
“Women and girls are taking climate and environment action at all levels, but their voice, agency, and participation are under-supported, under-resourced, under-valued and under-recognised,” it says.
Continuing to examine the opportunities, as well as the constraints, to ‘empower women and girls to have a voice’ and be ‘equal players in decision-making’ related to climate change and sustainability is essential for sustainable development and greater gender equality, UN Women says.
It says solutions must integrate a ‘gender perspective’ into climate, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes; promote and protect women environmental human rights defenders; build resilience of women and girls and their organisations; strengthen prevention, response and recovery from sexual and gender-based violence and improve; and invest in gender specific statistics and data to ‘amplify the relationship between gender and climate’.