Why is climate change a feminist issue?
In the Global South:
- Extreme weather events and climate and ecological breakdown have a greater impact on poorer and more vulnerable communities.
- 70% of people living below the poverty line globally are women.
- Women in the global south are more likely to be responsible for tasks such as gathering and producing food, collecting water and sourcing fuel, all of which are becoming harder due to the climate crisis.
- As women move further from the safety of their localities, they become increasingly vulnerable to sexual and physical assault; rape, murder, violence, abuse, inequality, injustice.
- Women are also at risk of violence as climate refugees, when communities are displaced due to floods, fires and droughts.
- This results in physical and mental trauma, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
- Many women around the world have restricted land rights, limited access to financial resources, education and technology, and little influence in political decision-making.
- This means the most affected demographic also has the least say in how to solve the problem.
There is a disproportionate effect of climate and ecological breakdown on women especially in the Global South but over time this impact will only spread into more developed countries. Crazily 70% of the world’s poor are women and extreme weather events and climate and ecological breakdown have a greater impact on poorer and more vulnerable communities. As a result of this women in the global south are more likely to be responsible for tasks such as gathering and producing food, collecting water and sourcing fuel. These tasks are getting harder in the current climate crisis and women can find themselves in perilous situations resulting in rape and assault. As communities are displaced due to floods, fires and droughts women are extremely vulnerable to sexual and physical assault as resulting climate refugees. Many women around the world also have restricted land rights, a lack of access to financial resources, education and technology and limited access to political decision making. This can also lead to a culture where female activists are not accepted by the wider community and can be met with hostility and aggression whilst trying to draw attention to the climate and ecological crisis we are all facing.
Despite women being disproportionately affected by climate change, they play a crucial role in climate change adaptation and mitigation. Women have the knowledge and understanding of what is needed to adapt to changing environmental conditions and to come up with practical solutions. But they are still a largely untapped resource. Restricted land rights, 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.
What I find most interesting about this outcome of climate change is the resonance with war time Britain. Women were left to fend for their families, provide food and take up work that they had never before been seen as having the ability to. It seems that in times of crisis it is more often than not women who are left to solve the problems within the home. In cultures where women have less rights these situations can escalate really quickly. Within disaster it is often women who bear the brunt and are expected to create some sort of continuity and normality for those around them. It is ingrained within society’s gender norms, if women don’t do this, then who will?
I think this is a huge issue that needs highlighting in all realms of life and does impose a responsibility on females from birth. However oddly I think this can also be celebrated as women care for and carry the world in their stride. Unleashing the knowledge and capability of women represents an important opportunity to craft effective climate change solutions for the benefit of all.
As we are currently in a time of crisis it is interesting to note the gender stereotypes that we cannot avoid. Women have maternal nature and are often our go to when we feel unrest. It is a natural reaction to go to your mother when you are in need. As disconnected as we may feel from the tribal exploitation that is happening in the global south, we do have a parallel as rates of abuse within the home will only increase during this state of isolation. I believe we need to celebrate and utilise the power women have on the world and release the Lilith within us all.