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Why the climate crisis hits girls and women hardest – and what we can do about it

Published December 15th, 2021

The consequences of the climate crisis don’t affect us all equally. Neither geographically, nor in terms of gender. We explain why that is the case and what can be done about it.

As a global community, we will all suffer from the repercussions of the climate crisis – and some of us already are now that its effects are being felt all around the world. But the climate crisis doesn’t affect us all in equal measure. People in the Global South suffer much more from the effects than those in the Global North, with females being much more severely affected than males.

There are a variety of reasons for that, such as traditional gender roles and social inequalities. In uncertain times in particular, girls and women are burdened more with more domestic tasks, already have a lower income and often work in sectors that are especially hard hit by the climate crisis, such as agriculture. But they are also exposed to bigger risks in terms of their health, including violence suffered by females fleeing from other problems.

All of that makes them more vulnerable as a group – which makes it so important to take gender into consideration in the discussion about climate justice if we want to create a good and fair future for us all.

What has a bigger impact on girls and women?

  • Education: Women and girls often have fewer educational opportunities as they usually have to look after (often ill) family members – especially in times of crisis. Instead of going to school, they are burdened with domestic chores. That in turn makes them financially dependent, and it can also exclude them from making climate-related decisions, meaning that the female perspective is severely lacking. Being tied to household responsibilities can also mean that women don’t hear weather warnings, about tsunamis for example, in sufficient time to reach safety.

  • Violence: Forced to flee from problems such as extreme weather that damages infrastructure, girls and women are exposed to a higher risk of mental, physical and sexual violence. This is because they are forced to live in confined spaces in makeshift accommodation, or to cover long distances on their own in search of water and food, during droughts, for example.

  • Reproductive health: Disrupted healthcare, caused by extreme weather conditions also poses high risks for pregnant women, who cannot find the care they need.

  • Malnutrition: In 2020, 15.7 million people were estimated to be affected by a climate-related hunger crisis. The poor are particularly hard hit by food shortages with women and girls suffering even more: due to a lack of legal equality they often don’t have the same access to resources as men do.

Improving climate justice for girls and women

The most important lever for change here is education. Maintaining and developing education opportunities for young girls and women contributes to them learning the skills and know-how required to adapt to a world affected by climate change. It also helps them to take responsibility for environmental issues in the long term, to drive forward the development of their communities, develop solutions and bring the female perspective to (climate) challenges.

So more education for girls and women will also contribute to more equality. That also has a positive knock-on effect for sustainable business practices as it is a joint task that can only be achieved collectively.

Rounding Up – how you can fight climate injustice with Tomorrow

As the first project for our new Rounding Up feature, it is therefore incredibly important to us that we are supporting an educational project that empowers women and young girls in the Global South.

To discover how you can also do your bit for more climate justice, check out our website or read more in our online Magazine.