The Climate Crisis is Not Gender Neutral

timer
1 min read

Context

  • The climate crisis poses a significant threat to humanity, and its impacts are not evenly distributed.
  • Women and girls, particularly those in poverty-stricken regions, bear a disproportionate burden of the adverse effects of climate change.
  • Therefore, there is a need to analyse the gender dimensions of climate change, focusing on the heightened vulnerabilities faced by women and the imperative for integrating gender perspectives into climate action plans.

An Analysis of Disproportionate Impacts of Climate Change on Women

  • Dependent on Agriculture for their Livelihoods
    • Women in rural India are heavily reliant on agriculture for their livelihoods.
    • Climate change-induced factors such as erratic rainfall patterns, droughts, and floods can significantly reduce crop yields, affecting food security and income for these women.
    • Additionally, women often lack access to resources such as land, credit, and technology, which further exacerbates their vulnerability to climate-related risks.
  • Health Impacts on Women Due to Air Pollution
    • Women's health is particularly vulnerable to climate change-related hazards.
    • For instance, pregnant women are at higher risk of complications such as preterm birth and eclampsia during prolonged heatwaves.
    • Moreover, exposure to air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, increases the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases for women and unborn children, further compromising their health and well-being.
  • Extreme Weather Events and Gender Based Violence
    • The world is witnessing an increasing frequency of extreme weather events and climate-induced natural hazards.
    • A report from the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) in 2021 found that 75% of Indian districts are vulnerable to hydromet disasters (floods, droughts and cyclones).
    • NFHS 5 data showed that over half of women and children living in these districts were at risk.
    • Studies are increasingly showing a direct correlation between these natural disasters and gender-based violence against women.
    • Also, extreme weather events and subsequent changes in water cycle patterns severely impact access to safe drinking water, which increases the drudgery and reduces time for productive work and health care of women and girls.
  • Poor Nutritional Status and Girl Child Marriages
    • In drought-prone regions, women and girls are more likely to experience undernutrition due to food insecurity.
    • NFHS data indicates that women living in such districts are more underweight and are more likely to enter early marriages, which further perpetuates cycles of poverty and gender inequality.

Need for Expanding Role of Women in Climate Action

  • Historically Played a Significant Role in Environmental Conservation
    • Women have historically played significant roles in environmental conservation efforts
    • In many communities, women are the primary stewards of natural resources, managing land, water, and forests.
    • Their traditional knowledge and practices contribute to sustainable resource management and biodiversity conservation.
    • For example, indigenous women often possess valuable knowledge about local ecosystems and traditional farming techniques that can inform climate-resilient agricultural practices.
  • To Increase Crop Yield and Enhance Food Security
    • When provided with equal access to resources such as land, credit, and agricultural inputs, women farmers have demonstrated their ability to improve agricultural productivity and adapt to climate change.
    • Studies have shown that closing the gender gap in agriculture could increase crop yields and enhance food security.
    • Women are often more attuned to the needs of smallholder farming systems and can innovate with low-cost, environmentally sustainable farming techniques.
  • Central to Community-Based Adaptation Efforts
    • Women are central to community-based adaptation efforts, which focus on building resilience to climate change at the local level.
    • Women's groups and collectives, such as Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs), play crucial roles in mobilising communities, sharing knowledge, and implementing adaptation strategies.
    • These grassroots initiatives empower women to take collective action and advocate for their rights in decision-making processes related to natural resource management and climate resilience.
  • Women Can be Role Models and Changemakers
    • Women leaders in climate action serve as role models and inspirations for future generations of environmentalists and activists.
    • Their visibility and influence contribute to shifting gender norms and perceptions about women's roles in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and environmental leadership.
    • By showcasing the contributions of women to climate solutions, these role models empower other women and girls to pursue careers and opportunities in climate science, policy, and advocacy.

Imperatives for Action Regarding the Gender Dimensions of Climate Change

  • Immediate Response to Health Risks
    • Immediate action is needed to address the health risks faced by vulnerable populations, including pregnant women, outdoor workers, children, and the elderly, during extreme weather events such as heatwaves.
    • Local authorities should develop and implement heatwave response plans that include early warning systems, cooling centres, and adjustments to work and school schedules to protect vulnerable groups from heat-related illnesses and fatalities.
  • Enhanced Access to Safe Drinking Water
    • Climate change-induced disruptions to water sources and distribution systems exacerbate water scarcity and threaten public health.
    • Urgent measures are required to improve access to safe drinking water, particularly for women and girls who bear the primary responsibility for water collection in many communities.
    • Investments in water infrastructure, rainwater harvesting systems, and water purification technologies can help mitigate the impacts of water scarcity on vulnerable populations.
  • Urban Planning for Climate Resilience
    • Urban areas are increasingly vulnerable to climate-related hazards such as heatwaves, flooding, and air pollution.
    • Urban planning strategies that prioritise green infrastructure, such as parks, green roofs, and tree-lined streets, can help mitigate the urban heat island effect and reduce exposure to extreme temperatures.
    • Additionally, measures to improve air quality, such as reducing vehicular emissions and promoting clean energy technologies, are essential for protecting public health, particularly for women and children who are more susceptible to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Community-Based Adaptation: Working at the Village Level
    • Community-based adaptation initiatives that engage local communities, including women's groups and grassroots organisations, are critical for building resilience to climate change at the local level.
    • These initiatives should prioritise the needs and priorities of women and marginalized groups and empower them to participate in decision-making processes related to adaptation planning and implementation.
    • Investing in the capacity-building of local institutions and community leaders can enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of adaptation efforts.
  • Gender-Responsive Climate Policies
    • National and sub-national climate policies and action plans must integrate gender-responsive approaches that address the specific needs and priorities of women and girls.
    • This includes recognising women as agents of change and empowering them to participate in climate decision-making processes at all levels.
    • Gender mainstreaming in climate policies can help ensure that climate action is inclusive, equitable, and effective in addressing the underlying drivers of vulnerability and inequality.

Conclusion

  • Women and girls face disproportionate risks and vulnerabilities, requiring inclusive and gender-responsive approaches in climate adaptation and mitigation efforts.
  • Empowering women not only enhances resilience but also creates innovative solutions to address the climate crisis effectively.
  • Therefore, integrating gender perspectives into climate action plans is essential for building a sustainable and equitable future for all. 

Q) What is an inclusive climate action plan?

An inclusive climate action plan is a comprehensive strategy aimed at addressing climate change while ensuring the active participation and representation of all segments of society, including marginalised communities. Such plans prioritise equitable access to resources, decision-making processes, and benefits of climate initiatives to ensure that no group is left behind in the transition to a sustainable and resilient future.

Q) Why is it important to have an inclusive approach in climate action planning?

Inclusivity in climate action planning is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, marginalised communities often bear the brunt of climate impacts but have historically had limited access to resources and decision-making processes. By including diverse voices and perspectives, climate action plans can better address the needs and priorities of all communities, leading to more effective and equitable outcomes. Additionally, fostering inclusivity promotes social cohesion, builds resilience, and enhances the legitimacy and sustainability of climate initiatives. Ultimately, an inclusive approach is essential for achieving climate justice and ensuring a fair and just transition to a low-carbon future.


Source:The Hindu