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Gender Equality, Women Human Rights and Climate Change

A Blog by Hendrica Okondo , Global Adviser WREPA

Women contribute 76 per cent of unpaid work time and 43 per cent of paid work time;

COVID-19 helped to make invisible or undervalued work more visible climate change is not

gender neutral, and women tend to have less mobility to react to climate change. 

“Decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation and CO2 emissions is

central for sustainable development.  In fact, it is essential to apply gender as a lens into the

social inclusion and development impact of economic policies, such industrial, trade

policies, blue and green economies, as well as to include care economy in the

measurement and indicators beyond GDP.

 As climate change exacerbates challenges faced in the agriculture sector, and half the

farming population are women, There is need for a gender transformative approach in

climate related policies and actions, as well as efforts to strengthen awareness and

capacity building.  This must go hand in hand with gender-responsive, climate smart and -

resilient agriculture, along with sustainable energy consumption and production, sustainable

transport systems and sustainable waste management. Women play a major role in how humans grow, harvest, process, store, transport, buy, sell, prepare and consume food; yet, they are disproportionately affected by climate vulnerability, conflict and economic slowdowns, all of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.  To transform the agrifood system, women and girls cannot be left out; rather, they must be at the centre of the solution, as well as at the table designing that solution.  More attention must be paid to women’s specific needs, building their resilience and giving them direct access to the tools and resources needed to deal with the climate crisis.

Poverty and hunger, two of the greatest challenges in the world today, disproportionately

affects poor women and girls.  It was critical to confront harmful actions and attitudes and

eradicate the poverty and scarcity that leave too many families without enough to meet their

needs.  Many women - particularly those living in rural areas and in developing countries

— rely on natural resources for their livelihoods and contribute to familial and communal

well-being through food production and ecological stewardship.  However, many encounter

barriers that men do not, such as the lack of land rights and financial resources.  Ensuring

equality in both law and practice is necessary for women to thrive.  The burden for

addressing environmental harms is too often placed on poor women and those living in

developing countries , it is critical to recognize the critical role that women play in building

community resilience to adapt to the climate crisis.  Addressing the root causes of gender

inequality and advancing the economic empowerment of women and girls are key to

achieving zero hunger.  Women and girls play an essential role in growing, preparing and

marketing food, and overseeing family nutrition.  Despite this, they remain more food-

insecure than men.  Addressing social norms and unequal power relations in the context of

food security and nutrition involves supporting each household member to examine who,

why, how much and by whom food is acquired, prepared and consumed.  WFP is making

climate risk insurance work for food insecure populations — by triggering forecast-based

anticipatory action before humanitarian crises hit. It is also taking action through the applications of risk analysis, early warning and emergency preparedness approaches.

 In 2021, the agency helped protect 2.6 million people in 18 countries with climate risk

insurance — 60 per cent of whom were women.  In addition, WFP support people to restore

natural buffer zones, rebuild infrastructure and reduce the impacts of climate hazards and

puts cash, vouchers and food in the hands of women to meet their family’s immediate food

needs while supporting ecosystem-based adaptation activities.

Governments need to provide scholarships to young women, and have polices that provide

for extended maternity leave and fixed-term paid leave.  Climate change and sea-level rise

continue to exact the highest price from women and girls, and emergency responses should

much needed supplies and relief goods to the affected communities with specific measures

to mainstream a gender dimension into policies and action plans for climate change

adaptation and biodiversity conservation; to support women’s participation and influence in

managing the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources; and to provide

education and training for women and girls in science, technology, engineering,

mathematics and sustainable energy. The impact of climate changes on women and girls manifests in gender-based violence, abuse, forced unions and trafficking, as well as reduced participation in economic activities. 

This increases income inequality between men and women.  For example in Mozambique ,

the Cyclone Idai that hit the country in 2019, affected 787,624 people, of which 53 per cent

were women. Women and girls are affected disproportionately when disaster strikes.  Women’s capability and skillsets are often under mobilized and undervalued.  To redress these imbalances, women and girls need to become empowered, problem-solving agents of change for resilience.  The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction calls for gender-responsive disaster risk reduction and the mobilization of women’s leadership in building resilience.  Governments must engage women and girls in implementing the Sendai Framework, including in developing national and local disaster-risk-reduction strategies.

We must promote the importance of building resilience by empowering women and girls,

by including them in every level and every aspect of decision-making, so they have agency

voice and visibility in climate change dialogues at national regional and global level. The

climate financing mechanisms must provide funding for women human rights defenders and

women-led organizations, as they play a key role in empowerment of women and girls and

addressing the gender discriminatory cultural and policy barriers . Education on sustainability needs to begin at home with mothers empowered to make decisions impacting themselves and the family.  Providing opportunities for girls in receiving formal education in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics will also enable more women to assume leadership roles in climate change adaption

Women also have important and valuable vision and perspective on everyday life, know

how to nourish, heal, protect and sustain in their roles as activists, experts, first responders,

drivers of positive change and role models for sustainability Climate activism should promote a a green transition, among women and men , such as encouraging them to to plant 10 trees for every newborn baby, and also for each death as used to be done in the African tradition , this would contribute to increase, , forest will cover by 2030 There is a need to use gender and climate change statistics, as well as gender-responsive climate budgeting and financing to enable evidence-based decision-making, accelerate implementation of climate commitments and demonstrate transparency and accountability. Women’s resultant lack of access to economic and educational resources affects their capability to generate mitigation and adaptation measures in response to climate change.  Hence most governments need to fund and implement policy measures to reduce violence against women and girls and ensure they have access to water, food, medical care and dignified housing.

Women have developed their own system of protecting the environment, avoiding

exploitation of resources and using sustainable services to guarantee that future generations have access to resources.  It has been noted that when there is a well-organized, accessible public childcare and favorable maternity, paternity and parental leave arrangements., women with children will have a high employment rate than those without children, stemming from.  Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that, during global crises, women and girls face disproportionate consequences, and urgent action on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls must be taken within the context of international climate action. However simply having women at the table is not enough if a nation’s resources cannot meet the multiple tasks, a chronic challenge is the use of per capita gross domestic product (GDP) as the primary measurement of wealth.   A multidimensional vulnerability index is needed, as developing countries are in urgent need of funding for gender mainstreaming. “Build back better” means listening to women. Some countries have successfully has integrated a gender approach across all strategies, promotes full involvement of women in developing such policies and programmes and has passed numerous laws in 2021 to protect women, including the introduction of measures to protect reproductive rights and support victims of gender-based violence.

The Human Rights Council has examined structural challenges, through visits, dialogue

and consultations.  The range of issues include gender and climate change, and reports

have focused on, among other things, countering rollbacks, including right-wing forces

aimed at depriving women of their liberty.  A thematic working group report on SRHR to the

Human Rights Council examines sexual and reproductive health in times of crisis, which is

underpinned by systematic discrimination women face throughout their lives.  The failure to

ensure their rights is discriminatory.  Unsafe abortions, maternal deaths and sexual violence

against women, which are preventable, are unacceptable. The report also noted that fragmented efforts within the United Nations system requires taking a holistic approach to address women’s human rights, it is noted that women’s empowerment cannot be achieved without respect for their sexual and reproductive rights, as well.  In addition, women must have proper access to United Nations fora.  For its next report, the Working Group will focus on girls’ activism, as they continue to face barriers to participation and are excluded in decision-making processes, she said. Gender-transformative climate action is key to addressing the underlying causes of vulnerability to climate change, including through gender-responsive climate finance and investments in health systems.  The main goal is to embrace digital and green transitions while creating new and better jobs and investing in people.  At the same time, the COVID pandemic demonstrated that there is room to create more flexible jobs which allow women more freedom and opportunities to reconcile private and professional life. 

Despite progress and some recovery in the labour market due to addressing pandemic-related challenges, women still make up 45 per cent of the employed and 56 per cent of the unemployed.  Stronger economic independence of women is important for sustainable economic growth. In order to adapt accordingly, priorities must include ensuring equal and effective access for women in the labour market and guaranteeing professional equality both for women and men throughout their career.As women often pay the greatest price, as with the current climate crisis, climate policies must be developed to move gender equality forward. . It has been noted that the negative social, political, economic and health effects of climate change, can only be addressed by a collective response that does not lose sight of the vulnerable populations — such as women and girls.  Women often assume primary care roles, but the physical, mental and emotional burden of such action is invisible.  In periods of crisis, these burdens are accentuated, many country reports state that women are 14 times more likely to die than men in natural disasters and that 80 per cent of those displaced during such events are women. Climate projects include a gender perspective, including efforts to reach rural women to manage knowledge and good practices in climate resilience efforts.  As for governance, women are decision makers in biosphere committees and other areas.  Nationally determined contribution provisions also include a gender approach, she said, calling on partners to support these efforts and expressing hope to move forward together.

As such, efforts must focus on these sectors, as climate change is an important part of the

twenty-first century reality.  In addition, internally displaced persons are a concern. Globally

there is a commitment for conducting national gender analysis, of the use of water

resources, as well as its many resolutions on related issues, and there is an upcoming

second International High-Level Conference on the International Decade for Action “Water

for Sustainable Development”, 2018-2028, to be held in Dushanbe.

The 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 27) to the UNFCCC will take place

in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.  COP 27 was originally expected to take place from 8-20

November 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, COP 26 was rescheduled from

November 2020 to November 2021. As a result, COP 27 will take place from 7-18

November 2022. COP27 will bring governments together to accelerate global efforts to

confront the climate crisis. It is an important meeting because the latest science shows that

climate change is moving much faster than we are, and is pushing ecosystems and

communities to their limits. Momentum is building, yet the commitment and action gap is still significant. Nations are working together to tackle climate action, with public and private sector, civil society and development partners through significant dialogue and partnerships.

COP 21 took place in Paris in 2015, with the birth of the Paris Agreement. Nations pledging

to reduce emissions, adapting to the impacts of a changing climate and committing to

financing the climate change road ahead. Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed

to bring forward national plans setting out how much they would reduce their emissions with

policies to navigate climate change.

Egypt’s road to the 27th UN Climate action of the Parties in 2022, on behalf of Africa, will

feature innovative solutions that will help close the gap this decade. The predecessors in

COP 22, the last summit held in Africa, in Marrakech, Morocco taking place more than 5

years ago, was the beginning of a roadmap of action and impact for the continent; one of

the most vulnerable regions in the world to the consequences of climate change

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