The Prayas ePathshala

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11 May 2024 – The Hindu


How can the Climate Crisis be made Gender-Neutral

What is the relationship between women and climate change in terms of several dimensions?

  • Because of their biological predisposition and their jobs as primary carers, women are frequently the ones who suffer the most from climate-related health concerns. Heatwaves, severe weather, and the growth of vector-borne illnesses like dengue fever and malaria could pose greater health risks to them.
  • In the wake of climatic disasters, pregnant women and new mothers are especially vulnerable, as they run the risk of hunger, problems after childbirth, and restricted access to maternal healthcare services.
  • The livelihoods of women are disproportionately dependent on industries like agriculture and forestry that are susceptible to climate change, particularly in rural areas of poor countries.
  • Unpredictable weather patterns, droughts, floods, and degraded soil are some of the climate change-related problems that can impair agricultural output and cause food insecurity and revenue loss for women farmers.
  • In addition, women are frequently working in low-wage, informal jobs that are especially vulnerable to disruptions caused by climate change and offer little job security.
  • Storms and floods brought on by climate change can cause school closures and damage to infrastructure, which can interfere with children’s education. When such situations arise, girls are more frequently pulled out of school in many civilizations, either out of fear for their safety or because they have more caring obligations.
  • In homes, women and girls are frequently in charge of gathering and managing water, especially in rural areas. Water scarcity and contamination brought on by climate change can make it more difficult and time-consuming for women to gather water, which can limit their access to education, employment prospects, and community involvement.
  • Furthermore, women’s health and hygiene are disproportionately impacted by limited access to clean water and sanitation facilities, which raises the risk of maternal mortality and waterborne illnesses.

How Do Women Get Affected by Climate Change?

Direct Connection to Violence Based on Gender:

  • According to a 2021 assessment by the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW), hydromet catastrophes including floods, droughts, and cyclones are a threat to 75% of Indian districts. According to NFHS 5 data, these risks affect over half of the women and children residing in these districts.
  • An increasing number of recent research show a direct correlation between these natural catastrophes and violence against women based on their gender.
  • Gender-based violence is pervasive in conflict-affected areas, which are consequently more vulnerable to extreme weather occurrences.
  • For example, the combined effects of climate change, environmental degradation, and conflict make women and girls especially vulnerable to gender-based violence in countries like Yemen, Mali, and Colombia, as noted in the submission of the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance.

Effects of Extended Heat Waves:

  • The last ten years have been the warmest on record for human history, and heatwaves never seen before are expected to hit nations like India. For expectant mothers, prolonged heat poses a special risk as it raises the possibility of preterm birth and eclampsia.
  • Similar effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution include respiratory and cardiovascular diseases in women and impaired physical and cognitive development in the foetus.
  • New findings from cohort studies conducted in India indicate that the risk of lung cancer rises by 9%, the chance of cardiovascular mortality on the same day increases by 3%, and the risk of stroke increases by 8% for every 10 micrograms per cubic metre increase in PM2.5. Every 2 microgram increase in annual PM2.5 raised the risk of dementia by 4%.

Rising Numbers of Child Marriage:

  • In many societies across the world, child marriage has been documented as a contingency plan in the event of calamity. In Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Kenya, for instance, it has been used as a way to protect resources or money.
  • In these kinds of societies, pulling girls out of school to assist with home chores is another widely used coping strategy. These coping mechanisms impede the advancement of gender equality by decades and have a detrimental impact on communities’ long-term resilience and capacity for adaptation.

Putting on Unfair Burdens:

  • It has been observed that climate change-related extreme weather events disproportionately impact women and girls and their capacity to carry out daily tasks, which helps to explain why some girls feel compelled to drop out of school.
  • In many nations, women and girls are traditionally responsible for gathering firewood and water. However, the negative effects of climate change force these groups to go further from their homes in order to fulfil their responsibilities and support their families.

Rural to Urban Migration’s Effects:

  • In certain nations, extreme weather events have been found to cause a rise in male migration from rural to urban areas, leaving women in control of the household, the land, and other jobs that males have historically handled.
  • Due to gender norms that restrict women’s access to land ownership and thus increase their workload and income, women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change both now and in the future.

Reduced Ability to Adapt:

  • Because women are less integrated into the formal economy, which impacts their standing in decision-making processes, their capacities for adaptation are different from men’s. For instance, women are more likely than men to make money from unofficial tourism-related activities in Antigua and Barbuda, which lessens their ability to adjust to major weather events like hurricanes.
  • The ILO emphasised in its response that informal employment raises the risks for workers in the event of a climate-related disaster by affecting their access to health and safety procedures at work.

Different Discriminatory Factors’ Intersectionality:

  • Due to the complex interplay of socioeconomic factors that increase their susceptibility to the effects of climate change, most marginalised groups—including the LGBTQIA community and indigenous peoples—have a reduced ability to adapt to these effects. This is true even though it is acknowledged that women and indigenous peoples are the guardians of indigenous and traditional knowledge.

Climate Change’s Effect on Women in the Agriculture Sector:

  • In homes and communities, women are essential to the production, delivery, and processing of food. The ability of women to provide food security for their families can be directly impacted by climate change effects such as crop failures, water scarcity, and altered rainfall patterns.
  • Within tiny and marginal landholding homes, women bear the brunt of domestic work, suffer from worse health, and are more likely to encounter intimate partner abuse, while men face social stigma owing to unpaid loans, which can cause them to migrate, experience emotional distress, or even commit suicide.

Severe Occurrences Interrupt Farm Activities:

  • Extreme weather and shifting weather patterns have a big influence on women’s responsibilities in agriculture. Reduced crop yields from irregular rainfall and protracted droughts put the food security of households that depend on farming at risk.
  • Women bear the brunt of these disruptions since they are traditionally essential to on-farm activities and are frequently in charge of managing home food supplies and crop care.

Economic Consequences:

  • Climate change has significant economic effects for women who work in agriculture. Extreme weather catastrophes such as floods can destroy infrastructure and crops, forcing women to put family care and alternative income creation first. Extreme weather-related crop yield reductions result in lower incomes, which exacerbates already-existing gender disparities.

More At Risk as a result of insufficient resources:

  • Land ownership is a crucial asset in agriculture, but women are hampered in obtaining it by discriminatory policies and cultural norms. Due to their limited access to credit, loans, and insurance due to their lack of asset control, women are more susceptible to losses brought on by climate change.
  • According to the UN FAO, women might raise farm output by 20–30% if they had equal access to productive resources as men.
  • The availability of clean drinking water is greatly impacted by extreme weather events and the ensuing modifications in water cycle patterns, which increases drudgery and decreases time for productive work and women’s and girls’ health care.

What Actions Must Be Taken to Make the Climate Crisis Gender Equality?

Encouraging Women’s Multidimensional Empowerment:

  • To meet the objective of the Paris Agreement, which is to keep the increase in global temperature to 1.5°C, 100% of the population must take climate action. Better climate solutions also result from empowering women; given equal access to resources as males, women boosted agricultural output by 20% to 30%.

Promoting Community-Based Solutions via Self-Help Groups:

  • Women from tribal and rural communities have been leading the way in environmental protection. Local solutions would arise if women and women collectives (such as Farmer Producer Organisations and Self-help Groups) had access to resources, information, and tools. Due to contextual differences in heat exposure, air pollution, and access to food and water, adaptation strategies in rural and urban settings will inevitably differ.

Compiling Data Disaggregated by Sex:

  • To enhance comprehension of women’s role as change agents in all their diversity, more thorough and broadly relevant sex-disaggregated data must be collected. As of right now, instances of how men and women behave differently as change agents depend on the situation.
  • Therefore, homogenising women’s experiences and behaviours in order to draw broadly applicable conclusions from this data would be problematic given the diversity of women and the various culturally unique settings that influence women’s roles as change agents.

Minimising the Effects of Extended Heat Waves:

  • The effects of extended heat on susceptible populations, including outdoor workers, expectant mothers, newborns, young children, and the elderly, should be lessened. Unofficially or formally acknowledged, data from multiple Indian cities show that there is an increase in deaths during heat waves. Our economy, as well as small and major businesses, will be impacted by the loss of productivity.
  • Less deaths can be prevented by taking steps such providing cooling rooms in medical facilities, assuring public drinking water facilities, changing outdoor work and school schedules, issuing heat wave warnings (depending on local temperature and humidity), and quickly treating people who have heat stroke.

Concerning Municipalities and Urban Local Bodies:

  • In all districts that are at risk, district authorities, municipal corporations, and urban local bodies must establish a plan and supply essential implementers with tools and training. Longer-term initiatives include improving tree cover in metropolitan areas, reducing concrete, creating more green and blue spaces, and creating housing that is more resilient to negative impacts.
  • The Mahila Housing Trust in Udaipur demonstrated that applying reflective white paint to the roofs of low-income homes increased interior air quality and lowered indoor temperatures by 3 to 4 degrees Celsius.

Charting Crucial Water Resources:

  • The greatest threat to human survival is perhaps the scarcity of water, which calls for coordinated social action. India used to have one of the most sophisticated pond and canal systems for collecting and storing rainfall.
  • Task completed by the M.S. Using geographic information systems, the panchayat may map important water sources, identify climate hazards and vulnerabilities, and establish a local plan to increase water availability by directing government schemes and resources, according to research conducted by Swaminathan Research Foundation in a few districts of Tamil Nadu.

Sector and Service Convergence at the Local Level:

  • At the village or panchayat levels, convergence of sectors and services and prioritising of actions can occur most efficiently. India can serve as a model for how to develop resilience in a community-led and participatory manner by delegating authority and funding and investing in the capacity-building of panchayat and community-supported groups members.

Restructuring NAPCC and SAPCC Scope:

  • It is necessary to view all state action plans on climate change through a gender perspective. While highlighting the effects on women, the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) and State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC) sometimes resort to depicting them as victims, ignoring more complex gender dynamics.
  • In order to ensure a thorough and fair approach to climate adaptation, recommendations for the continuing revision of the SAPCCs emphasise the need to move beyond stereotypes, acknowledge the vulnerabilities of all genders, and incorporate gender-transformative techniques.
  • Multifaceted and disproportionate in its effects, climate change exacerbates pre-existing gender inequities and vulnerabilities among women. Women have a disproportionate amount of work to do in terms of adapting to and reducing the effects of climate change, from livelihoods to health, education, and displacement. In order to address these gendered effects, comprehensive strategies that put women’s empowerment, resource access, and meaningful involvement in decision-making processes first are needed. Through acknowledging and tackling the distinct obstacles encountered by women, we can cultivate adaptability, advance gender parity, and construct a more fair and sustainable future for everybody.

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