Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Role of women in climate change adaptation and mitigation.


Both the Effect and role women can play to reduce climate change

Climate change is one of humanity’s most significant global challenges in the twenty-first century. Climate change is a serious threat to livelihoods and will endanger the achievements of Sustainable Development Goals if we fail in mitigation and adaptation mechanisms.

Women account for 50% of the world’s population. While climate change affects everyone, it does not affect everyone equally. Vulnerability to climate change is worsened by inequity and marginalization linked to gender, ethnicity, low income, and other social and economic factors.

Climate change will impact the hardest on poor regions, in which 70% of these poor are women; on the other hand, women can be valuable agents of climate change. Empowerment of women in planning and decision-making on climate change should be a joint effort, even at the local levels. Therefore, women must have equal access to knowledge and technology to influence climate change.

According to UNFCCC, various social-economic increases in women’s vulnerability to climate change. They include:

  • Women don’t have easy and adequate access to funds to cover weather-related losses/adaptation technologies.
  • Women face gender-based barriers to accessing land, financial services, social capital, and technology, making them vulnerable to food insecurity.
  • Close to those who live on less than a dollar a day,70% are women.
  • Women work for about 2/3 of the day’s hours and receive only 10% of the world’s income: This translates to women owning only 1% of world property.
  • Women parliamentarians (MPs) average only 17% of all parliamentary seats globally. This means women have been sidelined in terms of governance and decision-making on climate change issues.
  • Only 8% of the world’s cabinet is women. Cabinet has been the highest decision-making organ, which means when climate change policies are being formulated where women are the most vulnerable, only a handful of women are involved.

Women are not only vulnerable to climate change but they are also effective actors/agents of change in relation to both mitigation and adaptation. Women’s responsibilities to households and communities as stewards of natural and household resources position them well to contribute to livelihood strategies adapted to changing environmental realities (UN Women Watch 2017)

women possess unique knowledge and experience, particularly at the local level, their inclusion in decision-making processes is critical to effective climate action. At primary level, women are directly involved in management of natural resources an attribute that places them in a better position to govern resources and enhance conservation outcomes.

Climate change is accelerated by emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon(iv) oxide. Women are socialized as care-givers and in farm management. Therefore, expanding women’s ability to access productive resources will increase agricultural production and further enhance food security. Increased yields enable women to sell the surplus produce. The resources generated decreases women’s dependence on forests as sources of fuel and energy consequently decreasing the pressure to deforest more land.

The Effects of climate change on women.

Climate change is having greater impacts to the sections of the population that are most dependent on the stressed natural resources and who are least able to respond to natural hazards which often applies to women (IPCC 2015). The effects can be broadly classified into three: The economic effects, Social effects and Cultural effects.

The Economic Effects: These refers to the financial costs and impacts that women have experienced as a result of climate change. The women finances have been greatly affected by climate change in the following sectors:

Food and Livelihood security: Women mainly plays the role of producers working in farms to produce food for subsistence and commercial purposes as their source of livelihoods. Climate change negatively affects the production, availability and accessibility of food. The devastating impacts of climate change such as floods, droughts, high temperatures and increased acidity and salinity of soils, erosions and environmental degradations negatively affects livestock and crop production. Low outputs consequently impact women finances reducing their economic abilities.

Heath Implications and costs for treatments: The potential climate change scenarios includes increased mortality and morbidity due to floods, storms, droughts, heat waves and fires. High temperatures increase risks of Mosquitoes bites and malaria transmissions while floods increase risks of outbreak of water borne and vector-borne diseases. The prevalence of these diseases will likely aggravate women’s care-giving of family and community members. Care-giving affects women’s productive time as a resource. Diseases also drains the family finances due to costs of treatments affecting women’s economic abilities. They can also worsen other maternal and other neonatal outcomes such as miscarriage, premature births and Anemia. All these are capital intensive conditions that requires more resources and emotional capabilities to deal with.

Water Security and Energy Shortages: Climate change has significant impacts on fresh water sources, affecting availability of water used for domestic purposes. This as a result of increased frequencies of floods and droughts. This affects women who have the responsibility of water management at the household levels. The Arsenic contamination of ground water causes health problems such as skin lesions. This drain family resources in seeking treatments.

The Social Effects of climate change on women: These refers to the social factors that affects the social life of women. They include the following:

The impact on Women’s Dignity and human rights: Global warming is one of leading and greatest contributor to hunger, malnutrition, exposure to diseases and declining access to fresh water. Permanent displacements pose limitation to access to adequate housing and loss of livelihoods. These affects the dignity and social rights of women such as right to food, shelter and health.

The women’s education and Health implications: Displacements, Migrations, Floods and droughts affects the availability and distribution of social amenities like Schools and health facilities like hospitals. Women are more likely to go hungry when food supply is low. This makes them prone to certain diseases and malnutrition due to inadequate food and water supplies. This negatively affect the women’s social life more so if a woman is pregnant or during the menstruation period. In extreme circumstances, cases of stillbirths are experienced. With learning and health facilities been unavailable, it becomes difficult to learn how to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change on their social life.

The cultural Effects of Climate Change on Women: These refers to how the loss and damage caused by climate change extends to cultural factors significantly influencing the women’s way of life. Example due to displacements and direct material losses as a result of environmental degradation leading to loss of local knowledge and local language elements hence leading to loss of cultural heritage. Also due to climate change, scientist and technological advancement have established various crops and animals’ genetic varieties that adapts to changes in climatic and weather patterns phasing out the cultural practices where women were tasked with selecting various post-harvest practices of selecting the good crop varieties to be re-planted in subsequent seasons. Climate change has led to erosion of various cultural practices among women.

The role of women can play to reduce climate change

Women have knowledge and understanding on what is needed to adapt to changing environmental circumstances in order to determine practical solutions. This is through the following ways:

The participation of women in Decision-making: Climate action empowers women to be part of the solution. The promotion of women’s education and participation in decision-making are among the most effective ways of reducing future emissions of GHGs.This helps in reducing climate change.

The integration of women’s valuable knowledge & practical experiences into policy making processes. This refers to need of incorporating women’s ideas and insights when formulating zero carbon emission policies.

Through Harnessing of Women’s knowledge and capabilities: This is through provision of access to sustainable agricultural practices and resources. This is to help increase productions. With increased production coupled with excellent marketing capabilities and opportunities, this translates to more revenue’s streams. This will help promote women as agents of change with unique perspectives and expertise in mitigation and adaptation mechanisms to climate change.

The Involvements of women in developments of new technologies: This is to ensure that technologies are user-friendly, affordable, effective and sustainable. This helps to reduce carbon emissions to atmosphere hence reducing concentration of atmospheric GHGs.

Although women are at the forefront leading efforts of global climate movement, the national climate change strategies barely consider women noble roles. The climate action without women’s involvement will fail to tackle the climate change crisis today and shall create bigger challenges in future. Therefore, there is urgency in need of governments to recognize the economics and social impacts of climate change and responds to the risks faced by the most vulnerable majority been women

Dr. Edward Mungai
Dr. Edward Mungai
The writer, Dr. Edward Mungai, is a global sustainability expert. He is the Lead Consultant and Partner at Impact Africa Consulting Ltd (IACL), a leading sustainability and strategy advisory in Africa. He is also the Chief Editor at Africa Sustainability Matters. He can be contacted via

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