CARE International is urging world leaders at COP28 to tackle gender inequality because climate change is sexist.
Women and girls from Bangladesh, Ecuador, Kenya, Philippines, Vietnam and Zambia are calling on negotiators to recognise that women and girls are not just victims of climate change but also have a critical role in addressing it.
Climate change exacerbates inequalities between men and women, boys and girls. From disaster-prone islands to drought-ravaged farm fields, women and girls bear a disproportionate burden of the climate crisis all around the world.
Francesca Rhodes, Senior Policy Adviser on Gender and Climate for CARE International UK, said:
“Women and girls in the Global South are paying the price for climate change. Emissions from developed countries, including the UK, are costing women and girls their education, employment and their health. In many parts of the world, climate change even puts women and girls at greater risk of gender-based violence. Climate justice and gender justice go hand in hand.”
In the Global South, women often do more work around the home due to traditional gender roles, including collecting water, preparing food and cleaning, as well as caring for children and relatives. Climate change is now forcing a generation of women and girls around the world to adapt to a new, tougher, climate reality – a generation CARE has termed GenAdapt.
"Erratic weather changes greatly affect women here. In farming, there is no water for sowing rice, while when it is time for harvesting, it rains too much," explains Phong, a farmer supported by CARE in Vietnam, where half of women work in agriculture. Like many families, Phong and her family are reliant on rice production for their food and income.
“I can't go to school because the roads are submerged during floods,” says Jerin, 16, from Bangladesh. “When the house is submerged in water, I have to go to a higher place. As a girl, I cannot use a proper toilet there. During floods, people take shelter in high places. Women and girls cannot defecate or bathe in open space. Many women cannot take a shower even after three or four days. Also, they cannot use sanitary pads for physical problems during puberty. And they don't feel safe in this open space.”
But women and girls from the Global South are also designing and implementing solutions to mitigate the effects of climate disasters. Their knowledge of natural resources and local needs means they are ideally placed to help their communities become more resilient.
"We are women who take care of everything, we are the pillar of our families and communities. We are the leaders, the producers, and so we must continue to move forward in the face of climate challenges. Since we, women, have been in the agroecological school, people listen to us,” explains Virginia, a farmer in Ecuador.
CARE is joining with women and girls like Jerin, Phong and Virginia to call on world leaders to support the meaningful participation of women in local, national, and international climate decision-making processes. At COP27, only 35% of country delegations were women.
Francesca Rhodes added:
“Too often women and girls’ voices are ignored, yet they have a critical role in their community’s response to climate disasters. We need more women at the centre of climate negotiations, including at COP28. There is too little funding available for Women’s Rights Organisations and too many barriers preventing women from implementing climate change solutions.”
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Image: Phong, a farmer from Vietnam © CARE/Vu Ngoc Dung