Climate Change and Gender Inequality

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Climate change threatens the existence of society as we know it. In the next 50 years, humanity will face potentially the most challenging and rapid environmental changes. Extreme weather events, heat waves, decreased food productivity, sea-level rise, and resource scarcity will have economic, social and political effects. Community-based adaptation and resilience are necessary to reduce the effects of climate change, particularly in poverty-stricken areas in the Global South. Climate change will exacerbate current inequalities including gender inequality. Women in developing countries, unfortunately, carry the heaviest burden despite having contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions that are responsible for climate change (Vincent et al, 2010). Addressing gender gaps as a response to climate change is one of the most effective ways to build the climate resilience of households, communities and nations (UN Women, 2016).

Retrieved from Methodologies to Promote Gender-Responsive Climate Resilience by Joslin Isaacson

To assess the relationship between gender and climate change, we must acknowledge the social implications of women’s gender roles. Differing gender roles of men and women require specific adaptation strategies. The gender-differentiated consequences of climate change can intensify the pressure on those who rely on agriculture and land for their livelihoods, therefore, natural hazards including floods, heatwaves, droughts, and fires, may perpetuate gender inequalities. For instance, girls are less likely to be taught how to swim than boys and as a result die in larger numbers during floods (UN Women, 2016). After a natural disaster, there is high economic disruption which can affect women more than men because women tend to be in more insecure forms of employment. This puts women and girls at risk of sexual exploitation, trafficking or increased the likelihood of transactional sex to access food (UN Women, 2016). In the aftermath of natural disasters, the prevention of violence against women should be a priority. Providing essential services like food and shelter to women needs to be a part of disaster relief. By identifying gender-based vulnerabilities, adaptation efforts are able to respond accordingly.

Women play a critical role in responding to climate change due to their local knowledge of and leadership in sustainable resource management at the community and household level (UNFCCC, 2019). “Approximately 70% of those who live on less than a dollar a day are women” and “women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours yet receive only 10% of the world income” (Vincent et al. , 2010). Climate change will affect women disproportionately because they are already vulnerable and in a position of poverty.

Retrieved from Gender Integration in Climate Change and Agricultural Policies: The Case of Nepal by (

According to the United Nations Development Programme’s guidebook on gender, climate and community-based adaptation, “Poor women’s limited access to resources, restricted rights, limited mobility and voice in the community and household decision-making can make them much more vulnerable than men to the effects of climate change”(2010). In developing countries, women are the poorest and have the least access to resources which perpetuates their vulnerability to the aversive effects of climate change and climate-related stressors. For instance, in sub-Saharan Africa women makeup, fifty percent of the agricultural work yet only own or manage fifteen percent of the land (Burns et al. , 2018). In this case, women do not have access to land security or to the resources of the land they are working on. Women play a critical role in community food security because they are providing the labor force and are inextricably connected to the land, particularly in developing countries. Because women farmers have fewer land rights and less secured access to land tenure than men, in the event of food scarcity agricultural outputs may be affected by up to twenty percent (UN Women, 2016). “Women can be community leaders and are often natural resource managers” who can localize development strategies to decrease climate-related vulnerabilities such as food scarcity and drought (Vincent et al. , 2010). Women need adequate and equal access to land, technology, financial services, and education to enable collaboration in agricultural production to fight food scarcity in the presence of drought or flooding. Securing women’s land tenure can help women have greater access to local resources which contributes to the overall mitigation and adaptation on a community level.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) states that adaptation strategies must seek to strengthen the resilience of communities by ensuring that women are aware of why local conditions are changing and what they are adapting to (2019). Policymakers, international organizations, and local governments need to integrate the local and traditional knowledge of women, particularly in the Global South, in climate policy and value the participation of grassroots women in gender-responsive climate action at all levels (Burns et al. , 2018). Women not only must be considered in community-based adaptation but also integrated as valuable contributors to adaptation strategies, projects, and programs. From the given examples we can see that gender inequality affects the ability of individuals and communities to adapt to natural hazards, therefore, increasing the equity for women is a community resilience strategy. To decrease existing inequalities and rise to the challenges of climate change, women must be involved in the political processes of sustainability, community development, resource management, agriculture, and public health. Conclusively, decreasing gender inequality can increase community resilience as climate change progresses and worsens existing conditions.

Burns, B., Women’s environment and development organization, Sharma, A., Hall, L., Zhou, V., & Gamma, S. (2018). Pocket guide to gender equality under the UNFCC. In European capacity building initiative. Retrieved from
UNFCCC. (2019). Introduction to gender and climate change. Retrieved from United Nations Climate Change website:
UN Women, Bayat-Renoux, F., Glemarec, Y., Tamayo, M., Olshanskaya, M., Qayum, S., & Vaeza, M.-N. (2016). Leveraging co-benefits between gender equality and climate action for sustainable development. Retrieved from
Vincent, K., Wanjiru, L., Aubry, A., Mershon, A., Nyandiga, C., Cull, T., & Banda, K. (2010). Climate change and community-based adaptation. In United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved from

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