icon icon icon icon icon icon icon

5 ways climate change impacts women and girls the most

Temporary structures built for Somali people fleeing climate-fueled drought. Photo: David Mutua/CARE

Temporary structures built for Somali people fleeing climate-fueled drought. Photo: David Mutua/CARE

Climate change is a threat to everyone. Everywhere.

From tornados in Texas to droughts in Europe and typhoons in the Philippines, we see the threat of climate change every day.

But what we don’t see is how climate change hits the world’s most vulnerable people the hardest — particularly women and girls.

Those least responsible for the root causes of the crisis are often the ones most vulnerable to it.

At CARE, we believe everyone deserves the right to health and safety, regardless of their gender, or where they live. That’s why we work to build resilient communities, empower women and girls, and fight for a more just and sustainable world.

And that’s why we believe climate justice — to be justice at all — must also be gender justice.

Here are five ways climate change is affecting women and girls right now, and what you can do to help.

1. Food Insecurity

One of the many women working with CARE in Zimbabwe to build climate resilience in Zvishavane, Mberengwa, Chiredzi, and Mwenezi under ZRBF funded projects. Photo: Ngonidzashe Munemo/Charmaine Chitate

Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns in impoverished regions make it more difficult to grow enough food, leaving women and girls with even greater responsibilities to collect water and firewood, tend to crops, and feed their families.

What You Can Do:

Support sustainable agriculture programs that empower women to take charge of their food security.

Programs like CARE’s Takunda program in Zimbabwe help women-farmers adapt climate-smart agricultural practices and build long-term sustainability.

2. Water Scarcity

Fatuma and Mohamed, residents of Issa-Kora village in northern Kenya, traveled with their donkey to the place where they used to find water, but which is now dry because of drought. PHOTO: Lucy Bentley/CARE

Climate change is causing severe water scarcity, with women and girls bearing the brunt of the burden. They are often the primary collectors of water, and as water sources dry up, women and girls are forced to travel longer distances to find water. This can have serious implications for their health, educations, and economic opportunities.

What You Can Do:

Support water conservation efforts that help communities adapt to a changing climate. This includes investing in clean water infrastructure, promoting water conservation techniques, and supporting women-led initiatives that improve access to water.

In Yemen, for example, CARE has worked with USAID and local partners to rehabilitate water and sewage systems in regions hit by climate-fueled droughts.

3. Health Risks

Enaneya Tagabo, 35, with her energy saving stove in a village in Ethiopia. PHOTO: Sarah Easter/CARE

Climate change is exacerbating existing health risks, particularly for women and girls living in poverty. They are more likely to experience respiratory illnesses due to indoor air pollution from burning wood and charcoal for cooking, and they are at greater risk of contracting waterborne diseases due to a lack of clean water.

What You Can Do:

Support initiatives that promote clean energy alternatives for cooking, such as solar-powered stoves or clean-burning cookstoves. These alternatives improve indoor air quality and reduce exposure to harmful pollutants.

In Ethiopia, where the climate crisis has hit the roughly 23 million people living in poverty especially hard, CARE is working to help establish cleaner cooking techniques that can help build community resilience. CARE has helped families build energy-saving stoves with local materials that smoke less and cook more efficiently — using five times less firewood than the previous method.

4. Natural Disasters

Food distribution in the Wali community after Hurricane Harold. PHOTO: Valerie Fernandez/CARE

Women and girls living in poverty are more vulnerable to the impacts of natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and drought caused by climate change. They often lack access to safe shelters, healthcare, and economic resources to rebuild after disasters.

What You Can Do:

Support disaster preparedness and response programs that prioritize the needs of women and girls. CARE has worked in Vanuatu since 2008 to ensure the needs of women, girls, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups are heard and met in emergency responses.

Country Director of CARE in Vanuatu, Bridgette Thorold:

“We know from the past that women’s and girls’ experiences in the aftermath of a natural disaster are different to men’s and boys’. Staying in makeshift or temporary accommodation, women and girls are at higher risk of sexual violence or harassment. They also have additional health and hygiene needs resulting from pregnancy, breastfeeding and managing periods. That’s why, in addition to distributing tarps and ropes and other things that people can use to secure their homes from the elements, we’re also distributing things like reusable sanitary pads, underwear, torches, and whistles.”

5. Education Disruption

Girl with Soccer Ball
Anannya, 16, is fighting to change gender norms in her village. PHOTO: CARE Bangladesh

Climate change can disrupt education for women and girls living in poverty. When families face food insecurity, water scarcity, or displacement due to natural disasters, girls are more likely to drop out of school to help support their families. CARE recently conducted a study in Afghanistan that highlighted key findings on household food security, negative coping strategies women and families adopt, and shortcomings of humanitarian actors in gender-responsive aid delivery.

What You Can Do:

Support programs that provide education and economic opportunities for women and girls. These programs – like CARE’s Tipping Point program that helps communities push back against harmful gender norms in order to create alternative paths for adolescent girls – help improve access to education and also help girls build the skills and resources they need to thrive in a changing climate.

Earth Day 2023: Climate Justice

When is Earth Day? Every day.

We need to recognize that climate change is a worldwide problem – and it requires a worldwide solution.

We all have a role to play in protecting our planet and supporting those who are most vulnerable. By working together, we can build a more sustainable future for all.

Pakistan, Somalia, Vanuatu, Malawi. Low-income countries are the hardest hit by the climate crisis. Increasing floods, droughts, fires, and storms are destroying crops, farms, homes and, above all, lives. But people in these countries contributed the least to the climate crisis.

CARE is calling on rich countries with high emissions to pay up to help impacted countries adapt and address irreversible losses. Rebuilding affected areas, supporting people, improving early warning systems is as a matter of climate justice – today and every day.

Back to Top