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Six ways climate change is sexist (and what you can do to fight it)

“The extreme weather has a huge effect on women," says, Hanh, 12, who lives in Lai Chau province, Vietnam. "Especially farmers like my mother. When the weather changes, my mother is affected the most.” Photo: Vu Ngoc Dung/CARE

“The extreme weather has a huge effect on women," says, Hanh, 12, who lives in Lai Chau province, Vietnam. "Especially farmers like my mother. When the weather changes, my mother is affected the most.” Photo: Vu Ngoc Dung/CARE

When climate-fueled hurricanes hit coastlines, when unseasonable droughts kill crops, and when hundred-year floods surge through river valleys, it all makes the existing inequalities between men and women, boys and girls, that much worse.

In other words, climate change is sexist.

Over the next three weeks, leaders from around the world will be gathering in the United Arab Emirates in the lead-up to the COP28 climate conference, where they plan to “provide a comprehensive assessment of progress since adopting the Paris Agreement.”

By almost any measure, this progress has fallen woefully short of the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.”

In fact, over the past eight years, global emissions have actually risen.

Clearly, the crisis isn’t getting better. And the inequalities that climate change exacerbates are getting worse.

It’s a global crisis, but it doesn’t affect everyone equally.

Climate Change is Sexist

“In many parts of the world, climate change puts women and girls at greater risk of gender-based violence and increases their vulnerability,” said Fanny Petibon, CARE France advocacy manager.

“Climate change is not only an environmental emergency but also a social one. Climate justice and gender justice go hand in hand.”

Want proof? Here are six ways climate change is sexist.

And six things you can do to fight it.

1. Gender-Based Violence and Climate Change

Valentine attends CARE’s women’s space in Rwanda, where women can talk to a facilitator one-to-one about their experience and receive advice regarding gender based violence (GBV) services. Photo: Peter Caton/CARE

The Problem: Climate change exacerbates gender-based violence (GBV). In regions like Somalia, CARE research has shown the impacts of climate change have forced girls to drop out of school, putting them at risk of harmful traditional practices such as early marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In places like Nepal and Rwanda, climate impacts are making incidences of GBV more prevalent.

The Solution: Implement gender-sensitive adaptation measures, focusing on regions most affected by climate change. Women and girls are the first and the most affected by climate change. But they are not giving up. A whole new generation of women and girls is adapting to a new tougher climate reality to survive and thrive.

After Generation, X, Y, and Z, this is “GenADAPT.”

“If we take care of the earth, the earth will take care of us,” says Perla in Ecuador. Even though she is only 8 years old, Perla decided to join her mother in a group called “Andean rural women against climate change.” She also helps her family to look after their agro-ecological plot, which increases resilience against drought.

2. Climate change has a gendered impact on livelihoods

Vinia Kafulo tends to her sun-parched land in Limbuwa B Village, Zambia. Photo: Peter Caton/CARE

The Problem: Women, especially in developing regions, rely heavily on climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture. In Africa, women produce about 70% of all food. But the adverse effects of climate change threaten their yield and, by extension, their communities’ food security.

The Solution: Support initiatives like CARE’s “ClimateHeroines,” which works to empower women through training in sustainable farming techniques, as well as providing resources that ensure not just their livelihoods but also the food security of entire communities.

3. Climate-Induced Displacement

Mother hold
Many of those displaced, like this April 2023 woman with her child at Kenya's Dadaab Refugee Camp, are driven from their homes by the effects of climate change. With insufficient rain for six seasons now, the drought in East Africa has caused a new influx of refugees from Somalia crossing the border into Kenya to settle in Dadaab. Photo: Sarah Easter/CARE

The Problem: Climate change leads to displacement, and women, being among the most vulnerable, often face the harshest challenges during migrations. Their rights, safety, and well-being are often compromised during these harrowing moves.

The Solution: Implement gender-transformative and human-rights-based approaches to tackle climate-induced displacement. Recognizing women as central actors in this narrative ensures that their unique needs and rights are considered in relocation strategies.

4. Unequal Representation in Climate Negotiations

A woman holding a
An attendee makes her feelings known at the #March4Women march for gender equality and climate justice in London on International Women’s Day 2020. Photo: Julie Edwards/CARE

The Problem: Women’s representation in global climate negotiations is shockingly low. In fact, the average representation of women in global climate bodies hovers around 33%. This underrepresentation means that policies and solutions may lack a gendered perspective, leading to inadequate solutions.

The Solution: We need a shift towards equal representation in climate-related bodies. An equal voice means integrating women’s unique experiences, knowledge, and challenges into the climate solution work.

5. Gender-Blind Climate Finance

Kamla received assistance from CARE under a grant from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office for building resilience in Syria. This included technical training, 500 kilograms of wheat seeds, fertilizers, the opportunity to participate in a ‘cash-for-work’ activity, and cash assistance for purchasing and installing a sprinkler irrigation system. Photo: CARE Syria

The Problem: A startling 2.9% of climate-related development finance recognizes gender equality as a core objective. This means the majority of funds overlook the specific needs and challenges of women in climate-affected areas.

The Solution: Advocacy for gender-inclusive finance strategies is critical. By incorporating gender analysis into financing decisions, funds can be directed to initiatives that empower women and provide them with the resources they need.

6. Lack of Gender-Responsive Climate Solutions

Woman and granddaughter in traditional Ecuadorian dress, standing on a grassy hillside.
Ecuadorian "eco-feminist" Virginia Remache, 57, spends time with her granddaughter Samantha Simbaña. "Before, sowing season had dates and months. Now it is raining when it is not supposed to." Virginia leads her community to adapt to the impacts of climate change in Ecuador. To help them, CARE has created the very first agro-ecology school for women in her province.
Photo: Ana Maria Buitron/CARE

The Problem: Despite the glaring evidence of the gendered impacts of climate change, many climate solutions remain gender-blind, failing to consider how strategies impact men and women differently.

The Solution: Prioritize gender-responsive strategies at all levels of climate policy-making. From grassroots movements to global conferences, women’s voices, experiences, and insights must shape the narrative and solutions.

Big Picture: What You Can Do

Portrait of Fennie outside her home. Last February, Fennie lost her home due to flash flooding. CARE helped Fennie soon after with non-food items such as hygene and dignity kits, blankets and cash assistance. Photo: Peter Caton/CARE

Climate change isn’t just an environmental crisis; it’s a social one too. Recognizing the gendered impacts is the first step. By understanding that women often bear the brunt yet also hold the key to many solutions, we can reshape our approach to be inclusive, empowering, and effective. Climate justice is gender justice.

Want to help? Here’s what you can do:

1. Advocate for Equal Representation: Support initiatives that aim to balance gender representation in climate negotiations and policy-making bodies.

2. Educate and Empower: Encourage community-based programs that provide women with the knowledge and tools they need to combat climate challenges.

3. Support Gender-Inclusive Finance: Lobby for gender considerations in climate financing decisions.

4. Raise Awareness: Engage in community dialogues, workshops, and campaigns to shed light on the gendered impacts of climate change.

5. Prioritize Women in Relocation Strategies: Advocate for gender-sensitive relocation and displacement strategies, ensuring women’s safety and rights are central.

6. Integrate Gender in All Climate Solutions: Whether you’re an individual, a community leader, or a policy-maker, ensure that gender considerations are integrated into all climate-related decisions.

Learn more about CARE’s climate work at our take action page.

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