Climate Change may have similar effects throughout a geographic region, but the impact on people in the same region varies differently depending upon their economic, cultural, and social factors. Such differences in vulnerability and exposure arise from non-climatic factors like gender disparities, disability, the extent of exposure, and the inequalities produced by uneven development processes.
Women who make the majority of the world population, experience severe impacts of climate change because of their low economic status, societal structures which have limited their rights on account of gender. Although gender equality initiatives have been improved globally, many disparities are still remaining including excess death of girls and women, discrepancies in girls schooling, unequal success to economic opportunities, and differences in voice in households and society.
These gender differences exist not only in poor countries but also in some form in developing and developed countries. Deep-rooted gender-biased government policies, gender earning gaps, and restrictive gender roles are the major reasons for the differences.
During climate-induced disasters, women lose their lives more than men. This disparity is not due to the physical differences, but traditional roles like the inability to relocate without being accompanied by males and the role of caregivers having the responsibility of dependents like children and the elderly. Lack of training in disaster response has also increased vulnerability among women.
An increase in climate change-induced storms leads to many water and vector-borne diseases like cholera, malaria, etc. Women who are exposed more to standing water due to their role in household chores face greater risk than men. As well as, the physiological characteristics like pregnant women are twice as likely to attract mosquitoes which kill over one million people per year.
Out of 189 economies assessed in 2018, 104 economies still have laws restricting women from working in specific jobs, 59 economies have no laws on sexual harassment in the workplace, and in 18 economies, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working (Women, Business and Law 2018). Due to these existing economic structures, financial resources aid in mitigation and adaptation of climate change are not likely to be available to women as to men.
According to UNESCO, recently 773 million adults worldwide are without basic literacy where most of them are women. As diversity improves the decision of groups, lack of education for women has resulted in the disintegration of women’s vulnerabilities in developing climate research and policies.
Hence, climate change vulnerabilities of women extend from dogged patterns and cycles of gender inequalities. However, it does not imply that men around the world do not have distinct vulnerabilities or a stake in ensuring gender-responsive climate change actions. However, we cannot deny the fact that women are more vulnerable to climate change than men.
As a consequence, gender integration is a must during planning mitigation and adaptation measures to climate change. So, taking a gender-responsive approach to preparedness and fostering resilience can dramatically change outcomes for combating climate-induced disasters.
Author: Chitra Rekha Basyal is a BSc Forestry graduate with a profound passion for wildlife research and conservation. She has done research projects on endangered reptile species like Gharial crocodile and Elongated tortoise. Currently, she is working as an intern at Red Panda Network, Nepal.