Girls and women are some of the most vulnerable people in the world even before disaster strikes. They earn less money and have less independence than boys and men. That means when extreme weather events hit communities, girls and women bear the brunt of the impact. They have fewer resources with which to cope and higher rates of displacement – and they are more likely to die. Here are four ways that climate change becomes a gender issue:
Fewer girls in school
On whose shoulders do the bulk of household chores, such as collecting water and firewood, fall? Girls and women. When these vital resources become scarce, they have to spend more time looking for them. To make up for the extra drain on householders’ time, girls are more likely to get pulled out of school than boys to help make sure the family has water and fuel.
Getting more girls and young women participating in global events such as COP21 means their voices get heard.
So, what can be done to ensure girls’ education doesn’t suffer due to the effects of climate change? Education. That’s right: when girls can access information about how to adapt to a changing climate, they can contribute to the resilience of their families and communities. In fact, Unicef says educating girls and women may be one of the best ways for communities to adapt to the negative effects of climate change.
Disasters hit girls hardest - physically
With fewer resources closer to home, girls have to travel greater distances to find water and firewood. Girls, whether on their own or with other girls, are vulnerable to physical and sexual violence from boys and men. Needing water and fuel for cooking shouldn’t mean that girls pay with their security. And, when disaster strikes, as it did in thePhilippines two years ago with Typhoon Haiyan, millions of girls and women become extra vulnerable to sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking. Rates of domestic violence also rise during disasters.
That’s why any response to natural disasters must include special measures that protect girls and women: from ensuring water points and latrines are well-placed and well-lit in any camps or settlements to including services that help prevent gender-based violence.