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The direct and indirect effects of climate change continue to have a disproportionate impact on marginalized women, including refugee and displaced persons, sexual minorities, religious and ethnic minorities, adolescent girls, women and girls with disabilities and those who are HIV positive... our goal is to empower women who are particularly vulnerable to climate change and to encourage a more gender-sensitive approach in climate change policy- U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee

From New Orleans to Bangladesh, those with the fewest resources are the most susceptible to climate change's negative effects, €”particularly women. In many  parts of the world, women still face unequal access to decision-making, formal financial systems, land ownership, reproductive health care and education and information, undermining their well being in addition to that of their families and communities. At the same time, women'€™s vulnerability can obscure the fact that they are capable, with the right tools and resources, of coping with climate change and reducing the emissions that cause it. As innovators, organizers, leaders, educators and caregivers, women are positioned to help curb the harmful consequences of a changing climate. Incorporating gender equality into climate change policies, projects and funds is crucial in ensuring that women contribute to and benefit from equitable climate solutions.

Around the world the integral links between gender equality and climate change impacts can be seen clearly. The graph below highlights some global gender gaps and the impacts of climate change:

WEDO Gender and Climate Change Graph

Women'€™s Leadership on Climate Change

Women'€™s leadership in all levels of decision-making on climate change is also critical to addressing climate change comprehensively. So far, much of the climate change debate is spearheaded by men; women are only 12% of those that lead the global climate policy negotiations. Diversity in leadership and decision-making ensures that policies and legislation can best address the diverse needs and capacities of those most impacted by and able to combat climate change.  It is imperative that women, half of the world'€™s population, are equitably represented in climate change decision-making at all levels.

In the U.S., even while there has been much progress for women'€™s civil rights there are still vast inequalities. Of the 535 seats in the current U.S. Congress, only 90 (16.8%) of those seats are held by women. Women are still only paid $0.77 to every $1 a man is paid for doing the same job. As witnessed recently with the attacks on reproductive rights, women'€™s rights are still negotiable in political debates. At the same time, women in the U.S. are challenging these obstacles. Women are gaining economic status, now as the owners of 40% of America's privately owned businesses and holding half the country'€™s wealth. In boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies, in non-profit and grassroots organizations, on university campuses and across social media platforms, women are challenging their place in the pipeline, questioning the nature of power and mobilizing for change.  

U.S. women can use the rights they do have to vote for and be the responsible leaders that uphold women'€™s rights and ensure a healthy and safe environment.  U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee who wanted to recognize and address the disparate impact of climate change on women and the efforts of women globally to address this issue€ spearheaded 2 resolutions in Congress to address women and climate change impacts in 2009 and 2011. Like Congresswoman Lee, women and men must continue advocate for the U.S., still the largest per capita contributor to climate change impacts and one of the most important global actors on climate change policies, to take actions nationally and globally that combat the most imminent threat to the planet and its people in the 21st century.


Further information on the linkages between gender and climate change can be found in the WEDO/UNFPA resource kit on gender and climate change, Climate Change Connections and the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA) training manual on Gender and Climate Change.

For more on WEDO's work, visit WEDO'€™s website and follow us on Twitter (@WEDO_Worldwide) and Facebook.

About WEDO

The Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), a women'€™s global advocacy organization, was founded in 1991 on the eve of the Earth Summit (UNCED) by U.S. Congresswoman Bella Abzug and a visionary international committee including Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai. WEDO's mission is to ensure that women'€™s rights; social, economic and environmental justice; and sustainable development principles,€“ as well as the linkages between them,€“ are at the heart of global and national policies, programs and practices. It allies with a wide range of partners, from government Ministries, to environmental international NGOs, to grassroots women'€™s networks.

Rachel Harris is Advocacy Coordinator in charge of gender equality and women'€™s rights in global governance and sustainable development for the Women'€™s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO). She heads a technical policy team at the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and has led women’s caucuses at the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification.

Originally posted to Climate Change SOS on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 02:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism, J Town, and Barriers and Bridges.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Fabulous to have WEDO participating! (13+ / 0-)

    So important to have the issue of gender and climate change included in this blogathon

    WEDO did some outsanding work @RIO+20. Their work sending women as delegates to the UNFCCC  COPs is an example of an organization's exemplar commitment to elevating the role of women in international negotiations !

    Thank you so much, Rachel, for joining us.

    •  Can't say it better than you have, boatsie. (10+ / 0-)

      The philosophy that endangers the planet is the same that puts women at risk in multiple ways again and again.

      To have Rachel here spelling it all out so clearly means the world.

      "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." Hubert H. Humphrey

      by Onomastic on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 02:24:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  women scale farmers will feed the world .... (10+ / 0-)

        major of small scale farmers are women, thus the focus on empowering, educating and elevating their position...

        International Women's Day: Women Small Scale Farmers

        FACT: Despite producing up to 80% of the food in Africa, women own only 1% of the agricultural land. #WomensDay #IWD
        • Around 70 percent of the world population will live in cities or urban areas by 2050, up from 49 percent today.
        • World population will rise from 6.8 billion today to 9.1 billion in 2050.
        • Nearly all of the population growth will occur in developing countries. Sub-Saharan Africa's population is expected to grow the fastest (up 108 percent, 910 million people), and East and South East Asia's the slowest (up 11 percent, 228 million).

        Cancun: December, 2010.COP16:
        It’s fascinating to hear panelists at the Climate Change and Food Security side event yesterday agree that the key to global food security is to focus on small scale indigenous farmers. To make sure they can grow enough food to sustain themselves before they even think about branching out to feed the rest of the world.
        No small concensus, considering the fact that today these people, who grow over 70% of the world’s agriculture, receive zero in subsidies from governments bedded down with big pesticide and agribiz. This would be the folks living in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and parts of India, whose lands are rapidly emerging as the sole candidates to feed a projected 370 million hungry people by 2050.

        •  We hold the world in our hands, whether men (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          boatsie, princesspat, Larsstephens

          are willing to acknowledge that or not.

          Thank you so much for the information and the link. Been thinking about writing a series of diaries on the connection between how our planet is raped and plundered and the same treatment of women.

          It's the same damn mind set and must be stopped.

          "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." Hubert H. Humphrey

          by Onomastic on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 04:35:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this diary. (9+ / 0-)

    Most people who are paying attention know that climate change will hit poor people and poor nations the hardest, but the gendered nature of poverty is often obscured.

    As our women's contributions -- many people's mental image of a "farmer" is a man, but as your chart shows, over 60% of food is produced by women in some countries.

    This means that women must be at the center of learning to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climatic change on farming.  (I have read about such projects in books by the likes of Bill McKibben and Mark Herstgaard, but Hertsgaard in particular spoke mostly to men.)  

    © cai Visit to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 02:30:18 PM PDT

  •  to highlight some of WEDO's work (8+ / 0-)

    over the past few years ... which I profiled here @ Kos:

    gender in cancun

    For many women living in the Cook Islands, collecting yellow land snails to make jewelry and other handicrafts is their sole source of income.  Recent extensive dry spells have made these shells more difficult to find.
    "Sometimes we will spend weeks on end to fill an empty can which we used to fill within a few hours," says Tangiruaine Ngaruaine. "At the beginning of this year, it was truly tough because there was hardly any rain. Whatever I make from selling these shells is my 'income' and it has been my only source of income."
    Ngaruaine's story is represented here at COP16 by Ulamila Wragg, one of an expanding number of women participating in official UNFCCC climate negotiations.
    Wragg is here at COP16 an an official delegate for the Cook Islands, one of the women delegates funded and trained by the Women's Development Fund  (WEDO) to represent female voices, particularly those of women who are disproportionately impacted by the impacts of climate change in least developed countries.

  •  & prior to Copenhagen ... (8+ / 0-)

    Reporting from Barcelona last month, where UNFCCC negotiations are underway in preparation for Copenhagen, Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) announces that a concensus has been reached about the vital role women will play in next month's Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. The conference, they report, "may be the first to recognize the gender dimensions of climate change, saving the lives of millions of women and children and taking a major step toward addressing the human impacts of climate change."

    ecojustice: "the world will be saved by western woman"


  •  Women & Water (8+ / 0-)
    In 2002, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan identified women as the backbone of Africa, and sounded the dire alarm that the combination of famine and AIDS was disproportionately impacting African women "who keep African societies going and whose work makes up the economic foundation of rural communities."

    "For decades, we have known that the best way for Africa to thrive is to ensure that its women have the freedom, power and knowledge to make decisions affecting their own lives and those of their families and communities," Annan wrote in a New York Times article IN AFRICA, AIDS HAS A WOMAN'S FACE. "At the United Nations, we have always understood that our work for development depends on building a successful partnership with the African farmer and her husband."

    Study after study has shown that there is no effective development strategy in which women do not play a central role. When women are fully involved, the benefits can be seen immediately: families are healthier; they are better fed; their income, savings and reinvestment go up. And what is true of families is true of communities and, eventually, of whole countries."


    In a 2006 interview, Africa: The Most Effective Vaccine against Child Death in Africa is... , Kevin Watkins, the lead author of the UNs 2005 Human Development Report, discusses the significant connections between women, water and development in sub-Saharan Africa. (The report truly spotlighted water inequalities with its revelation that a typical Western toilet flush used 50 litres of water, when as little as 20 litres of clean water daily would save millions of lives while promoting economic development.)

    "... globally there are roughly two million child deaths as a result of not having access to clean water," says Watkins. "And Africa is hugely over represented in that number. It accounts for something like a third or more, roughly 40% of total child deaths from water-related problems. That is a health outcome."

    Annually, he says, Africa loses five per cent of its GDP because of the long distances women have to walk to collect water.

    "And five per cent of GDP is a lot of GDP. It is more than Africa gets in aid! There are more people campaigning on aid and debt relief, but this problem dwarfs what goes into Africa through aid and debt relief. The real burden, when you get down to the household level, is uses of women's time. And I think that people do not understand the problem, to be honest.

    In Kibera, Watkins says, it is not unusual to see young girls carrying 20 liter buckets of water, which is the minimum amount of water people need each day. In rural East Africa, many people survive on 9 or 10 liters per day. "...  actually, the most effective vaccine that you can give against child death in Africa is a glass of clean water." Link

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