Gender and Climate Change

Image credit to Taylor Steinbeck, follow her amazing instagram or check out her website.

Hello there! My name is Sophie, I’m a Masters student from the University of Glasgow and I’ve been on placement at GWL for a few months now.  I am very passionate about the topic of climate justice, and its intersections with other issues such as migrant rights and gender equality.  My previous blog talked about the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) which is taking place in Glasgow this November, where I give an outline of what this event involves and why it is so important.  I thought for my next blog I would talk about the intersections of gender and climate change, and bring to your attention the feminist debates around the ecological crisis. 

To assume the reality of climate change affects everyone equally is wrong.  The truth of the nexus between gender and climate change is one where women* disproportionately experience the harmful impacts of climate change and ecological disaster.  There is solid evidence to show that women are more vulnerable to climate change, not because of something inherently vulnerable about women but because of socio-cultural structures that deprive women of access to resources, education, decision-making, information and agency. 

The Western world’s apocalyptic narrative of the climate crisis as something only occurring now, not only tries to erase colonial history but ignores the fact that those in the Global South have been experiencing the impacts of climate change for many years.  Women in the Global South have been encountering an increase in floods, droughts, harsher storms leading to a loss of livelihoods and competition over scarce resources fuelling displacement for decades.  Gender norms and power structures embedded in places across the world play a crucial part in deciding how people of different backgrounds are impacted, and are able to respond to such crises.  Women work almost two-thirds of the world’s working hours, produce over half of the worlds food yet earn only 10% of the world’s income.  Research by the UN Women and the World Bank concluded that women are more likely to live in poverty (of the world’s one billion poorest people, women and girls make up 70%), which makes it harder for them to avoid and recover from climate related disasters.  These pre-existing inequalities, gender-related roles and unequal access to resources mean groups of women are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change. 

Understanding the gender dimensions of climate change can help to limit the level of vulnerability for women in places all over the world, while also tackling gender inequality and improving climate resilience. The disproportionate effects of climate change on women and marginalised people across the world highlights the need for understanding justice and equity within all social, cultural and political dimensions of our world.  This approach will help to produce a worthwhile climate politics and implement meaningful change.  Understanding the climate crisis as not simply an Anthropocene** consequence of human behaviour for centuries, but that it has occurred from the patriarchal, racist and capitalist structures in our world.  

For us to confront these systemic gender inequalities and move towards a just and green feminist future, a feminist lens is needed to help us to understand the role of patriarchal and other oppressive systems, and identify ways to challenge them.

My next blog will explore this issue of gender equality and climate change further, linking back to my previous blog about COP26, through exploring the gender inequities within COP26 and why it is essential women are involved in high-level decision making spaces within climate crisis conversations. 

*At GWL, the word women is inclusive of trans and intersex women.  However we are aware that much of the research on climate change and women exclude trans and intersex women’s experiences and that therefore this blog speaks to only certain experiences of womanhood. 

**The Anthropocene is the name given to the current period of history, when human activity began to have significant impact on the environment and the ecological emergency emerged.

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