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December 12, 2019

Gender and climate change

Opinion

December 12, 2019

The relationship between climate change and gender sensitivity cannot be ignored; climate-based gender discrimination is a problem for the whole world. The UNDP Report 2015 says that “Eighty percent of people displaced by climate change are women”.

In many countries, women are thought to be responsible for household chores and childcare, which traps them inside house during any climate-related disaster. Women are not granted equal opportunities to have access to education or the political decision-making process which hampers their ability to make quick decisions during emergency situations.

According to Oxfam International, the 2004 tsunami, which wiped out millions, killed up to four times as many women as men. According to an article, ‘Climate Change and Women Health: Impacts and Policy Directions’ (Sorensen C, Murray V, Lemery J, Balbus J) climate change disasters further widen already existing gender-based health disparities. Women are victims of the physical and sexual violent aftermaths of climate change disasters.

Gender sensitivities due to climate change in Pakistan have also increased manifold with several other problems. Due to the droughts in Sindh, women have to face the brunt in the form of carrying water from miles away. Similarly, increasing poverty due to climate change affects the health of pregnant women. Climate change disasters also ravage female employment opportunities.

According to a study by Shirkat Gah, ‘Climate Change and Women: A Study in Selected Sites of Rural Sindh-2011’, “The time spent in search of water and wood has significantly increased as excessive deforestation and overexploitation of land has led to an inevitable scarcity in resources”. ‘The rise of financial problems in families due to a climate change disaster lead to the denial of many basic rights to women like education, nutrition under the domination of patriarchal society.’

Pakistan is a signatory to many international conventions and agreements to protect women rights like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Paris Agreement. The Pakistan Climate Change Policy 2012 also mentions gender sensitivities. The National Disaster Management Authority has a special Gender and Child Cell which has formulated the ‘National Policy Guidelines on Vulnerable Groups in Disasters’. But, there is a great need to bridge the gap between policy formulation and implementation in order to defeat gender discriminatory dangers of climate change.

There are a number of policy suggestions to fill the gaps in response to gender sensitivities due to climate change. First of all, it is the need of hour to collect evidence-based data on gender sensitivities due to climate change. The availability of credible figures helps devise and implement policies in the right direction. Credit constraints also prohibit poor women to get involved in climate-resistant employments. Moreover, in order to have smooth consumption, people are afraid to invest in new technology or businesses due to failure.

The availability of easy loans or finances for women to initiate climate-resilient businesses can help them adapt to climate change disasters. Banks and the private sector can be involved along with the government to initiate such schemes. But these loans should be associated with some conditions like fixing a minimum income level and evidence of fair chance of climate hazard.

The government should introduce insurance schemes for women, covering health, agriculture and infrastructure loss caused due to climate change so as to support the poorest women hit by such disasters. Awareness campaigns and education to women can help them fight against climate disasters. There should be increased collaboration between the National Disaster Management Authority and the Ministry of Human Rights to launch successful ventures for gender sensitivities.

Moreover, more women should be involved in decision-making processes due to their understanding of gender sensitivities during emergencies. At the international level developed countries must contribute in a Green Climate Fund specifically to empower women to defend themselves against climate change calamities.

The writer is a graduate in public policy from the University of Oxford.

Twitter: @zilehumma_1