“What would men be without women? Scarce sir…mighty scarce” – Mark Twain. Women are primary caregivers who provide, build networks of supportive relationships. We build communities. Our work makes it possible for humans to survive and flourish. There are many parallels between the woman and earth that why the term Mother Nature makes sense.
A climate breakdown and other environmental devastation have a direct and disproportionate influence on the essential work women do. They jeopardize sources of food and water and creates turmoil in our support networks.
Is it all groups of women?
Women are already burdened as they do not have the same socioeconomic status and power to men. Sexism and inequality restrict women’s availability to resources and experiences. Access to this can train them to cope with disasters and adapt to climate change. The most vulnerable group impacted are women in the Global South, Indigenous women, women of colour, underprivileged women, women with disabilities and young women.
Climate change can influence gender-based violence
Climate change creates societal instability. Domestic and other forms of sexual violence increase. A recent study from the International Union of Conservation and Nature (IUCN) interlinked the nature of gender-based violence on three main contexts: access to and control of natural resources; environmental pressure and threats; and environmental action to defend and conserve ecosystems and resources.
Research by the IDRC (2017)discovered that in Karachi, the ‘water mafia’s’ exploitation in water service in low-income neighbourhoods had caused men to lash out at their wives for what they deem wasteful water practices. The research concluded that 80 per cent of the respondents who had poor or no access to water had experienced violence, compared with only 10 per cent who had a consistent water supply.
Women are driving the workforce and have labour-intensive tasks in agro-based economies in the Global South. They produce up to 80% of the food, as well as collect wood for fires and travel long distances to carry water. With the escalating event of droughts, floods, and other erratic weather events per year, the burden on women grows. This can make it more challenging for them to meet their families’ needs for food, water, and energy. With most of their time being occupied fulfilling these requirements, it is also tougher to generate income or obtain an education.
How a climate breakdown can be an invisible cause to child marriages
A harsh reality is that when families struggle to meet their basic needs. Due to this, they marry off their daughters at young ages as a relief to their financial burden. The issue here is that child marriage creates a ripple effect. Girls would not be able to have access to education, freedom, their own income in the future along with the loss of their innocence. Ntoya Sande was thirteen at the time of her marriage and there are thousands who have the same story as her mentioned in the report.
“I tried to negotiate, to tell my parents that I wasn’t ready, that I didn’t want to get married. But they told me that I had to because that would mean one mouth less at the table”. Ntoya Sande
According to the United Nations, eighty per cent of the people displaced by climate change are women. Yet women are less than thirty per cent of those who decide policy in national and global climate negotiating bodies; sexism limits women’s leadership. Women are perceptive. We understand the importance of human relationships. They know how to create rather than destroy. In my opinion, women should be central to solving the climate crisis.
In addition to damaging the lives of both women and men. Sexism and male domination stand in the way of solving the climate emergency. The power dynamic needs to be equal, making it possible for women’s voices to be central in decision-making. In the end, women and men need to be strong allies in combating climate change.