In his message on International Women’s Day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the importance of the role of women and girls in the fight against climate change.
“We need more female environment ministers, or prime ministers, presidents and business leaders,” he said. “They have the power to inspire countries to tackle the climate crisis, create green jobs and build a fairer and more sustainable world. We cannot emerge from the pandemic by rolling back the clock for gender equality.”
UN Women said that there is no doubt that women are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than men, as they are the majority of the poorest on the planet and more dependent on natural resources, and so are threatened by climate change.
Whatever the nature of the crisis – climatic conditions or armed conflicts – it is women and girls who are the first affected and who suffer the most, said UN Women, reiterating that without gender equality today, a sustainable and equal future remains out of reach.
“Accelerating crises related to climate change and environmental degradation disproportionately affect the rights and well-being of women and girls,” said Sima Bahous, Executive Director, UN Women.
“We have the opportunity today to put women and girls at the heart of our planning and actions, and to integrate gender perspectives into global and national laws and policies. We have the ability to redesign, resize and reallocate resources. We have an opportunity to leverage the leadership of women and girls environmental advocates and climate activists to guide the conservation of our planet,” she insisted. “Climate change is a threat multiplier. But women, and especially young women, are solution multipliers.”
According to UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, more than 11 million girls worldwide are unlikely to return to school after the pandemic, and an additional 10 million girls are at risk of child marriage over the next ten years.
In addition, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), two million additional cases of female genital mutilation could take place.
The confinement has, thus, forced children to spend more time at home, and it is the girls who take on most of the domestic work. Many of them, victims of violence, experience forced promiscuity with their abuser and are cut off from the services and communities that help protect them, resulting in an increase in gender-based violence, including sexual violence.
Climate change also increases vulnerabilities due to gender-based violence. All over the world, women bear a disproportionate responsibility when it comes to providing food for their families, obtaining water or fuel, tasks that climate change makes longer and more difficult, explained UN Women.
The scarcity of resources and the need to travel long distances to get them expose women to more violence and increased risk factors related to human trafficking, child marriage or obligation to generate income to escape domestic violence.