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Koshi Gender Portal

International Women’s Day 2021

Women at the forefront of climate change and natural resource management

Women at the forefront

Differentiated impacts of climate change

Climate change will affect all people across the world, but some groups are likely to be more vulnerable and experience more severe consequences than others. Women are more likely to be negatively affected than men because of social and cultural norms and the inequitable distribution of roles, resources, and power. Likewise, the poor will be more severely affected than higher-income communities, partly due to limited access to information and resources, as well as their increased dependence on natural resources.

The manifestations of climate change impact and coping strategies vary in different groups of people based on gender and social structures within a particular time and location. However, these structures also intersect with economic conditions, religious practices, caste and ethnic identities, age, disabilities, geographical location and remoteness, and political conditions to determine women’s and men’s access to and control over resources and their vulnerability.

Women on the frontlines

Women are at the forefront of climate change adaptation and building resilience. However, they often lack access to information, particularly during disasters (early warning systems), face difficulties participating in training programmes, and have limited or no land ownership rights. This makes women, particularly in woman-headed households, more vulnerable to changing climatic conditions. Women are also most affected when it comes to environmental changes. For instance, the increasing scarcity of water reduces yields of agricultural produce, forest biomass and other resources causing increased risks to human health, with children, women, and elderly being the most affected. Similarly, when ecosystems become fragile and natural resources are lost or unavailable, women, the poor, and marginalized communities who depend on them for survival, face the most difficulties.

For many women, structural norms and values continue to limit their ability to cope with disasters and other environmental change. Few women are in decision-making positions in disaster risk reduction and natural resource management. These opportunities can serve as strategic entry points to promote gender-inclusive development for transformative change. It is important to ensure that solutions promoted to reduce the impacts of climate change do not further increase vulnerabilities of those most affected, especially women and marginalized groups. There is also a need to shift the lens towards practices addressing climate change that integrate gender perspectives, steer away from stereotypes and biases, and include the marginalized and affected.