Multiple studies and reports, including those by the United Nations Women’s Organization (UN Women), highlight the disproportionate impact of climate change-induced natural disasters on women compared to men. Women and girls are found to be more susceptible to the consequences of global warming, experiencing a range of challenges due to societal roles, physical sensitivities, and limited access to resources. This article delves into the various factors contributing to the gender disparity and emphasizes the need to address these vulnerabilities to build a more resilient future.
Societal Roles, Unpaid Work, and Resource Access:
Reports from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) emphasize that women worldwide bear the burden of 75% of unpaid work. In the event of a disaster, this leaves them with limited financial resources to cope with the situation at hand. Additionally, women’s biological needs, such as hygiene during menstruation, childbirth, and breastfeeding, make them more susceptible to infection-based diseases when access to clean water and sanitation is inadequate. Their responsibilities within households and societies also often require them to prioritize the needs of their families, limiting their ability to respond and recover from disasters.
Disproportionate Impact on Climate Migrants:
Research conducted by the University of Texas in Austin, University of Minnesota, and Arizona State University highlights the increasing trend of climate migration. Women in regions affected by droughts and floods face additional challenges as they bear the responsibility of caring for their children and encounter difficulties in traveling long distances. The study reveals that the number of women who lose their lives in climate-related disasters, such as storms, tornadoes, and floods, is 14 times higher than that of men.
Geographical Variations and Water Scarcity:
Virginie Le Masson, a researcher at the Overseas Development Institute, emphasizes the importance of understanding the specific context in which disasters occur. In many regions, it is the responsibility of women and girls to fetch water for their households. However, with climate change leading to water scarcity, they must spend more time searching for water sources, which affects their ability to engage in income-generating activities. This creates a domino effect, where women’s workload increases, hindering their capacity to save money and invest in their own future.
Addressing Inequalities and Building Resilience:
It is crucial to recognize that climate change does not directly target women; rather, it exacerbates existing gender inequalities. Amber Fletcher, a sociologist at the University of Regina, highlights that the impact of climate change consequences on women is shaped by geographical and situational factors. Women in the global south, in particular, face heightened vulnerability. For instance, in disasters like floods, women who lack swimming skills are often left behind. To address these disparities, it is essential to tackle the root causes of gender gaps, including the unequal distribution of resources and power.
The evidence is clear: women bear a disproportionate burden in climate change-induced natural disasters. Their vulnerability stems from societal roles, unequal access to resources, and biological needs. By acknowledging these gendered impacts and addressing the underlying inequalities, societies can work towards building resilience and fostering inclusivity. Efforts to empower women, promote gender equality, and ensure their active participation in disaster management and climate change adaptation are crucial for creating a sustainable and equitable future for all.