Why is climate change a feminist issue?

By: Takara Small

Being a girl can be tough.

Courtesy of askehbl.wordpress.com

Women are often the hardest hit and the first to suffer when things take a turn for the worst.

They’re often the last to eat, usually the first to be pulled out of school and overall most likely to die early from health complications.  And, global warming is bound to make their situation much worse for a new generation  that must grapple with global warming induced  disasters that experts say leave them at an unfair disadvantage compared to men.

Right now in Copenhagen, politicians around the world are negotiating a new climate pact during the United Nations Climate Change Conference that many hope will culminate in legislation that will effectively limit the millions of green house gases that are emitted into our atmosphere on a yearly basis.

An important issue that has become the ultimate cause of the decade and rallying call for our generation.

Biologists, world leaders and researchers have waited years in anticipation to hear their recommendations and possible solutions. Who should shoulder the burden for future climate calamities? How much carbon should be emitted into the air? What rules can be put into place to ensure this? Questions that are unlikely to be met with a unilateral consensus yet the group that will be most affected by any pending natural disaster isn’t being given the opportunity to express their worries and fears that some critics believe will impede any real progress at the conference.

The United Nations Population Fund recently tabled a document called Facing a Changing World that outlines how global warming will have detrimental consequences for women around the world, as they are the most vulnerable group in society.

“Women—particularly those in poor countries—will be affected differently than men. They are among the most vulnerable to climate change, partly because in many countries they make up the larger share of the agricultural work force and partly because they tend to have access to fewer income-earning opportunities. “

The policy explains that women need to be involved with future policy making decisions and have access to basic necessities like birth control and health clinics if they are to survive in a world that will most certainly be marked by future disasters around the world.

Unlike men, women are at the direct are more exposed to more harmful elements, especially in underdeveloped nations because they’re often placed on a different level than men who are placed in a different social hierarchy.  While men have the capability to move from area to area, women are often limited or confined to an area in order to maintain obligations for the family or simply do not have the opportunity to seek help beyond their immediate surroundings.

“Because of greater poverty, lesser power over their own lives, less recognition of their economic productivity and their disproportionate burden in reproduction and child-raising, women face additional challenges as climate changes. The recent experiences of natural disasters—some logically related to climate change, others clearly not —indicate that women are more likely to lose their lives and otherwise fare worse than men in extreme events from heat waves to hurricanes and tsunamis. “

Climate change will also force women left in effected areas into ”dangerous work” or prostitution to compensate for loss of food and work in the agricultural field that is disproportionately relied on by women for a living.

Among other recommendations is a call for the integration of gender based studies into future reports on climate change (2) A plan to aide women and girls affected by the change and (3) Funded family planning facilities in areas most likely to suffer undue hardship due to increasing temperatures.

In order for these recommendations to be accepted leaders must stand behind the cause and ask other nations to honor these and similar commitments.

If you want to make a difference write to your local official and ask them to lend their voice to the cause and ask the United Nations to ensure women are included in future plans.


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