A changing climate effects everyone, but it’s the world’s poorest and those in vulnerable situations who are disproportionately impacted. This is especially marked for women and girls living in developing countries as they suffer more from extreme weather conditions because they tend to work in the agricultural sector, collecting firewood and water for their families.
These traditional gender role tasks marginalise women from society as they are time-consuming, impeding them to continue their education or be involved in decision-making processes which in turn leads them further into poverty. In fact, according to UNECA, 70% of the world’s 1.3 billion people living in poverty are women. For this reason, women need to be given access to resources, information and be involved in decision-making to ensure they can contribute to and in turn benefit from climate change initiatives. This can be achieved by increasing women’s level of education, awareness, technical skills and participation capacity.
Empowering women can strengthen the overall capacity of the community to adapt to climate change as they have a vital role in: food production, community management, natural-resource and biodiversity management, education of children and family care. Climate action must shift to address women's needs, but it must also empower them and utilize them as true agents of change, incorporating gender equality in discussion, mitigation and adaptation strategies.
This past week at COP24, Agnes Leina, the Executive Director and Founder of Il’laramatak Community Concerns, highlighted the marginalisation of Maasai pastoralist women and girls in Kenya and how her organisation is giving them opportunities to realize their full potential and become leaders in their own community for climate action. Although she recognises that much more work is needed for women’s rights and to tackle climate vulnerability, she sends a hopeful message: “don’t look at what others have not done, make climate action personal and focus on the little bit you can do.”