Women feel the heat of climate change

08 December 2008 | News story

Women’s lives are more at risk than men’s because of climate change, according to IUCN. Climate change will affect all countries, but poor women in developing countries will be disproportionately affected. Despite this, most of the UNFCCC debate on climate so far has been gender-blind.

“Women are not just helpless victims – they are powerful agents of change, and their leadership is critical,” says Lorena Aguilar, IUCN’s Senior Gender Advisor. “We need to act now to make sure their voices are properly heard – here in Poznan and beyond.”

Women are more likely than men to be killed by natural disasters such as cyclones, hurricanes, floods and heat waves, which are on the rise as a result of climate change. A sample of 141 countries from 1981 to 2002 found such disasters kill more women than men or kill women at an earlier age than men.

Girls and women are responsible for collecting water and fuelwood. In the poorest areas of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls can spend three to four hours a day on these tasks.

Flooding, drought and desertification can extend these burdens geographically, forcing more girls in more communities to abandon their education. Of the 115 million children in the world who do not go to school, three-fifths are girls, and women constitute 75 percent of the world’s illiterate population.

“Climate change talks focus almost completely on the science and policy with too little attention given to the impacts on the world’s poorest citizens, most of them being women,” adds Aguilar. “Governments in Poznan must tackle climate change and address the threat it poses to women across the world.”

But women also hold the answers to climate change. Adapting to climate change will affect agriculture, food security and water management in rural areas, which are all traditionally women’s tasks. In Africa, for example, 80 percent of food production is managed by women.

IUCN, as part of the Global Gender and Climate Alliance, has produced a training manual as a practical tool to help policy and decision makers to develop gender-responsive climate change policies and strategies.

For more information please contact:
• Sarah Horsley, IUCN Media Relations Officer, m +41 79 528 3486, e sarah.horsley@iucn.org
• Borjana Pervan, IUCN Communications Officer, m +41 79 857 4072, e borjana.pervan@iucn.org