Lyndi Weener is a Women’s Studies major at Hope College and a staff writer for The WMEAC Blog. In collaboration with WMEAC, she is researching the topic of ecofeminism. This is the latest in a series exploring the connections between feminism and environmentalism.
Perhaps you’ve heard that those in developing nations suffer the effects of climate change more acutely than those in more developed nations. Those living in poverty are more vulnerable to climate-change related disasters, creating millions of environmental refugees and affecting the availability of natural resources.
However, according to publications released within the past couple years by the United Nation’s WomenWatch program, climate change is also a gendered issue, impacting women differently and more unfavorably than men.
In part, this is no surprise. Accounting for roughly 70% of the world’s poor, it makes sense that women would suffer greater consequences of climate change than men. However, in addition to poverty, women suffer other vulnerabilities due to their often unequal statuses and social roles in developing nations.
Being responsible for the majority of domestic tasks – growing food, gathering water, caring for children – women experience an increased workload in the face of climate change-related disasters. They often must walk further to gather fuel and find clean drinking water as well as secure food in shortages. In resource conflicts, women are more likely to suffer violence, including sexual violence.
In countries in which women have unequal rights, they are more likely to perish in climate disasters. For example, in 1991 almost five times more women than men died as a result of the Bangladesh cyclone, largely because women couldn’t swim or didn’t leave their homes because they were waiting for a male to accompany them. Men, often present in the public sphere, receive more information about impending dangers than women who must stay at home.
Though women are active participants and instigators of grassroots environmental activist movements (Wangari Maathai’s Greenbelt Movement, for example, was responsible for planting hundreds of thousands of trees throughout Kenya) they often have less decision making power at state and national levels. In the effort to fight global warming, it will be important for women to find an arena in which they can make their voices heard (this is also true in West Michigan, as women here make up a much higher proportion of leaders in the environmental movement than they do in government).
To learn more about women who are doing just that, visit Climate Rush or Women’s Environmental Network. To read the United Nations report in its entirety, click here, and to check out more of my ecofeminism blog posts, click here.