Climate defines the lifestyle, traditions and economics of an area. Recent gender studies show that women of the developing world are especially vulnerable to climate change due to the low gender equality index characteristic for those countries. Females are unable to fulfill their potential for effective adaptation to climate alterations as a result of labor and human rights violations.
Climate alterations can deepen the divide between rich and poor layers of society and exacerbate gender inequality. In Third World countries, women are primarily involved in agriculture and farming. According to Global Water Institute, over 60 percent of women working in sub-Saharan Africa are employed in agricultural labor. Almost 80 percent of the food on the African continent is produced by women. Therefore, they heavily depend on weather conditions. Females are supposed to run a household and take care of the family members, which limits mobility of those women. Drought and infrequent or irregular precipitation force women to work to exhaustion to provide their families with food and water.
Women of sub-Saharan rural areas are heads of their household whose responsibilities include upbringing of children and caring for elders. As a result, females are the first to feel devastating consequences of climate change, and therefore, serve as a means to identify a given nation’s ability to adapt. Around 2.4 billion people are currently experiencing a shortage of fresh water. These people generally come from underdeveloped countries where women may walk for hours in order to obtain water for the family.
In extreme weather events, young girls drop out of school in order to help their mothers. This is the case when poverty begets more poverty and the vicious cycle is perpetuated. These circumstances destabilize the social capital, which prevents the population from effective climate change resistance. Decentralized and weakened political systems of developing world countries are incapable of dealing with issues associated with healthcare, education and human rights. The issue of gender equality in the developing world has been raised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its leaders have come to a conclusion that programs of action cannot be developed without an active involvement of women and promotion of gender equality.
According to a paper by the World Health Organization, girls and women make up approximately 70 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Females usually have less access to natural resources and municipal services. As a consequence, they are more likely to die in the event of a natural disaster.
Some women of the developing world are struggling for freedom of speech because their opinion is often ignored, despite the fact that some females might possess and share valuable experience and ideas regarding the issues associated with climate change. The majority of developing countries are still conservative about the position of women in society.
Research published in Gender Technology and Development magazine has shown that even deforestation increases the workload of women involved in forest products collection and transportation. Women are forced to walk longer distances and carry heavier loads, which affects the spine, legs and the ability to carry a child. Numerous underdeveloped countries still abide by the stereotype that women should do the more exhausting jobs despite the conditions of their labor.
In order to partially prevent irreversible losses, gender equality has to be established. The concept is contradictory for many societies of the Third World; therefore, the task is time-consuming and requires an effort. The average temperature of the planet is slowly rising and citizens of underdeveloped countries are vulnerable to these changes. As advised by the Global Water Institute, women of the developing world should be provided with financial and juridical assistance of the developed countries. Involvement of the global community could cause significant improvements by relieving issues associated with gender inequality, which are exacerbated by climate change.
Opinion by Yevgeniya Migranova