THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON WOMEN: MATTERS ARISING

What is Climate Change?

Climate Change refers to significant changes in global temperature, precipitation, wind patterns, and other measures of climate that occur over several decades or longer. These changes include floods, droughts, rising sea levels, heatwaves, extreme storms among others. Climate change has affected economic activities especially agriculture production in sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria to be precise. The agricultural sector has been grossly affected by climate change though it is a significant contributor to the global economy where about 75 percent of the world’s poor who live in rural areas are dependent on it.

 

Climate Change and Women

Climate change affects women differently because of their economic dependence on agriculture where about 40 percent of community-supported agriculture farms are operated by women globally. Also, women tend to live in poverty, lack access to basic human rights, lands, experience restricted freedom and they have limited rights to speak up on abusive circumstance the face especially sexual abuse and violence. These and other factors suggest that as climate change continues to escalate women face more chances of being threatened by the outcomes and its devastating effects. That is one of the reasons why the Paris climate agreement made specific provisions to enhance women’s ability to cope with the devastating effects of climate change.

 

How it Affects Women

In rural communities for instance Nigeria, women are saddled with the responsibilities of gathering firewood from the forest, food preparation,  bathing the children in basins, and collecting running water from the rainwater, as droughts excruciate and forest deserted, women have to walk long distances, spend more energy and time in order to acquire these resources; thereby making it cumbersome for them to cope with their household chores of cooking, cleaning, gathering resources and taking care for the children, especially in the villages. When drought dries up water sources, women work hard to get water for domestic uses, this impedes their sources of income as they spend more time and energy sourcing for water. The time spent sourcing for water inhibits their capacity to become successful farmers. Women represent about 40% of the world population workforce in Agriculture, yet they face a lot of obstacles to financial independence as women do not have access to loans/credit facilities to purchase farming tools, and fertilizers and these deter them from bountiful harvest.

Again, the majority of women do not have titles to the lands that they farm, so their means for compensation are very narrow in the eventuality of climate change, their farm produce is highly destroyed. Climate change is one of the drivers of gender-based violence and exploitation, as land becomes dry, tough and inhabitable, climate change depletes resources available, the environment becomes hostile, men at the same time becomes intolerant and aggressive, in some cases, tension become vented on the women through physical and psychological violence. In most cases in a bid to survive, some women become desperate and vulnerable to human trafficking and extreme labor exploitation.

Arising from high temperatures and sea acidity which lead to the reduction of the fish population, women who rely on fishing for survival are compelled to exchange sex for food. Some women out of desperate situations for survival trade sex for food.

Globally, climate-related displacements are on the increase and the majority of those who are compelled to leave their origins are mostly women. According to the United Nations report, women are more likely than men to live in poverty and have fewer resources to recover from the devastation caused by climate change. When women and children are displaced, they are often unable to recover as they are not able to pursue economic opportunities and continue with their education. Women and the girl child are more susceptible to higher rates of early marriages, sexual assault, and human trafficking as a result of climate change.

As climate change mounts economic pressure on the family, the likelihood of early marriage rises as giving out a daughter in marriage becomes a coping strategy to ensure stability. Climate change threatens the health of women in several ways as most of the women who live in displacement camps are insecure as they experience various degrees of sexual assaults; when pregnant women live in camps there is every possibility that she may not be getting adequate medical attention and postnatal care needed which increases her chances of health-related complications which may result to high rate of maternal and infant mortality.

 

Way Forward

Women should be actively involved in the domestic regional and international negotiations on the issues revolving around climate change, Biodiversity, and resource use.

Support women upgrade their cooking tools by replacing firewood, cooking stoves, with alternative tools; this will help conserve the forest and improve the environment and reduce the emission of poisonous gases.

Formulate policies and frameworks that will address the gendered impacts of climate change and also incorporate women in all aspects.