Letter from the Editors
Happy Women’s History Month!
Welcome to the third issue of Women Across Frontiers, which we devote to the critical topic of “Women and the Environment.”
Climate change affects everyone.
Yet women, particularly poor women in low income countries, are significantly more severely affected by climate change, environmental degradation, and natural disasters, than men. The reasons for this are quite straightforward. First, women are traditionally responsible for care giving and food production. As higher temperatures and extreme weather patterns lead to changes in ecosystems, desertification, and salinization and thus to lack of clean water, limited crop growth, loss of agricultural land, water sources for fishing, food for livestock, and firewood, women are forced to work harder, walk farther, make do with shrinking resources to feed their families or migrate altogether. This adds to poor women’s already high vulnerability to violence, sexual assault, unwanted pregnancies, and economic-sexual exploitation, especially as men leave their families to seek work in the cities or abroad.
Women are also substantially more likely than men to die in natural disasters, such as typhoons and earthquakes, than men. Once again, this has to do with traditional gender roles: as primary care givers, women spend more time indoors and are often trapped in collapsing buildings when disaster strikes, particularly as they may be unwilling to leave behind children or elderly parents. Furthermore, especially in conservative societies, women often have little access to early warning systems, don’t know how to swim, or are hampered from running by restrictive clothing. For example,Typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines in 2013, is reported to have killed over 6,300 people, of whom 64% were women.
Nonetheless, women are proving to be effective and creative agents of change in disaster mitigation as well as in the development of sustainable adaptation mechanisms. As traditionally responsible for producing food, women possess essential ecological knowledge and skills that are critical to finding solutions to environmental challenges.
As you’ll read in the following articles, women around the world are taking a leadership role in education and championing “green” behavior, attitudes and lifestyles.
But much more work needs to be done. The December 2015 Paris Agreement, in which more than 150 nations have pledged to gradually reduce the amount of carbon-dioxide they emit into the atmosphere, and the Sendai Framework, that recognizes the importance of integrating a gender dimension in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) are, certainly, a good start. However, empowering women to become part of actual decision-making is the next, crucial, step. Governments, businesses and civil society organizations must work to ensure that more women are represented in climate negotiations and climate actions.
To that end, WAF supports the Women’s Global Call for Climate Justice campaign, organized collectively by a group of regionally diverse women’s rights and feminist organizations, brought together by the urgent need for just action on climate change.
We invite you to join us in this initiative by endorsing the call, becoming a partner or sharing an action.
Thank you for your support!
Sylvia, Karina and the WAF team
– In Uganda, women are working at the frontline of climate change adaptation.
– Unique initiatives help women cope with the gender-disparate impact of natural disasters in the Philippines.
– Women in remote villages of Nepal bear the burden of severe water scarcity.
– Loss of agricultural land in Northern Nigeria due to climate change helps give rise to Boko Haram.
– David Bowie anticipated today’s dialogue on gender binaries.