“Is climate change a feminist issue?” NewScientist enviro blogger Catherine Brahic asked last week, then answered, “[F]or me, climate change is not a gender issue. Climate change will not affect women more than men.”
She was responding to several short films Oxfam recently produced that profile four women in Brazil, Uganda, the U.K., and Bangladesh. The films explore their experiences educating others in their communities about, and ameliorating, the effects of global warming. Sahena of Bangladesh relays flood warnings from BBC radio to others in her village, so food, livestock, and other family members can be evacuated to higher ground. “I tell women that we don’t need to suffer. We can be prepared,” she says in the film. Watch:
“In different cultures, where men and women have different roles, [climate change] will affect them differently,” Brahic wrote. Yes, it does affect the sexes differently — but women are hit harder. According to Fatma Denton, writing in Oxfam’s “Gender, Development and Climate Change” [PDF], women comprise 70 percent of those living below the poverty line in developing countries (unsurprising to anyone familiar with the feminization of poverty). And as the IPCC and others have stated, the poor are disproportionately affected by climate change. It is thus an inescapably gendered issue.
As Oxfam explains:
It tends to be women who grow the family’s food, fetch fuel and water, and bring up the children. So when clean water becomes harder to find during a drought, or when crops are destroyed by floods, it’s up to women to find solutions.
Men are badly hit too, of course, but because they tend to do fewer jobs that rely on natural resources, they are usually in a much stronger position to cope and rebuild their lives.
They are also more likely to be educated, to have savings, and to have skills to earn money. And if there is no work locally, they are able to migrate to other areas to find it.
So it’s actually fairly simple. Climate change is hitting women in the poorest countries hardest by exacerbating inequalities that already exist.
Watch all four of the films here.