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Women & Climate Change — Greater Impacts but Stronger Climate Action.

Updated: Sep 15, 2022

The Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released The Physical Science Basis of the Climate Change in the 6th Assessment Report (AR6) on August 9th, 2021. The report mentions about the drastic weather events that will be caused soon including regional & global impacts. Impacts will be seen on health systems, agriculture, natural biodiversity, rainfall patterns, frequent natural disasters all of which will impact the Economy of Nations across the Globe.

With these impacts, comes a larger impact on Women who in many sections of the world are already a vulnerable population. The impacts that will be seen are as follows:

1. Health issues — Women are more sensitive to health issues that come in lieu of the change in climate such as sudden changes in weather patterns, vector-borne diseases, reduced air-quality, water & food borne diseases, infections, etc.

2. Climate Refugee challenges — In case of extreme weather events & natural disasters, a major portion of the vulnerable population are displaced from their region of residence. These leads to refugee camps with relief kits. However, these camps are challenging for women due to lack of hygienic facilities and absence of sanitary equipment in the relief kits

3. Food Security issues –Women are often in charge of providing a balanced nutrition to the family members as the one usually in charge of preparing meals. With the impact of climate change on the agriculture patterns, food nutrition value & reduced food production, this will eventually become a bigger challenge for women to provide the required nutrition.

4. Water availability — In most remote & rural regions of the world, it is still the duty of women to walk long distances in the mornings to fetch drinking water for the family. With changes in rainfall patterns and increased drought episodes, the women will have to travel farther distances in search of potable water thus increasing their workload & challenges.

5. Psychosocial impacts — Loss of life, property, livelihood & place of residence creates an impact on the psychosocial wellbeing of women who may not be the bread earner for the family or not adequately educated in certain sections of the society. Also, certain regions still consider working women (especially widows) as a taboo with lack of employment opportunities.

6. Safety concerns — Refugee camps may become areas of concern for the safety of women with increased crime rates. Displacement leads to a major safety concern for women.

These are the additional impacts women will have to face along with the usual ones like loss of life, mass displacement, economic crisis, etc. It may sound all dreary & depressing but here is the silver line. Women, whether literate or not, can be leaders in bringing about Climate Action either on an individual, community, or global level. They can lead the movement of a just transition towards a sustainable lifestyle in various ways such as:

1. Individual level transition to a Sustainable Lifestyle:

Women majorly being caretakers of the family & household can imbibe sustainable values in their individual processes and also groom their children to adapt the same. These can include actions such as:

- Reduce plastic usage & waste segregation

- Less consumerism and recycling/reusing of products

- Introducing nature-based lessons for children at a tender age including Gardening, the R’s of Circular Economy, respect & tolerance for fellow organisms, prevention of Food & water wastage, waste segregation, etc

- Utilization of organic food products that are grown using sustainable agriculture

- Opting for Sustainable Tourism options & Vacation Stays

- Using Menstrual Cups/Reusable Pads instead of Sanitary Napkins/Tampons.

Individual level changes on the women’s part contributes to a transition for the full family and just like every drop creates an ocean, it will have a bigger impact. Women have the motherly caring nature to adapt these practices and make sure to leave a better world for future generations.

2. Community level impact generation:

The female gender is also highly sociable and has greater interaction with fellow beings in the neighborhoods or families, women-specific organizations, religious gatherings, kitty-parties, etc. These social interactions can be used as a medium to create awareness and motivate others to follow similar lifestyles. Even house helps can be taught good circular economy practices that will help them to live a good lifestyle too.

Children Birthday Parties or Social Gatherings can be themed to have interactive activities or taking up challenges which is a current trend in the Social Media World.

There are many Motherhood Influencers on the social media too who can take up these practices and create content that will influence a far greater audience.

Women also face challenges with menstrual hygiene and a big percentage of them don’t have access to the same. Awareness in relation to this can be introduced using eco-friendly products.

Women can take up plantation drives in their region of residence and care for the plants to develop a green belt. The motherly instinct can help nurture the plants well to maturity.

3. Impact generation for & by women in Rural Areas:

Agriculture is majorly practiced in most rural areas around the world. Many countries possess small farmlands that are cared for by farmer families. The women can be trained to practice Sustainable agricultural practices like permaculture, crop rotation, agroforestry, vermicomposting & biofertilizer production, integrated pest management, etc. These methodologies will be beneficial in not only improving the soil quality with increased crop production but also be a good source of income for the farmer families.

Low smoke & Rocket Chulhas for cooking, Solar Panel installations for electricity and households made with locally available sustainable materials can help improve the lifestyle of the women too.

4. Global Leadership for Conservation & Mitigating Climate Change:

Women & Climate Change — Greater Impacts but Stronger Climate Action

Women since the beginning have been contributing to the movement of Conservation & Nature-Based Mitigation Solutions. To name a few: Rachel Carson, fondly known as the mother of Environmental Movements, authored the book ‘The Silent Spring’ exposing the impacts of waste runoff from chemical industries (DDT) impacting the natural environment. This led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States and paved the way for the Modern Global Environmental Movement.

Dr. Jane Goodall who has a record 60-year study of the primates (chimpanzees) with human-like interactions and her work for species conservation is one which is very widely known. She has authored many books in relation to this and continues to be a source of inspiration for many naturalists around the world.

Wangari Maathai who was the first African to win the Nobel Peace Prize founded the Green Belt Movement organization in Kenya. This organization focuses majorly on environmental conservation, women’s rights & sustainable development. She worked to convert the Kenyan ecological debate to a mass action of Reforestation.

Dr. Vandana Shiva, a physicist who turned into an environmental activist founded Navdanya, which is an “Earth Centric, Women Centric & Farmer-led Movement for the protection of Biological and cultural Diversity.” Her leadership in bringing about change back from industrial to sustainable agriculture and conservation of nutritious climate resilient food seeds is widely recognized.

Isatou Ceesay, dubbed as the Queen of Plastic Recycling worked towards recycling plastic waste to handbags and provided employment to West African women from low-income backgrounds.

Isatou Ceesay,, an environmentalist and writer has been a major proponent of the Green concept of Sustainable Development in India and has contributed in areas of Rain Water Harvesting, Tiger Conservation and Climate Change Mitigation. She is currently the director general for Centre for Science and Environment, director of the Society for Environmental Communications & the editor of the fortnightly magazine, Down to Earth.

The list of women contributors is pretty exhaustive including the likes of Julia Butterly, Saalumarada Thimmakka, Sylvia Earle, Licypriya Kangujam, Berta Caceres, Marina Silva, Kate Raworth, etc. It includes youth activists, indigenous community women, scholars, etc. They are symbols & a great source of motivation for the kind of contribution women can provide for Climate Action.

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference” — Dr. Jane Goodall

In the words of Dr Jane Goodall, “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference”, Women of the world can be pioneers and lead the movement for a just transition and environmental justice to eliminate the risk of being vulnerable to the Climate Crisis.


IPCC, 2021: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S. L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M. I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T. K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.


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