Why women are key to tackling climate change

Nine leaders from Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America explain why women are the key to transforming society and helping communities become more climate resilient

As rainfall patterns become more erratic, many women face longer walks to gather water (Pic: Practical Action/Dfid)

As rainfall patterns become more erratic, many women face longer walks to gather water (Pic: Practical Action/Dfid)

By Ed King

Women are frequently portrayed as being vulnerable to climate impacts.

This much is true, especially so in developing countries where they are responsible for running households, collecting water and feeding their families.

But there’s another critical side too. Women are leading actors in enabling change, in educating communities to become more resilient and influencing regional, national and international leaders.

To mark International Women’s Day 2016 we picked out nine views explaining why women are critical to global efforts to address and prepare for a warming world.

Please add your own comments at the bottom or send @ClimateHome a tweet using the hashtag #IWD2016

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South African foreign minister

“Being gender smart is not about pushing men away, but as African proverbs – which we have many of – say, one hand does not clap, but two do and make a sound. This about time we acknowledge the contribution of women.”

Christiana Figueres, UN climate chief

“Women are disproportionately affected by climate change, the most vulnerable, and women are the strongest key agent of adaptation. On both sides because of the vulnerable and potential to contribute they are one of the most important elements here.”

Natalie Isaacs, One Million Women

“Women have incredible power to transform society. In Australia women make 85% of the consumer decisions that affect the household’s carbon footprint. We’re 51% of the electorate. Everything we do is about empowering women and girls to take practical action. Once you start taking action and you see a result: you can’t stop.”

Farah Kabir, ActionAid Bangladesh

“If we don’t discuss women’s rights then whenever we are discussing or negotiating on climate change we are leaving out half the population. It impacts men and women differently. If a disaster kills one male, four females will die. We need gender sensitive responses to address climate change.”

Mary Robinson, former Ireland president

“This is fundamental to climate justice. Women are agents for change who will bring about change on the ground. They will be the ones having to adapt to the climate shocks so they need to be empowered, valued and included at the table for decision-making.”

Fatou Ndeye Gaye, former environment minister, Gambia

“When we say sustainable development, we start from the homes and houses. When you wake up it’s women and children who do the chores in Gambia. Many of those chores we share in the house but it’s the responsibility of the women. Women can inform the top.  Women’s issues are family issues.”

Mafalda Duarte, Climate Investment Funds

“Every day all across the world, billions of women – farmers, land-managers, commuters, entrepreneurs, consumers, investors – make decisions that affect the future of our children and our planet. We need women to be empowered to make decisions but in order for that to happen they need to be engaged in decision-making processes and provided with leadership opportunities.”

Justine Greening, UK secretary of state for international development

“Quite simply, no country can develop if it leaves half of its population behind. Girls and women everywhere need control over their lives – the power to make their own choices about their health, their marriage, their family, their education and their careers. That is why we will continue to put improving the lives of girls and women at the heart of everything we do.”

Radha Muthiah, Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

“If we can deliver cleaner cookstoves women will gain time because they are not spending so much time collecting firewood, more efficient stoves mean they spend less time cooking and it means there’s cleaner air so they are healthier and their children are healthier.”

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