Climate emergencies affect everyone, but not equally. In a global context of inequality in which vulnerable groups are disproportionately affected by the consequences of human actions on the planet, women are at the forefront of the crisis.
According to UN reports, regardless of the sector in question , it is up to women to bear most of the burden caused by climate change. This vulnerability is the result of a series of social, economic and cultural factors.
Approximately 40% of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty in the world are women. They are still the heads of household in 37% of the poorest households in urban areas. In rural areas, they predominate in the world food production workforce (from 40% to 80%), but have less than 10% of land.
This power imbalance undermines women’s access to the resources, technology and information needed to adapt to the climate crisis.
Although studies focused on the real consequences of climate change on women’s human rights are still in their infancy, the UN demonstrates a growing concern with the subject. In addition to the preamble of the Paris Agreement, which indicates that countries must take into account human rights in their climate policies, in 2018, the organization published Recommendation No. 37, specifically focused on the reality of women in this context.
For them, the environmental crisis poses a threat to essential rights, such as life, health and decent housing.
Chernor Bah, founder of the Children’s Forum Network in Sierra Leone and co-founder of Purposeful, an African center for feminist activism, points to other, more specific concerns.
“In locations more affected by ecological disasters, there is an increase in domestic violence, and women are among the main victims of conflicts resulting from climate change. They are also the largest group of people displaced from their lands as a result of them”, he says Bah.
Furthermore, the global crisis affects your ability to access basic resources such as water and water.
“In places like Asia, Africa and rural areas of Latin America, water scarcity is a special risk factor for women,” says Lise Sedrez, professor of environmental history at UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro).
In addition to being taken to spend more and more time in the task of fetching water, in places far from their homes, women and girls are also exposed to danger of suffering sexual violence along the way.
In Brazil, water scarcity is also one of the main effects of climate change, and affects women in different ways.
*) “Water availability is more related to the productive condition of families that live off subsistence agriculture”, says Alan Oliveira dos Santos who, for years, was a collaborator from the Vicente Nica Alternative Agriculture Center, in the Jequitinhonha Valley.
For women from traditional communities, such as indigenous peoples and quilombolas, the situation becomes even more painful.
“The quilombo of Gurutuba, where I live, in the North of Minas Gerais, like so many other quilombos, is matriarchal”, says Edna Correia de Oliveira, president of the Federation of Quilombola Communities in the State of Minas Gerais. “Here, women are the ones who take care of practically everything, mainly in agriculture. And, with climate change, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain our traditional lifestyle.”
The quilombolas are among the groups most affected by climate change in Brazil. However, their demands are even more unfeasible than those of indigenous communities, which today have greater articulation at national and international levels.
This is not to say that the impact on indigenous women is smaller.
“It is important to say that our bodies, our voices, our territories are under strong pressure and threat”, highlights Célia Xakriabá, teacher and indigenous activist.
“The Deforestation of our forests brings a series of incalculable damages to the environment and also to humanity. We women are directly affected. We are the extension of the earth: what hurts in it hurts in us too”, she concludes.
The article was produced with the support of Climate Tracker.