When you think of climate change, you think of our world on a downward spiral into the destruction of all civilisation. When you think of gender equality, you think of an issue that affects half the population and is steadily progressing as the decades roll by. It’s no surprise then that gender equality has been knocked down to the 10th most pressing global issue in most people’s minds, with war and climate change among the forerunners.
In new research conducted by the UN solidarity movement HeForShe with the help of the TEAM LEWIS Foundation, however, we learn that 80% of people displaced by environmental problems are in fact women which means that in order to tackle things like climate change, we need to work harder towards equality.
HeForShe’s new mantra is “gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”; but why is it that women are more at the mercy of climate issues than men? We spoke to the movement’s current head Edward Wageni to find out.
“Women’s socio-economic circumstances make them disproportionately negatively affected by impacts of climate change,” Edward told FemaleFirst. “70% of the world’s poor are women. It is estimated that 60% of chronically hungry people are women and girls.
“Almost 70% of employed women in South Asia work in agriculture, as do more than 60% of employed women in sub-Saharan Africa. Women in sub-Saharan Africa collectively spend about 40 billion hours a year collecting water. It is evident women are dependent on natural resources that are threatened by climate change.”
So what exactly can be done with regards to working towards gender equality as a building block of tackling climate change?
“HeForShe is calling for men to play a transformative leadership role to seize the opportunities of solutions that have been presented to the world in an inclusive way,” Edward explains. “Working with men and boys to challenge patriarchal masculinities in sectors such as energy, industry, transport, agriculture, food and waste, and transport will involve confronting the operations of patriarchal power at the individual, institutional and ideological levels by altering behavior, systems and way of life to protect families and economies and to be held accountable for it.”
HeForShe might have UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson championing them in their work, but the movement is primarily geared towards men and their role in creating an equal world. Essentially, we need to remove the “macho” aspect of male-centred industries in order that better decisions can be made without sexism and toxic masculinity getting in the way.
“Part of being an ally is taking time to read, listen and deepen understanding on the obstacles women face”, he adds. “Being an ally requires men to acknowledge the power and privilege that patriarchy accords them and how this in turn deprives women opportunities to be heard.
“In practical terms, this means men actively challenging situations where they see women being disregarded. It is also about men championing policies and practices that require equitable decision making.”
While there are many female activists out there helping in the fight against climate change, leadership roles remain distinctly imbalanced. It seems that the key factor in tackling climate change is to make political bodies more open to female voices.
Edward says: “We need more women in research and inter-governmental bodies that set policy and negotiate climate change agreements, including the allocation of resources for adaptation, mitigation and resilience.”
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