ON INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY, the international development charity Christian Aid has warned women are disproportionately impacted by climate change and is calling for women’s “strengths, knowledge and capabilities” to be at the forefront of the climate response.

Fionna Smyth, Head of Global Advocacy and Policy for Christian Aid, explained “the fight against climate change is inextricably intertwined with poverty and inequality. Transformative policies are required to support women’s initiative and leadership.”

The charity’s report, Women on the Front Line: Healing the Earth, seeking justice, warns the climate response needs to shift power and resources from the Global North to the Global South.

Christian Aid believes 70 per cent of climate financing should be targeted at locally led responses, including matching funds for loss and damage to adaptation and mitigation. The charity also recommends redirecting subsidies for fossil fuels to measures for gender equity and sustainability.

Kenya was one of the countries examined in the report. Sadia Isacko, an activist who encourages women’s groups in Marsabit to attend public forums to discuss the issues affecting them, explains: “Marsabit County was not always like this; yes, it was dry, but not this bad. For women especially, the resources we need have moved further away. Basic resources like water, pasture for our livestock and firewood have diminished further; yet women need these things for their everyday life.”

Sadia added: “Every other responsibility is left for women. They don’t have access to milk, because the herds are away; they have to take care of children; they have to look for food, as their husbands are hundreds of kilometres away herding livestock.”

In Honduras, the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation have long been felt by small-scale farmers. Christian Aid is collaborating with Organismo Cristiano de Desarrollo Integral de Honduras on Women-Led Sustainable Energy Enterprises (WLSEE), an initiative supported by the European Union. It has helped 120 women set up 39 enterprises to produce, market and install sustainable energy technologies in poor communities with limited energy access. Participants suggest that while climate change is a problem for everyone, it presents specific challenges for women and poorer households.

Yadira Lemus, a dedicated producer of quality coffee and member of WLSEE IXIK Organic, says: “It affects housewives the most, because we have to keep an eye on water access. In some cases, maybe the water does not reach the house, so we are forced to bring it from the closest source. The same thing happens with family vegetable gardens, because women are the ones… producing what we are going to eat. But this is becoming more and more difficult.”

Nushrat Chowdhury, Climate Justice Policy Advisor for Christian Aid and co-author of the report, said: “From the local to the global, the fight against climate change is inextricably intertwined with poverty and inequality. By examining the lived experience of women across the Global South, we know climate changes are disproportionately impacting women and girls.

“Despite being on the frontline of understanding the impacts on the climate emergency, the impact of old colonial and economic systems mean women are rarely consulted or decide policy or practical approaches.”

Fionna Smyth added: “The latest IPCC report shows that climate damage is even worse than predicted. To save the planet, we need global leadership and a dramatic overhaul of the old structures. Bold and transformative policies are required to support women’s initiative and leadership and to put them at the heart of a gender just climate response.

“After all, people who are vulnerable to climate change know best what is needed in their specific contexts. Christian Aid is therefore calling for 70 per cent of climate financing to be targeted at locally led responses.”

The theme for International Women’s Day 2022 is, ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’. It aims to recognise the contribution of women and girls around the world, who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response.

* Read Women on the Front Line: Healing the Earth, seeking justice here.

* Source: Christian Aid