CLIMATE JUSTICE

The Gendered Impacts of Climate Change: climate justice and women take center stage at the G20

According to a report by UN Women, by 2050, climate change is projected to push an additional 158 million women and girls into poverty and 236 million women into hunger. This significant finding was discussed during the inaugural face-to-face meeting of the Women's Empowerment Working Group. The tragedy in Rio Grande do Sul was among the items on the agenda.

05/15/2024 10:01 AM - Modified 14 days ago
Report reveals that women are 14 times more likely to succumb following a natural disaster. Photo: ClimaInfo
Report reveals that women are 14 times more likely to succumb following a natural disaster. Photo: ClimaInfo

In times of crisis, who sacrifices work to support family members? Amid shortages, who diligently seeks out milk for the children? During severe droughts, who traverses miles in search of water? It is women — Marias, Anas, Vanessas, and women in general — who bear the brunt of these challenges.

However, despite being disproportionately affected by extreme weather events, women remain underrepresented in decision-making roles within the realm of climate change. According to UN Women, an organization contributing to G20 discussions, while approximately 80% of those displaced by climate change and natural disasters are women or girls, the discourse on these matters primarily involves men. Last year, only 15 out of 133 world leaders participating in the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) 28 were women, mirroring the figures from previous years.

It is a well-established fact that climate emergencies do not occur with gender neutrality. But what factors contribute to this inequality, and how can we foster feminist climate justice? These were the focal points addressed by the Women's Empowerment Working Group (WG), a newcomer to the G20, during its inaugural face-to-face meeting in Brasilia, DF, on May 13th and 14th. 

At the onset of the meeting, Cida Gonçalves, Minister for Women, emphasized the disproportionate impact of the degradation of the planet's natural systems on women and girls, citing the current situation in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.  "Climate justice is an urgent global concern, and we recognize the pivotal role women play in its advancement. Women bear the brunt of climate disasters while simultaneously serving as primary stewards of the environment. The vulnerabilities, inequalities, and various forms of violence faced by women in their daily lives are exacerbated in situations like those currently unfolding in southern Brazil and amidst the numerous climate crises worldwide," highlighted the minister.

The Women's Group meeting was inaugurated by the Minister for Women, Cida Gonçalves, alongside the Brazilian Minister for Management and Innovation in Public Services, Esther Dweck. Photo: Audiovisual/G20 Brasil
The Women's Group meeting was inaugurated by the Minister for Women, Cida Gonçalves, alongside the Brazilian Minister for Management and Innovation in Public Services, Esther Dweck. Photo: Audiovisual/G20 Brasil

Regrettably, the challenges faced in Brazil are not unique. Climate crises exacerbate instances of violence against women and heighten gender vulnerability on a global scale. UN Women's report "Women's Climate Justice: A model for Action", published last year, highlights adverse impacts on the economic, social, and food security conditions of women and girls in affected regions. For instance, in 2022, the drought in northeast Africa, known as the Horn of Africa, led to nearly a fourfold increase in child marriages in the affected areas of Ethiopia. Similarly, in Somalia, incidents of intimate partner violence and rape against women surged by 20%.

Women leading the response to climate challenges: addressing consequences and driving solutions

Despite being disproportionately impacted, women worldwide are actively engaged in addressing climate change. In Brazil, efforts led by quilombolas, extractivists, riverside dwellers, indigenous communities, peripheral groups, and fisherwomen offer valuable solutions. Similarly, countries like the United States of America (USA) and Mexico have entrusted women to mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events.

In the United States, the "Global Girls Creating Changes" (G2C2) program empowers girls to enhance their technical and entrepreneurial abilities, especially in STEM fields, take the lead in developing their communities' climate policies and initiatives, engage in national and local dialogues, and receive grants and other forms of inclusive support for female-led businesses and opportunities. 

This program facilitates the networking of groups of girls, whether they identify as activists or not, to ensure they have agency and a voice in climate-related matters and to enable global connectivity among them," explains Katrina Fotovat from the US Secretary of State of Global Women's Issues. Fotovat underscores the significance of involving girls in climate discussions from a young age.

Red Mujeres Constructoras de Paz project aligns with Mexico's National Development Plan. Photo: MUCPAZ
Red Mujeres Constructoras de Paz project aligns with Mexico's National Development Plan. Photo: MUCPAZ

In Mexico, the “Red de Mujeres Constructoras de Paz (MUCPAZ)” fosters women's involvement in peace-building and conflict resolution within communities and municipalities. It also focuses on reconstructing social cohesion and implementing social violence prevention measures, with discussions that incorporate the impacts of climate change. 

"Throughout the country, women's groups convene, with approximately 28,000 women actively engaged in peace-building efforts and defending their territories. The pursuit of peace entails the creation of an equitable environment that is also environmentally sustainable," explained Marta Beltrán, Director General of the National Policy for Equality and Women's Rights.

According to a report prepared by the Development Bank of Latin America and the Caribbean (Banco de Desenvolvimento da América Latina - CAF), in Mexico, the frequency of extreme weather events has risen from an average of 3.5 to 5.8 per annum over the past 20 years, affecting over 557,000 people. Similarly, in the United States, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicates that there were 23 extreme weather events last year alone, each causing damages exceeding $1 billion.

Mapping for Change: a path towards transformation

With the approval of member countries, invited countries, and relevant entities, the Ministry for Women presented four delivery plans addressing women and climate justice to be completed by year-end. These plans include:

Mapping Studies on Climate Change and Gender: This initiative facilitates an examination of the methodologies utilized and the significant findings unearthed, thereby facilitating deeper insights into the challenges and gaps within this field;
Mapping Good Practice Experiences: This plan provides an opportunity to acknowledge traditional knowledge within women's communities and showcase women's leadership in advancing resilience and sustainable development solutions;
Surveying successful experiences of women's and girls' participation in climate decision-making platforms: This endeavor seeks to evaluate the mechanisms and extent of women's full, meaningful, and equitable involvement in climate action decision-making processes;
Surveying public and private funding mechanisms for initiatives related to the environment and climate, along with the promotion of gender equality: This scheme aims to improve gender-responsive investment capacities in climate change, environmental, and disaster risk reduction policies and programs.

As for the final objective, less than 3% of climate funds are presently allocated to women-led organizations. Thus, it is imperative to ensure sufficient funding for these organizations to implement more impactful gender initiatives.

A gender-inclusive emergency protocol was deliberated during a meeting between the minister and approximately 20 representatives from public entities and social movements, in Porto Alegre, RS. Photo: Ascom/Ministry of Women
A gender-inclusive emergency protocol was deliberated during a meeting between the minister and approximately 20 representatives from public entities and social movements, in Porto Alegre, RS. Photo: Ascom/Ministry of Women

Women's Ministry in Rio Grande do Sul

Throughout the two-day meeting, several foreign delegations expressed solidarity with the tragedy unfolding in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. Out of the 497 municipalities in the state, approximately 450 have declared a state of public calamity due to the largest flood in the country's history. The scale of the disaster has already exceeded the impact of Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans in the USA in 2005. Katrina flooded 2,400 km (1.49 miles) and displaced 400,000 people, whereas the rainfall in Rio Grande do Sul has inundated 3,800 km (2.36 miles) and displaced over half a million individuals.

Women's Ministry in Rio Grande do Sul

Throughout the two-day meeting, several foreign delegations expressed solidarity with the tragedy unfolding in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. Out of the 497 municipalities in the state, approximately 450 have declared a state of public calamity due to the largest flood in the country's history. The scale of the disaster has already exceeded the impact of Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans in the USA in 2005. Katrina flooded 2,400 km (1.49 miles) and displaced 400,000 people, whereas the rainfall in Rio Grande do Sul has inundated 3,800 km (2.36 miles) and displaced over half a million individuals.

Women and girls affected by the disaster have reported instances of violence against women within temporary shelters, highlighting the urgent need for donations to meet essential needs such as sanitary pads and underwear. In response, Minister Cida Gonçalves from the Ministry of Women visited the state on Sunday (12) and is spearheading the development of a protocol to safeguard women and children during the floods. Collaboratively, the Ministry and the Post Office are emphasizing the importance of donating items crucial for women's well-being, with priority service established at hotline 180 for reports of violence against women.

The decor set the ambiance for the discussions. Photo: Audiovisual/G20 Brasil
The decor set the ambiance for the discussions. Photo: Audiovisual/G20 Brasil

Additional agendas: equality, autonomy, and the value of the care economy

In addition to the Climate Justice agenda, the two-day meeting of the Women's Empowerment Working Group addressed various other pertinent issues. These included the sexual division of labor, wage disparities between genders, the reality of unpaid work in the caregiving sector (such as household management), and efforts to combat misogyny and various forms of violence, particularly online violence. Throughout the event, names like Bertha Lutz, Carolina de Jesus, Dilma Rousseff, Dona Ivone Lara, and Olga Benário were prominently featured, symbolizing the contributions of women who have shaped the fields of science, art, and history in Brazil.

"The matter of women's rights is a topic that all participating countries have emphasized as crucial for the promotion of democracy and healthy societal interactions. Each country, without exception, shares common synergies, agreements, and challenges. As such, our approach will entail both collective and individual actions tailored to the unique cultures and realities of each nation, recognizing that women's issues are inherently global," stated Maria Helena Guarezi, Executive Secretary of the Ministry for Women and Coordinator of the Working Group. The group's upcoming meeting is scheduled to take place in Brasília, DF on July 8th and 9th.

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