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CLIMATE CRISIS & ITS IMPACT ON WOMEN

The climate crisis is already here and does not impact everyone equally. Women and girls experience disproportionately high health risks, especially in situations of poverty, and due to existing roles, responsibilities and cultural norms. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), women and children are 14 times more likely than men to die in a disaster.

The Wupreme Court of India has just ruled that people have a right to be free from the adverse effects of climate change, and the right to a clean environment is already recognised as a fundamental right within the ambit of the right to life.

AGRICULTURE & WOMEN

Agriculture is the most important livelihood source for women in India, particularly in rural India.

  • Climate-driven crop yield reductions increase food insecurity, adversely impacting poor households that already suffer higher nutritional deficiencies.
  • Within small and marginal landholding households, while men face social stigma due to unpaid loans (leading to migration, emotional distress, and sometimes even suicide), women experience higher domestic work burdens, worse health, and greater intimate partner violence.
    • In fact, when compared to districts without droughts in the past 10 years, National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 4 and 5 data showed that women living in drought-prone districts were more underweight, experienced more intimate partner violence and had a higher prevalence of girl marriages.

EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS & GENDER BASED VIOLENCE

  • The world is witnessing an increasing frequency of extreme weather events and climate-induced natural hazards.
  • A report from the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) in 2021 found that 75% of Indian districts are vulnerable to hydromet disasters (floods, droughts and cyclones).
    • NFHS 5 data showed that over half of women and children living in these districts were at risk.
  • Studies are increasingly showing a direct correlation between these natural disasters and gender-based violence against women.
  • Also, extreme weather events and subsequent changes in water cycle patterns severely impact access to safe drinking water, which increases the drudgery and reduces time for productive work and health care of women and girls.

IMPACT ON HEALTH OF WOMEN

  • Prolonged heat is particularly dangerous for pregnant women (increasing the risk of preterm birth and eclampsia), young children, and the elderly.
  • Similarly, exposure to pollutants in the air (household and outdoor) affects women’s health, causing respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and also the unborn child, impairing its physical and cognitive growth. One of the most worrying aspects of air pollution is its impact on the growing brain.
    • Emerging data from cohort studies in india show that for every 10 micrograms per cubic meter increase in PM2.5, the risk of lung cancer increases by 9%, the risk of cardiovascular deaths on the same day by 3%, and stroke by 8%. For dementia, the risk increased by 4% or 2 micrograms increase in annual PM2.5.

WHY CLIMATE ACTION NEEDS WOMEN?

  • Climate action requires 100% of the population if we want to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5° C.
  • At the same time, empowering women means better climate solutions;
    • when provided with the same access to resources as men, women increased their agricultural yields by 20% to 30%.
  • Tribal and rural women, in particular, have been at the forefront of environmental conservation.
  • Giving women and women collectives (Self-help Groups and Farmer Producer Organisations) the knowledge, tools and access to resources would encourage local solutions to emerge.

 

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