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    Educating Girls to Combat Climate Change

    By Ayuska Motha and Stacey Kimmig, AIWC Cologne
    FAWCO United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Representatives


    When we tell people about our participation in the UN Climate Change Conferences on behalf of FAWCO, people are usually very interested to learn more; most everyone is interested in the topic of climate change. However, when they hear that we are specifically trying to push for gender fairness in climate change solutions, the initial reaction is, “But climate change affects everyone equally!”  

    One wants to believe that gender discrimination is a human “creation” and nature would not be so unfair. Unfortunately, the reality is that women (and girls) are more severely impacted by climate change (than men) in multiple ways.  



    The number of times more likely it is for women and children to die or be injured during a disaster  
    - Why is Climate change a gender issue? UN Women brief

     Environment food jakarta


    Some reasons women and children are more vulnerable during natural disasters and climate change:


    Increased Incidence of Injury or Death as a Result of Natural Disasters

    When natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes (or cyclones), and tsunamis strike, women and girls are at a severe disadvantage.  In many parts of the world, women and girls are not taught how to swim, cannot always quickly climb trees, often wear more restrictive clothing that hinders their ability to flee and swim effectively and commonly also try to save their children and elderly family members.  In addition to these barriers, many women do not always have direct access to the early warning systems that are in place. Limited post-disaster data has been collected in areas such as Nepal, Bangladesh, the Pacific region, and New Orleans, USA and is highlighting the magnitude of these and other obstacles.


    Increased Time Required for Water and Resource Collection

    Obtaining food, water, fuel and medicinal plants is commonly performed by women or girls in many parts of the world.  When rainfall patterns deviate from the norm due to climate change, local water sources are no longer reliable, forcing women and girls to walk even further to collect and carry water and basic necessities for their families. Girls who were attending school prior to a drought may no longer have the time to attend school since they are more urgently needed to complete tasks such as searching for and collecting water and firewood. Increasingly families are also marrying off their daughters at younger ages to improve the family’s financial situation during periods of food shortages and poverty.  - Climate Change: Creating a Generation of Child Brides - The Guardian

    Environment Girls water collection

     Little girls fetch water in Kachaso village, Nsanje district, Malawi.
    Extreme poverty in the region may compel them to marry before they’re ready.


    Higher Rates of Gender-Based-Violence

    ‘Post-natural disaster, or in the event of droughts and times of natural resource scarcity, women and girls are more vulnerable to human trafficking, or gender-based violence. In Nepal, trafficking was increased by 20-30% during disasters.’ - Mountain Women Bear the Brunt of Climate Change - The Third Pole.  Based on Pacific region data, a 300% increase in new domestic violence cases were reported after 2 cyclones hit the area in 2011.

    Loss or Reduction of Economic Opportunities Available to Women

    Based on data collected after hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, 83% of single mothers were not able to return to their homes for 2 full years after the disaster and two thirds of jobs lost, were lost by women. Post disaster employment is often increased in the construction area, traditionally a male dominated field limiting the job opportunities available for women.’ - How Climate Change Impacts Women. - NRDC. Disaster and post-disaster data is scant as resources are already so limited, so data collection is at the bottom of any list of priorities.


    A 2013 study found that educating girls “is the single most important
    social and economic factorassociated with a reduction in vulnerability to natural disasters“.  
    - Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. Edited by Paul Hawken

    Environment Electricity Generation Hugh Sitton


    Educating girls is the key to empowering women to not only to be prepared for the threats of climate change, but also to be a force of action to a sustainable way of life in their communities.  In fact, “On a macro level, girls’ education may play a much larger role in a country’s resilience to climate change than currently understood. Our back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that for every additional year of schooling a girl receives, on average, her country’s resilience to climate disasters (as measured by the ND-GAIN Index) improves by a significant 3.2 points”.  - Fight Climate Change: Educate and Empower Girls - News Security Beat

    The Brookings report: 3 Platforms for Girls’ Education in Climate Strategies issued in September 2017, suggests three pillars key to empowering girls to climate action: 

    1. Promote girls’ reproductive rights in order to ensure equitable climate action.

    2. Invest in girls’ education in order to foster climate participation and leadership.

    3. Develop girls’ life skills for a green economy.

    Education is mentioned in point 2; however, on closer inspection, all three points address the importance of education.  

    Girls who stay in school longer marry later and have fewer children and are also more informed about their reproductive rights.  Girls who stay in school also have more self-confidence to question traditional male-led communities and become involved in local governments to then be part of the climate discussion and become involved in environmental decision making.  And finally, girls need to be taught new, green skills in order to participate in a greener economy, using cleaner cooking methods and better farming techniques.

    As girls and women are often responsible for acquiring food and water, they are the first to notice extreme changes in water sources, observe crop failure, identify drought-resistant plant varieties and can provide a wealth of information and observations related to climate change and ways to best adapt to it.  We must tap into their expertise in order to find intelligent, sustainable solutions to the climate change threats we are facing.

    Education must start early and support for girls and women as equal and valuable
    partners in the discussion must start now.  We have no time to lose. 


    Environment Integrated approach climate change brookings.png

    The Brookings report: 3 Platforms for Girls’ Education in Climate Strategies


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