CLIMATE CHANGE DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECTS RURAL WOMEN – AN ANALYSIS
UPSC SOCIOLOGY MAINS SYLLABUS
(vii) Challenges of Social Transformation:
(a) Crisis of development: displacement, environmental problems and sustainability.
(b) Poverty, deprivation and inequalities.
(c) Violence against women.
(d) Caste conflicts.
(e) Ethnic conflicts, communalism, religious revivalism.
(f) Illiteracy and disparities in education
Gender inequality coupled with the climate crisis is one of the greatest challenges of our time. It poses threats to ways of life, livelihoods, health, safety and security for women and girls around the world. The climate crisis is not “gender neutral”. Women and girls experience the greatest impacts of climate change, which amplifies existing gender inequalities and poses unique threats to their livelihoods, health, and safety.
RELEVANCE OF THE TOPIC
Climate change is a “threat multiplier”, meaning it escalates social, political and economic tensions in fragile and conflict-affected settings. As climate change drives conflict across the world, women and girls face increased vulnerabilities to all forms of gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence, human trafficking, child marriage, and other forms of violence.
When disasters strike, women are less likely to survive and more likely to be injured due to long standing gender inequalities that have created disparities in information, mobility, decision-making, and access to resources and training. In the aftermath, women and girls are less able to access relief and assistance, further threatening their livelihoods, wellbeing and recovery, and creating a vicious cycle of vulnerability to future disasters.
RURAL WOMEN BEARING THE BRUNT OF CLIMATE CHANGE
India’s rural women are bearing the brunt of climate related shocks like severe drought and extreme weather events, which are drastically affecting their daily livelihoods. Whether it be from being displaced, experiencing drought, or from crops drying up and not having access to running water — women are bearing the brunt of these issues.
Women’s vulnerability to climate change stems from a number of factors – social, economic and cultural. Seventy per cent of the 1.3 billion people living in conditions of poverty are women. In urban areas, 40 per cent of the poorest households are headed by women. Women represent a high percentage of poor communities that are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood, particularly in rural areas where they shoulder the major responsibility for household water supply and energy for cooking and heating, as well as for food security. Women have limited access to and control of environmental goods and services; they have negligible participation in decision-making, and are not involved in the distribution of environment management benefits. Consequently, women are less able to confront climate change. During extreme weather such as droughts and floods, women tend to work more to secure household livelihoods. This will leave less time for women to access training and education, develop skills or earn income.
Climate change has different effects on women and men farmers, and therefore climate adaptation and mitigation strategies can perpetuate or even exacerbate gender inequalities. across regions, women have less access to family labor and basic agricultural technologies. However, climate impacts, such as drought and deforestation, are expected to substantially increase women’s workload. Climate change increases food security risks. It does this by decreasing access to water, increasing the incidence of heatwaves, causing heavy rainfalls and shifting agricultural zones. Climate change also intensifies social and gender inequality across the globe. Women have less access to resources, information and early warning systems.
In many societies, socio-cultural norms and childcare responsibilities prevent women from migrating or seeking refuge in other places or working when a disaster hits. Such a situation is likely to put more burden on women, such as travelling longer to get drinking water and wood for fuel. Women, in many developing countries suffer gender inequalities with respect to human rights, political and economic status, land ownership, housing conditions, exposure to violence, education and health. Climate change will be an added stressor that will aggravate women’s vulnerability. It is widely known that during conflict, women face heightened domestic violence, sexual intimidation, human trafficking and rape.
MITIGATING VULNERABILITY OF RURAL WOMEN TO CLIMATE CHANGE
For a long time women have historically developed knowledge and skills related to water harvesting and storage, food preservation and rationing, and natural resource management. This knowledge and experience that has passed from one generation to another will be able to contribute effectively to enhancing local adaptive capacity and sustaining a community’s livelihood.
Adaptation initiatives should identify and address gender-specific impacts of climate change particularly in areas related to water, food security, agriculture, energy, health, disaster management, and conflict. Important gender issues associated with climate change adaptation, such as inequalities in access to resources, including credit, extension and training services, information and technology should also be taken into consideration. Women should be part of the decision making at national and local levels regarding allocation of resources for climate change initiatives. It is also important to ensure gender-sensitive investments in programmes for adaptation, mitigation, technology transfer and capacity building. At national levels, efforts should be made to mainstream gender perspective into national policies and strategies, as well as related sustainable development and climate change plans and interventions.
Rural women are disproportionately impacted by climate change due to their social roles, to the discrimination they suffer and their poverty. At the same time, they are powerful agents for promoting sustainable development and effective responses to climate change. Sustainable development demands the active participation of rural women in environmental planning, finance, budgeting and policy-making processes.