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Opinion: why are women more affected by climate change?

We need to understand that global warming is not gender neutral. These are the reasons why women are most affected by climate change .

Woman wearing a scarf

It is time to look at this problem head-on and stop ignoring it. Photo: Pixabay

LatinAmerican Post | Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: Opinión: ¿por qué las mujeres son más afectadas por el cambio climático?

If something has become clear to us in the last year, it is that the consequences of climate change have a faster and more direct effect on the most vulnerable communities. It is also more than clear to us that this is paradoxical considering that it is the developed and rich countries that generate the most greenhouse gases and therefore have a greater incidence in global warming, but the developing and poorer countries they are the ones who are in the front line of the economic, natural and political consequences of this global crisis. In that order of ideas, it should not be a surprise that, in terms of gender, women are the most affected by climate change.

The reasons

Historically women have had a special connection with nature. In different cultures, the care of natural resources are associated with the care of women. Studies show that, even today, in the most developed countries, women are the first to respond to the climate crisis based on environmental stress. But this has its troublesome side. The community of women has historically been relegated, largely due to that association with nature that is made to them.

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According to data from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), 80% of those displaced by disasters and changes related to the climate crisis are women and girls. Why does this happen? Simple: the inequality that exists due to the lack of environmental justice increases when the subject of this, evidences other types of inequality. For women there is a social, economic and political exclusion that places them in a much deeper position of vulnerability.

In addition, for pregnant people (not all identified as women), there is a greater danger of experiencing climatic consequences. For example, it has already been scientifically proven that microplastics, directly related to the tons of plastic waste that are discarded daily, endanger the development of the unborn child. Furthermore, in developing countries and constantly hit by natural and climatic disasters, girls, women and pregnant people have to flee precariously, putting their lives and dignity at risk.

On the other hand, unequal social norms, little or no access to land and natural and basic resources such as water, and the lack of opportunities to participate in decisions at the community, local, national and international levels, place the women in a very low position with regard to environmental management.

The change must be done now

Let's be clear: it is necessary that the climate change has a gender approach. As well as an approach of class, ethnicity, race, among others, it must also have. But when it comes to thinking about a gender approach, it is very important that we understand that as long as there is no female representation in high places such as climate summits and international conferences, we will not be able to make that change.

But that representation must have an approach that takes care of the well-being of women. That is, it must have a feminist approach that recognizes that for centuries women have been relegated for the simple fact of being women. It is time to look at this problem head-on and stop ignoring it. Machismo is also found when it is not understood that a social group will be more vulnerable to a crisis of this type.