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For Those Who Can’t Speak For Themselves, Use Bold Voices

This article is part of a collaboration between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ethical Writers Coalition.

Why Climate Change Impacts Women More than Men

Did you watch the Grammy’s? Did you see Katy Perry’s performance of Chained To The Rhythm and have you listened to the lyrics? I heard, and the words continue to percolate in my mind.

Is Complacency Waning? 

In the song, she challenges the complacency many of us in the United States have exhibited with respect to politics. She goes on to suggest that times are changing; voices of opposition are getting louder, growing in number and joining together.

And we about to riot. They woke up, they woke up the lions“.

If my “bubble” within the world is any indication, I think she’s right. I’m definitely feeling a growing inclination (or responsibility) to speak up about my dissent toward so many principles held by our current political leaders.

Historically, I’ve never been all that politically active or engaged, much like many of my peers. I’m starting to wonder, though, if our “distorted bubble” of passive acceptance of the status quo is about to burst. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling more inclined to act to address my concerns.

Time and again, I find myself cross-eyed wondering about our world today and thinking “is this seriously happening??!”

Climate Change

Consider climate change, one area I think is ripe for an increase in activism.

Did you know that since 1990 global emissions of carbon dioxide have increased 50%? Doesn’t that seem crazy? So much growth in so little time?! 1990 feels like it was yesterday but really was only 27 years ago (which makes me feel old). But that also means that change has happened just in my lifetime (and I’m really not that old…).

The increase in these emissions, a significant contributor to global warming, is substantially driven by human activity. Rising sea levels and global temperatures aside (issues in and of themselves), I really don’t think I want to be breathing all the greenhouses gases polluting our air. I’m undoubtedly a proponent for the advancement of greener and more renewable energy sources, and I’m not sure our current political leaders share this concern.

Climate Change Impacts Women More Than Men

Climate change and the pollution from our consumption of fossil fuels is real. It has a lasting impact on our world, across borders and cultures and economies. But climate change has a unique impact on women, who often bear a greater burden from its impacts, especially women in more developing countries.

In many countries, women hold primary responsibility for food production and water collection. Women farmers account for 45 to 80 percent of all food production in developing countries and make up two thirds of the world’s 600 million small livestock managers. Thus, droughts and floods, which have been exacerbated by climate change, affect women’s livelihoods, incomes and food security more than that of men.

Because of these domestic and agricultural responsibilities, women are important energy suppliers and consumers as well.

But Women Have Less Influence Over Climate Change Policies

Yet despite women’s integral responsibilities providing, consuming and being impacted by energy usage and climate change, in many countries they have less influence over climate change-related decisions. In some countries, vast gender inequities prevent women from even participating in the conversations. Women are closest to the problems and consequences yet farthest from the table at which solutions are being discussed.

Even more troubling, cultural norms related to gender roles can limit the ability of women to respond to or make quick decisions in the face of climate events. In the case of flooding, for example, the type of clothes that women wear or their responsibilities caring for small children may restrict their ability to run or climb to avoid the danger.

In some households where men are working in cities while women stay home to farm and care for the home and family, women may lack the power or influence to make timely farming decisions or to convince their husbands to agree to new practices.

Women Need A Seat At The Table

The evidence is clear that women’s participation in community representation is central to delivering both successful climate action and sustainable development.

With their intimate knowledge and daily participation in so many sectors impacting and being impacted by global warming, women can be major contributors to adaptation and mitigation in the sectors of water management, food security, agriculture, energy and transportation, disaster management, conflict management, and so much more.

Yet in so many places, they don’t get a voice in climate change policy discussions or political movements in many countries.

Hearing Katy Perry’s song, which I really like and have been playing on repeat (literally and in my head), isn’t alone what sparked me to raise my voice a little bit louder about the perils of pollution in the air we breathe and the grander impact it has on women around the world. Also, the song certainly isn’t the only indication that activism has been activated. But it further reinforced that there’s a fire building in others to come together, stand up for and speak louder about what we believe.

For Those Who Can’t Speak For Themselves, Use Bold Voices

The Human Race by Jamie Lee Curtis is one of favorites among my boys’ book collection. I picked it up from a secondhand shop years ago and don’t expect it will leave our collection for some time. Near the end of the story, which tells a tale of a little girl wondering about the meaning of the Human Race, she says “when others can’t speak for themselves, use bold voices”. I look my boys in the eye and emphasize this line every time I read it to them, hoping they will stand up for others who cannot defend themselves.

Everyone is impacted by climate change, though not always equally, but not everyone has a voice in conquering it. So for those women most impacted by climate change and who can’t speak for themselves, I share my bold voice.

And maybe, just maybe, you can too.

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