Climate change is a gradual alteration of the typical weather patterns that have come to characterize local, regional, and global climates on Earth. Due to preexisting societal injustices, they have varied consequences for men and women, with women suffering more severe negative repercussions.
The “weaker” members of society suffer most from the harmful effects of climate change since it exacerbates these inequities. Hence, it is evident that climate change is indeed not gender-neutral. The term “gender neutral” is used to describe something that does not discriminate or associate itself with gender, i.e., it affects both genders equally.
Gender Discrimination During Floods in Pakistan
One of the most recent and relevant examples of gender discrimination would be the 2022 floods in Pakistan, which led to the sanitary pad controversy. Women in Pakistan’s worst-affected regions are having difficulty accessing sanitary supplies. As a result, various women social workers set up camps to aid the women impacted by the flooding who were unable to use sanitary goods. During the process, they encountered multiple women in distress who had begun their menstruation but were without any sanitary supplies. Many of them claimed they felt unable to discuss the matter.
Floods in Pakistan have claimed 1,717 lives since June 14th. Heavy monsoon rains that were unusually heavy and glaciers that began to melt after a severe heat wave all contributed to the floods, which are all related to climate change. It has been dubbed the greatest flood in the nation’s history and the deadliest flood in the entire world since the floods in South Asia in 2020. Due to the flooding, Pakistan proclaimed a state of emergency on August 25. It is estimated that Pakistan’s government lost $40 billion as a result of the flooding.
The facts above paint a very vivid picture of the horrifying situation. Yet, when it was disclosed in the media that various organizations were collecting donations to provide sanitary pads to women in distress, a good portion of the male population highly criticized it. Their tweets and comments were perfect examples of ignorance and privileged entitlement. Or is it that they don’t even consider women human enough to receive adequate medical care? Do they expect the women to profusely bleed while dealing with the consequences of flooding and displacement?
An estimated 650,000 pregnant women in flood-affected areas need maternal health services to ensure a safe pregnancy and delivery, according to a report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). A minimum of 73,000 women are anticipated to give birth in September. They will require trained birth attendants as well as support and care for the newborns.
How Does Climate Change Affect Women More Adversely?
Women generally have limited access to resources and knowledge. They are underrepresented in decision-making, political engagement, and power structures as a result of the social roles and obligations assigned to them. Because of this, women are less able to adjust to the effects of a changing environment. As a result, they experience disproportionately unfavorable effects compared to males.
It is time to discuss the effects of climate change and the connections between women’s empowerment and global climate action as more and more data and studies demonstrate their evident correlation. Despite this, women are still crucial to the fight against climate change.
Women throughout the world are more reliant on but have less access to natural resources. Women are disproportionately responsible for procuring fuel, water, and food in many areas. In low-income nations, agriculture is the most significant area of employment for women. During droughts and seasons of irregular rainfall, women labor even harder as agricultural workers and primary procurers to provide supplies and money for their families. Girls are under much more strain since they sometimes have to drop out of school to assist their mothers in carrying the heavier load.
In fragile and conflict-affected contexts, climate change exacerbates social, political, and economic conflicts. Women and children are more susceptible to all types of gender-based violence as a result of the globalization of conflict, including human trafficking, child marriage, and sexual assault related to the conflict.
Due to long-standing gender disadvantages that have led to differences in information, mobility, decision-making, access to resources, and training, women are less likely to escape disasters and more likely to suffer injuries. Women are less likely to be able to get aid after a disaster, endangering their ability to survive and rehabilitate as well as setting them up for future disaster susceptibility.
How Do We Solve This?
Discrimination against women limits their access to services, their rights, and their ability to own land. As women are typically the last to access services like finance and technical support, such prejudice has significant repercussions after weather-related events.
It is difficult, but not impossible, to modify ingrained social structures and gender roles. When a woman or group of women demonstrates that they have the power to affect change in their communities, their social standing and leadership responsibilities increase, and they are given more authority over decisions made at the community level.
The dangers of the climate crisis are real. We have already experienced losing everything, so there is no need for us to envision what it would be like. More lives are put in danger the longer we continue to downplay the dangers of climate change and put off taking action to fulfill our social obligations to cut emissions. The unfortunate truth is that those who have contributed to and are the primary causes of climate destruction will not be held accountable for the results.