Topic 3: Gender inclusive disaster risk reduction and resilience building

All people are born equal and free, as guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and all people, regardless of gender, are endowed by virtue of their humanity with human rights and human dignity. However, climate change, biodiversity and habitat loss, and pollution threaten to destroy lives, economies, and entire cultures and societies. These devastating and interlocking environmental emergencies harm human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and sanitation, culture, self-determination, and many others, with differential effects on the basis of gender. Entrenched and systemic gender-based discrimination and violence against women, stereotypes, resource limitations, differing nutritional needs over the life course, especially during, infancy, childhood, pregnancy, and childbirth, and differing levels of exposure to pollution and hazardous substances, among other factors, can intensify the negative human rights impacts of environmental degradation including climate change. However, even while experiencing differential and disproportionate impacts of environmental harms, many women1 are leaders in environmental action – as managers of resources and advocates of sustainable lifestyles – and staunch defenders of land, water, nature, and communities.

States, businesses, international organizations, and other actors have (procedural and substantive) obligations and responsibilities under both international human rights law and international environmental law, as well as international policy commitments, to address environmental crises. In addressing these crises, they must also prevent their negative, gendered impacts on enjoyment of human rights, and ensure that actions to address environmental degradation are gender-responsive, equitable, non-retrogressive, non-discriminatory, and sustainable. To read more about the key human rights obligations and responsibilities of our communities with respect to gender and the environment click on the link below.

United Nation’s Key Message

Read the case study below and answer the questions that follow.

Climate change: Protecting Women’s Rights

Systemic inequalities can lead to climate change impacting women, men and non-binary persons differently. Women constitute most of the world’s poor and are often directly dependent on natural resources as their main source of food and income. Therefore, they are more likely to suffer from the impacts of environmental degradation. Yet, women are agents of change with unique perspectives and expertise. In the last decades, 55% of the improvement in food security in developing countries came from programmes promoting women’s empowerment. Ensuring the meaningful participation of women with diverse backgrounds in relevant decision-making processes lies at the heart of a rights-based, gender-responsive approach. This inclusive approach is not only a legal, ethical and moral obligation; it will also make climate action more effective.

Positive Examples

Climate action can empower women to be part of the solution. Studies have found correlations between women in positions of political authority and lower national carbon footprints illustrating the importance of women’s participation in decision-making. Promoting women’s education, participation in decision-making are among the most effective ways of reducing future emissions of carbon dioxide. It also helps addressing discrimination. The Women and Gender Constituency, which aims to embed women’s rights within the UNFCCC, helped secure a new five-year Gender Action Plan to scale up gender justice in climate solutions at the 25th Conference of the Parties in 2019. In Tanzania, the Pastoral Women’s Council led the Energize project that is building pastoralist adolescent girls’ capacity to adapt to climate change through training on leadership, entrepreneurship, microcredit and banking, sexual and reproductive health information, as well as solar systems installation and maintenance.

The Fundisa for Change programme is a multi-stakeholder collaborative national professional learning community established as a South African community of practice response towards enhancing and supporting transformative environmental and sustainability learning through teacher education in the country:

  • Do you think this is a good example of a solution-oriented start-up story?

  • What is climate action and how will you explain this to your students?

  • How would you use this case study to activate learners to share their stories about women and climate action solutions within their communities?