Women Must Be Heard in the Climate Change Debate

Every day, in countless places around the world, women's lives and livelihoods are being threatened by forces beyond their control. The impacts of climate change, such as floods, droughts, extreme weather, and declining agricultural production, affect everyone. But when crops, water sources, and natural resources become scarce, women - who are often responsible for managing these resources - suffer the most.

According to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women:

As small-scale farmers - the vast majority in some areas of the world - (women) have far fewer resources than men to cope with crop failures or pursue methods of farming more adapted to climate shifts. As migrants and refugees pushed from areas of climatic stress, they confront greater risks of disease and violence. During disasters that follow natural hazards, they count higher among the dead.

Ngozika Onuzo sees the critical role of women in fighting climate change. A Nigerian population and environment fellow with the Sierra Club Global Population and Environment Program, she recently helped organize a summit in Abuja, Nigeria, for women to discuss population, reproductive health, and climate -- and how they're all connected.

Population and reproductive health were of special interest to the young attendees of her summit - especially in their part of Abuja, where health facilities are few and far between.

"Several nurses from the clinic who were present voiced some of the challenges the hospital faces, especially with youth," says Ngozika.

"More importantly, the nurses stressed what an important resource a youth-friendly clinic is, and also stressed family planning. Most students showed much enthusiasm toward the end of the program and were eager to share the new knowledge they had acquired, which again emphasizes how important such outreach programs are for such communities."

Ngozika's summit shows that one of the best ways we can help women adapt to climate change is by giving them access to family planning services, which can also be a climate mitigation solution, in turn helping women and communities.

Back here in the U.S., Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California recently reintroduced a resolution in Congress that recognizes the disproportionate impact that climate change has on women, and I'm proud to say that Sierra Club supporters have taken significant action in supporting this resolution. Our activists have helped the Women's Climate Change Resolution gain more cosponsors and publicity since it was introduced.

The resolution recognizes that women are uniquely positioned to create more resilient communities and help countries adapt to climate change. When given the necessary tools, women use their income and resources to increase the well-being of their children and families, and they play a critical role in reducing food insecurity, poverty, and the socioeconomic effects of climate change.

Women are often in the best position to provide and consult on adaptive strategies, but their voices are rarely represented. This needs to change.

I'm inspired to see Ngozika's great work in Nigeria, and I know that many more women like her are making a difference.

We must support and empower women in the fight against climate disruption. This of course also means doing everything we can to stop climate change in its tracks - from ending our use of dirty fuels that fill our atmosphere with carbon pollution, to securing clean, renewable energy that won't pollute our air and water.

Tags: Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects | Nigeria | Population Growth

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