Image credit: Oxfam America
It's become accepted wisdom among environmentalists that climate change hits the poor the hardest, and it makes sense. After all, if you rely on subsistence agriculture for your income, then weather is a matter of life and death for you. Building on this understanding is an increased recognition that women are often disproportionately affected, but that they also may be the key to fighting back. We've already seen the Clinton Global Initiative investing in women and girls to fight climate change and poverty. Now Oxfam America is stepping up the plate with a campaign to empower women in the fight against climate change. But just why are women so important in this equation? With women making up 70% of those below the poverty line, it stands to reason that if the poor suffer most, and women make up most of the poor, then they are going to bare the brunt of the disasters caused by climate change. But sadly, the picture is even more complicated than that, with women often being left out of the dialog on solutions.
But as has been shown by the groundbreaking Girl Effect Campaign, there's strong evidence to suggest that investing in women's empowerment and education also yields disproportionate returns. For example, when a woman earns income, she invests more than 90% back into her family, compared to only 30-40% for a man. Yet as Brian noted in his post on the CGI, only 1% of funding given to developing countries is given to women.
The Oxfam Sisters on the Planet Campaign is seeking to change that, highlighting women around the world who are actively involved in empowering their communities and fighting climate change. Sahena's story from rural Bangladesh below is just one example of how women can not only empower themselves to help their communities, but how that empowerment creates a wider cultural shift toward inclusion and respect for women.
Strangely though, in what makes this feel a little like only half a campaign, the Sisters on the Planet pledge that Oxfam is asking supporters to sign makes only passing reference to women, before calling on the US to simply cut emissions and "provide financial assistance to the communities most vulnerable to our changing climate." Having made the case for how women are leading the fight against climate change in communities around the world, it would have been nice to make a stronger case for exactly how the US government can help those women. (Like redirecting more funding to women's initiatives, for example?)