Climate Change and Women’s Rights

Women's RightsCoventry University’s Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) and the Salamander Trust have come together to launch a new initiative on climate change and women’s rights. The first international meeting under this initiative took place on June 29 and 30, 2016.

At the inaugural meeting, a group of experts (including campaigners, academics, activists and experts by experience) from around the world will explore policy opportunities to link climate change and women’s rights, and scope priorities for research to inform policy-making in this regard.

Following the meeting, Salamander Trust and CAWR hope to begin a programme of inclusive and collaborative work (with meeting participants who would like to be involved) to develop participatory and transdisciplinary research which can contribute to the evidence base on links between climate change and women’s rights.

Why now?

The links between climate change and women’s rights have been increasingly recognized for some years. However, the new Sustainable Development Goals provide an opportunity to think about women’s rights and gender justice, including sexual and reproductive rights, in a more holistic way than previously. For example, we can see how climate change has been having a significant impact on women’s rights to property, resources and inheritance, their rights to safety and to food security and sovereignty. However, to date only a few actors are specifically making these links.

Climate change brings together many issues relating to agroecology, food, water, safety and resilience. High level discussions of this set of issues have not yet sufficiently addressed the perspective of women’s rights and gender.

WomenWomen’s contributions in agriculture and as food producers are still largely unacknowledged. Yet there is ample evidence that women play a vital role for the food and nutritional situation and overall wellbeing of families. With regard to adverse impacts of climate change, women, especially rural women, will be those most affected. Due to social norms, women continue to face structural discrimination and have increasingly limited access to productive resources such as land, water, agricultural inputs, credit, extension and other services. As these resources diminish, women face increasing levels of intimate partner violence. This is recognized by WHO to increase women’s vulnerability to a range of different health issues, including HIV and other related sexual and reproductive health issues.

It is now high time to address this growing world crisis from the perspective of a gendered analysis. This debate needs to pay attention to the roles of both men and women in relation to their changing identities in the context of these shrinking resources. Without this gendered analysis, women will continue to be instrumentalised and overly exhausted, whilst remaining excluded from the debate, within the current frameworks of (predominantly economic) so-called “empowerment”.

Barriers to participation that women in many societies are facing need to be acknowledged and overcome by strengthening women’s access to their rights and their awareness of their rights. There is an urgent need for gendered research and policy analysis to influence laws, policy and practice relating to women, their rights and climate change.

Haitian Women