Empowering Women: Unveiling the Impact of the Climate Crisis

Allow us to share the inspiring tale of two young girls residing in the enchanting city of Alexandria, Egypt, nestled along the beautiful shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Yet, beneath the city’s captivating beauty, lurks the ominous threat of the climate crisis, looming over its future. Nour and Nada Mohamed, are two remarkable African Climate Reality Leaders embarking on a journey like no other. “Climate Justice” – a phrase that sparked a whirlwind of questions in our minds: “Aren’t we all affected by the climate crisis anyway?” The answer revealed itself as a resounding yes and no. Yes, the climate crisis touches us all, but not in equal measure or severity.

Our journey began in 2021 with the Climate Reality Project Training, where we delved into the profound truth that the impact of climate change is unequally distributed among various groups. Youth, people of colour, women, indigenous communities, the world’s poor, people with disabilities, and all marginalised individuals bear a disproportionate burden.

Among these groups, our focus gravitated towards women. Their experiences in the face of the climate crisis fascinated us and compelled us to dig deeper.

Thus, the seed of curiosity regarding climate justice was sown, and we took it upon ourselves to nurture it. Through our continued exploration and learning, we aim to shed light on the interconnectedness of climate justice and its profound implications for women’s lives and well-being.

First, it was time for research!

Although we understood some facts regarding the disproportionate impact of the climate crisis on women, the information we knew did not even begin to touch the tip of the iceberg. Through our research, we have been awakened to a stark reality: the climate crisis has unfurled a Pandora’s box of challenges for women, affecting every aspect of their lives.

Least fed, first on the death bed

The climate crisis disproportionately jeopardizes a woman’s reproductive and overall health. Amidst cultural norms and genuine acts of altruism, it is an unfortunate reality that women have often found themselves last on the table to eat, particularly in the global south. This tradition, stemming from various factors, is now witnessing a resurgence in some regions and becoming further entrenched due to the food insecurity driven by the climate crisis.

Food insecurity coupled with extreme weather events pose increased threats of anemia and hypertension levels among women. These threats are exacerbated in the case of pregnant women as the climate crisis has been closely linked with stillbirths incidences and mental health risks, like postpartum depression. 

Moreover, the climate crisis compromises women’s access to health facilities, and sanitary and hygiene products, especially in light of the water scarcity, jeopardizing their menstrual health. Additionally, women are 14 times more vulnerable to death by climate related disasters compared to their male counterparts owing to the existing gender norms, exacerbated by the crisis. This, accordingly, makes them the last-fed and the first on a deathbed.

The climate crisis, gender-based violence, and education nexus

Photo Credit: UNICEF / Pirozzi

The climate crisis threatens to exacerbate the risks of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and the economic vulnerability women and girls face as it jeopardizes their education. The climate crisis impacts the availability of water resources, forcing women and children to spend prolonged periods fetching water for their families. This increases a woman’s risk to being subjected to sexual harassment, human trafficking, and their risk of getting economically abused in exchange for money, water and food. It also increases the school drop out rates in order for young girls to take care of family chores and be subjected to forced marriages.

Despite all these atrocities, we noticed that this topic was barely discussed in the local and international context, so we knew it was time to make some noise.

Now, onto the challenging part, brainstorming the project design.

Turning talk into action: Making dreams reality!

The biggest challenge was to deliver this project in a simple, interactive, and fun way!

We meticulously designed a comprehensive four-day program for thirty participants, featuring twelve sessions and workshops aimed at fostering deep understanding and engagement. The agenda included:

• A Climate Trivia session

• Stories of Lived Experience

• Introduction to Gender and Gender-Based Violence

• Disproportionate Impact on Women

• History of COP Negotiations on Women

• Mock COP Negotiations on “Women Representation in COP”:

• Policy Brief Writing Workshop

Our ultimate aim was to empower the participants with the necessary information to powerfully and unabashedly lead the talk about the disproportionate impact of climate change on women, as well as to provide them with lifelong skills that they can use indifferent kinds of advocacy. rom the actions of the participants that we tracked so far, we can affirm that significant progress has been made to realise the  long-term objective.

Gaining allies

One of the most valuable lessons that we received throughout our climate journey, is that you can’t do everything on your own because you may not have all the necessary knowledge, and you may not have the capacity to do it on your own.

Recognizing the value of collaboration, we knew that our third task was to find dedicated allies to help us amplify the impact of our project idea.

The first person we contacted was our dear friend and feminist, Yasmine Aburaya co-founder of Your Voice; a women-led initiative tackling GBV. We knew that with our expertise on climate change and her expertise in gender studies, particularly GBV, we would make an excellent team in undertaking an intersectional lens between climate change and gender.

The second person on our list was Sherif ElRefaey, Climate advocate and UNESCO Advisor. Sherif was the perfect person to equip the participants with fundamental climate advocacy skills like negotiations-something that could benefit them even in their day to day interactions. We also tapped into the support of Global Shapers Alexandria Hub as partners in the organization and the implementation of the project.

And lastly we reached out to a unique kind of expert – those with the lived experience of climate change – our fellow shapers from Pakistan – Ummamah Shah, and Nigeria- Safiyya Sanusi. We knew they would be the missing pieces for our program, hailing from two countries that had recently endured the ravages of climate change-induced floods.

And while you might think we forgot the most crucial part – funding – fear not, for an electric car without electricity serves little purpose. This is where the African Climate Reality Project came to the rescue, providing not only financial support for the project but also showcasing it to the world through this very blog.

With our speakers on board, content prepared, and a secure location, there was only one thing left to do – rally the participants and kickstart the project. Together, we were ready to “lead the talk” and make a meaningful impact.

Reaping the Fruits of our Hard Work

The most rewarding aspect of implementing projects is witnessing the impact unfold before your very eyes, and “Let’s Lead the Talk” proved to be nothing short of remarkable. Throughout the project, we were able to:

● Empower 33 participants with valuable climate negotiations skills and policy brief drafting expertise.

● Conduct two mock COP climate negotiations, sparking thoughtful discussions on the allocation of resources from the loss and damage fund to support women’s needs.

● Ensure inclusivity by engaging participants from diverse social and academic backgrounds, with a special emphasis on including people with disabilities.

The ripple effect of the project’s impact went far beyond our expectations, with several remarkable outcomes:

● Five participants actively raised awareness about the vital link between the climate crisis and gender on social media and among their work colleagues.

● One participant took the initiative to replicate the project’s teachings among their school students, fostering a new generation of climate advocates.

● One participant chose the topic as the focus of her Master’s thesis, further contributing to academic research on climate justice.

● In the end, the participants collaborated to produce five policy briefs, showcasing their dedication and hard work, with one brief thoughtfully presented in Arabic.

The results of “Let’s Lead the Talk” speak volumes about the power of collective action and the passion for climate justice within each participant. Together, we have taken meaningful steps towards a more equitable and sustainable world.

Final stage: Recommendations

There is a pressing need for a multi-faceted approach to address the gender disparities and vulnerabilities exacerbated by the climate crisis. To foster gender-responsive environmental policies and promote climate justice, we propose the following steps:

  1. Establishing a Committee for Sex Disaggregated Data: A dedicated committee should be formed to gather sex-disaggregated data, enabling a comprehensive understanding of the specific impacts of the climate crisis on women. This committee should collaborate with all relevant ministries to foster a holistic approach.
  2. Increasing Women Representation in Decision Making: To boost the adoption of environmental treaties and gender-responsive policies, it is crucial to elevate women’s representation in decision-making processes.Enhancing their negotiation skills, will help achieve greater inclusivity and diverse perspectives.
  3. Enhancing Women’s Adaptive Capacities: Environmental awareness sessions targeting rural women can bolster their adaptive capacities to climate change. Upskilling and reskilling initiatives should focus on smart agriculture systems, empowering women with sustainable livelihoods. This must be complemented by robust laws and regulations that promote women’s land ownership, ensuring their access to essential information and social insurance during crises.
  4. Committees Against Gender-Based Violence: Specialized committees dedicated to combating GBV must be established to address the increasing risks that the climate crisis poses on women.
  5. Expanding Water Management Facilities: In drought-prone areas, it is vital to invest in water management facilities located near women’s communities. This measure serves a dual purpose; reducing the risk of abuse and enhancing women’s educational opportunities by addressing dropout rates due to water scarcity.

The journey towards climate justice does not end here, it marks the beginning of a transformative path to disrupt the existing patriarchal system. With a lifelong commitment to just climate advocacy, we strive to create a world where women’s voices are heard, their rights are respected, and they are empowered to face the challenges posed by the climate crisis.

Together, we can forge a future that is equitable, resilient, and sustainable.

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