Climate change and gender issues. Women and Climate change

Palistha Tuladhar

Climate change is a force that affects all countries, it’s effects will be faced globally but while climate change weights all people, it is clear that it women in general face the more distinct impacts. The UN Women study supports this claim stating in depth how women are hit harder from the impacts of climate change. Environmental degradation has an unbalanced impact on women’s health, basic needs, economic standard, security, adaptability, etc. A Clark University report in Nepal states how women, especially in rural areas have to deal with environmental degradation and it happens by increasing their burden of unpaid care work.

Similarly, women just seem to live in an economic strife where they are more likely to live in poverty than men. The societal and cultural positions for females also thwart them back into the disadvantageous category as they are treated inferior and are not included in the decision making processes. Women also have less access to basic human rights make them a pawn to the society and men whether it’s by denying them rights to buy land or impeding on their ability to move and migrate freely. Women– albeit strong– suffer from violent conflict meaning that they may face the most violence during periods of instability brought by climate change and environmental degradation. The political standpoint for women is unstable as women have insufficient inclusion at the highest levels of decision making. 

A Clark University study about the climate change and gender vulnerability in Nepal hypothesizes that women in the rural Himalayan region are more exposed to climate change in Nepal, due to the challenging terrain and already difficult lifestyle prevalent. The women there lack better shelters, pest resistant crops or knowledge about sustainable agriculture, this results to losing their source of income which increases vulnerability.

Nepal– which was already falling victim to existing climate sensitivity– will face more problems in the upcoming years with high glacial melts in the Himalayas causing GLOFs, fragile ecosystems, flash floods, increasing cases of diarrheal diseases, malaria and dengue, etc. Additionally, research shows that women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men-primarily because they make up a majority of the world’s poorest population and are more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources that are threatened by climate change. (Akriti Sharma, 2015). Most women are also illiterate, which limits their access to information and resources that can help them adapt to changing climates which hampers their involvement in the process of planning and implementing programs and policies. 

In China, parts of the country have seen significant increases in rain while others have suffered severe drought. The UN Women study states how in the future, this vulnerability increases with extreme climates such as droughts, floods, typhoons, etc.

Women in China make up 70% of the agricultural workforce and have less access to income, land, technology, loans, and employment options outside of farm work than men. Even when climate change disaster strikes, majority of women were unfamiliar with disaster emergency plans. According to the UN, women around the world are more likely to die when natural disasters strike than men and are more likely to suffer adverse effects. Women are also affected by droughts and water shortages, they are more likely to be provided less food during food scarcity. This study by UN Women China helps guide the Chinese government by preparing their female citizens by teaching them transferrable skills, equipping them with disaster preparedness knowledge, and encouraging their participation in civic life.

In East Africa, droughts have become more severe which has resulted farmers to travel further to find pastures and water. Women have been excluded as they are to stay at home and care for the family. 

In Sudan, the environmental changes have resulted into water deficiencies, drought, irregular rainfall patterns which has led to promote unhealthy communal overgrazing. Basic needs such as food and fuel are in high demand but agricultural production is low. When environmental degradation occurs, woman are the first to suffer, they suffer through increased workloads caused by lack of productivity of land. Water shortages lead to unsafe water supply and drinking practices which makes women and children more prone to diseases.

Thus, these case studies have shown how vulnerable countries are to climate change and how females suffer more from it.


  • Climate Change Instability and Gender Vulnerability in Nepal: A case study on the Himalayan region, Akriti Sharma, Clark University, Worcester (MAY 2015)
  • Gender Dimensions of Vulnerability to Climate Change in China, UN WOMEN (DECEMBER 2016)
  • Environmental Crisis and Its impact on Women. The Case in Sudan, B Bedri, S Osama

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