Women have proven to be leading the way towards more equitable and sustainable solutions to climate change. Across sectors, women's innovations and expertise have transformed lives and livelihoods, and increased climate resilience and overall well-being. Women's vulnerability to climate change stems from a number of factors -- social, economic and cultural.
70% of Ugandans living in conditions of poverty are women. In urban areas, 40% of the poorest households are headed by women. Women predominate in the food production (50-80 per cent), but they own less than 10 per cent of the land. Women represent a high percentage of poor communities that are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood, particularly in rural areas where they shoulder the major responsibility for household water supply and energy for cooking and heating, as well as for food security. Women have limited access to and control of resources; they have negligible participation in decision-making, and are not involved in the distribution of environment management benefits. Consequently, women are less able to confront climate change. During extreme weather such as droughts and floods, women tend to work more to secure household livelihoods. This will leave less time for women to access training and education, develop skills or earn income.
Across societies the impacts of climate change affect women and men differently. Women are often responsible for gathering and producing food, collecting water and sourcing fuel for heating and cooking. With climate change, these tasks are becoming more difficult. Extreme weather events such as droughts and floods have a greater impact on the poor and most vulnerable – 70% of the poor in Uganda are women.
Despite women being disproportionately affected by climate change, they play a crucial role in climate change adaptation and mitigation. Women have the knowledge and understanding of what is needed to adapt to changing environmental conditions and to come up with practical solutions. But they are still a largely untapped resource. Restricted land rights, lack of access to financial resources, training and technology, and limited access to political decision-making spheres often prevent them from playing a full role in tackling climate change and other environmental challenges. Unleashing the knowledge and capability of women represents an important opportunity to craft effective climate change solutions for the benefit of all.
Climate change represents the most complex challenge of our time – it requires a concerted, proactive and holistic response. Gender inequality may dramatically limit the resilience and adaptive capacity of women, families and communities. It may also restrict options for climate change mitigation. Evidence shows that women’s empowerment and advancing gender equality can deliver results across a variety of sectors, including food and economic security and health.
It can also lead to more environmentally friendly decision making at household and national levels. At FOCDE, we are working to increase understanding of the links between gender equality and climate change. FOCDE is working to ensure equal space and resources for women and men to participate in climate change decision making and action at all levels. We are working to ensure that resources including climate finance is accessible to both men and women and designed to generate mutual benefits, not exacerbate patterns of inequality.