A Woman’s World

It could be argued that the society we have fabricated is fundamentally unequal – whether that is the fault of a capitalist economy, colonialism or globalisation, some are always going to be better off than others, depending on how we categorise and measure ‘happiness’ and ‘success’. It came as a surprise, however, that climate change can exacerbate these social inequalities in a time when we are trying to eliminate them. Stead and Stead, in Management for a Small Planet, state that increased gender inequality will be a byproduct of climate change. Like health issues, gender inequality impact the Global South much more so than the North. Moving Steadily along in this series of blog posts, we will continue to explore some of these unforeseen issues.

Climate change disproportionately affects those at the bottom of the economic pyramid, most of whom are women. Particularly in developing nations, where there is a higher likelihood of climate-change-induced natural disasters, the immediate impact of such freak weather is more heavily felt by women [1]. Following natural disasters, women in developing nations face reduced economic opportunities [2] and increased workloads in the informal economy, such as caring for young and elderly family members.

These immediate, human survival issues are the result of political and structural inequalities. Female representation is low in political and business decision-making spaces [3] – how are women’s issues supposed to come into the limelight without their voice being heard in these crucial spheres? These economic problems are soon going to become repetitive and cyclical – as the frequency of natural disasters increases, more young women are being pulled out of education to help with household duties, and with fewer educated women comes fewer women owning property and having the financial capital to be able to rebuild their lives post-disaster.

Women are also more likely to be affected by industrial disasters that not only contribute to climate change, but also drive unsustainable global economies. One such example was the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh in 2013, which produced clothing garments for many Western fast fashion companies. More than 80% of the women in these industries are women [4]– and if these women are still primary caregivers to children and the elderly, the knock-on impacts of such economic disasters are enormous.

Pushing for environmentally sustainable business will therefore inherently also lead to socially sustainable revenue generation. Women in the Global South have a special relationship with, and therefore knowledge of, the land around them, creating a knowledge pool that can be capitalised on for future good. Women themselves are taking action to save the space that they know best; in East Africa, the KawiSafi project dedicates funds to train women in solar energy implementation [5], whilst in Mongolia, funding is reserved for female-led renewable energy projects [6].

For Western women, many of these issues may seem far-removed from what we know. However, becoming a member of the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) will offer the opportunity to explore how climate change and unsustainable industries disproportionately impact our lifestyles and consumption practices. With workshops on the cosmetics industry, breast cancer and reusable menstruation products, women can both learn about and combat the very industries that contribute to climate and social inequality.

By Sharlene Gandhi, 12th April 2018

Word Count: 534

References:

[1] Hutchins, L. (2018) Want to fix climate change? Fix gender equality, Friends of the Earth, 6th March. Available at: https://friendsoftheearth.uk/climate-change/want-fix-climate-change-fix-gender-equality [accessed 12th April 2018]

[2] Introduction to Gender and Climate Change, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Available at: https://unfccc.int/topics/gender/the-big-picture/introduction-to-gender-and-climate-change [accessed 12th April 2018]

[3] UN Women. Available at: https://www.uncclearn.org/sites/default/files/inventory/unwomen704.pdf [accessed 12th April 2018]

[4] Alam, R. (2016) Aftermath of the Rana Plaza Tragedy: Through a Gender Lens, OCAD University. Available at: http://openresearch.ocadu.ca/id/eprint/618/1/Alam_Rushmita_2016_MDES_INCD_MRP.%20Alam%20.pdf [accessed 12th April 2018]

[5] KawiSafi Ventures Fund in East Africa, Green Climate Fund. Available at: https://www.greenclimate.fund/-/kawisawi-ventures-fund-in-east-africa [accessed 12th April 2018]

[6] Business Loan Programme for GHG Emissions Reduction, Green Climate Fund. Available at:

https://www.greenclimate.fund/-/business-loan-programme-for-ghg-emissions-reduction?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%252Fwhat-we-do%252Fprojects-programmes [accessed 12th April 2018]

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