The Effect of the Climate Crisis on Women

Intersections International holds special ECOSOC Consultative Status at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. This membership shares a space with several international organizations working to fight against gender discrimination and help solve the global climate crisis, as well as many other pressing societal issues. Amongst this group, NGO CSW is leading the work of advocating for women’s issues, specifically using the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations to share the knowledge, stories and best practices about work helping women that is taking place both locally and globally.

On December 19th, Intersections’ Program and Administrative Associate, Rachel McCave, attended the monthly NGO CSW meeting at the UN Church Center to witness and join the discussion on the urgency of the climate crisis and how it’s impacting women.

Many of the panelists during the event echoed an important sentiment: due to larger financial, political and social systems, women are disproportionately affected by the effects of the climate crisis as they often have less money and means for accommodating the changes being made to their lives. According to WECAN International, women make up nearly 80% of the world’s climate refugees. However, women are also indispensable, knowledgeable leaders who can offer deep insight and solutions as the primary caregivers and heads of family life in many societies. Thus, women need to be included in the conversations regarding the climate crisis and how it’s impacting communities worldwide.

Among the panelists, H.E. Ambassador Pennelope Beckles of Trinidad and Tobago mentioned the impact of climate change and natural disasters on small island economies and indigenous communities. For many around the world, the extreme weather effects of the climate crisis are currently causing fatalities, forced migration, food production shortages and severe economic distress. She mentioned the importance of cultural relativism and consideration of social, cultural and religious norms when it comes to emergency preparedness education as one solution for mitigating some of the effects of climate change. Ambassador Beckles also emphasized empowering women economically as another tool for combatting the climate crisis: the world not only needs more women in sustainable business, but also in positions of power at corporations and institutions who are leading cutting-edge technology creation, climate financing and STEM-related solutions for the climate crisis.

Molly Gerke from UNANIMA International reminded us all of how the climate crisis exacerbates other urgent issues such as homelessness, access to medical care, food security and safety for women and girls. Women and children are often the worst impacted by extreme weather emergencies and usually left out of the conversations regarding solutions for economic poverty, natural disaster relief and the climate crisis. To fight against this disparity, Amy Halls, the VP of Social Consciousness for Eileen Fisher, mentioned how the private sector can engage with this intersection of climate and women’s issues. As a sustainable women’s clothing brand, Eileen Fisher also has initiatives and grants that support women in environmental justice.

Project Drawdown, an extensive report on global warming, mentions girls’ education, family planning and women’s economic empowerment as important solutions for saving the planet. Upon reviewing this research and sharing experiences, the panelists agreed that solving women’s issues is also crucial to combatting the climate crisis. This discussion emphasized the fact that women need  to be included in the sustainable economy as key stakeholders (farmers, business owners, executives, etc.), included in the decision-making processes of climate action policy and included in advocacy (specifically in capacity building and knowledge sharing).  

The core point expressed during this event and discussion was that climate activism and advocating for women share more commonalities than one may think: whether that means having more gender-sensitive data and solutions in climate change advocacy or considering the effects of the climate crisis on the issues plaguing women and girls around the world, this intersection requires immediate action. Sharing space with several organizations working both locally and globally on these issues in conjunction with the United Nations is crucial for expanding our reach and carrying out the Intersections mission. Azadeh Khalili from the International Alliance of Women ended the event by posing an important question: how does this affect your community and what will you do about it?