Climate Change is a Global Concern. So, Where are the Women at COP27?

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Charities, activists and politicians have warned that the low representation of women at climate conferences put female lives at risk. Without greater representation, climate change can't be tackled and women's lives will worsen as a result - particularly as females bear a disproportionately larger burden from climate change.

The male majority among leaders present at COP27 reflected a broader trend across the delegation teams that countries have sent. Of the negotiation teams present, women only make up 34% of delegate staff. Dr Jeanne d'Arc Mujawamariya, environment minister for Rwanda - which has 52% women in its cabinet - believe that negotiation outcomes will be severely affected by the lack of women participating. She worries that future incentives to protect women across global communities will be deprioritised, or worse, swept under the carpet completely:

"It is absolutely fundamental to climate action that we educate young women and girls, but that means they must have a seat at the table at international conferences," she said.

Women and Girls at Risk as Climate Crisis Worsens

ActionAid has recently published a report, revealing that women and girls face increased and specific risks as the climate crisis worsens.

The report reveals that in many developing nations - which are facing the worst impacts of climate change - women have greater responsibility for securing water, food and fuel for their families, which can be more difficult during floods, drought or other climate-related crises.The majority of agricultural workers are also women. In cases of natural disasters, these women are more likely to face severe income cuts. Alongside them, their families and loved ones disproportionately feel the effects of climate change.

Seventy per cent of the 1.3 billion people living in conditions of poverty are women. In urban areas, 40 per cent of the poorest households are headed by women. Women predominate in the world's food production (50-80 per cent), but they own less than 10 per cent of the land.

They 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. In the Near East, women contribute up to 50 per cent of the agricultural workforce. They are mainly responsible for the more time-consuming and labour-intensive tasks that are carried out manually or with the use of simple tools. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the rural population has been decreasing in recent decades. Women are mainly engaged in subsistence farming, particularly horticulture, poultry and raising small livestock for home consumption.

Women have limited access to and control of environmental goods and services; they have negligible participation in decision-making and are not involved in the distribution of environmental management benefits. Consequently, women are less able to confront climate change.

Tackling Gender Inequalities at COP27

In spite of their vulnerability, women are not only seen as victims of climate change, but they can also be seen as active and effective agents and promoters of adaptation and mitigation. For a long time women have historically developed knowledge and skills related to water harvesting and storage, food preservation and rationing, and natural resource management. In Africa, for example, old women represent wisdom pools with their inherited knowledge and expertise related to early warnings and mitigating the impacts of disasters. 

This knowledge and experience that has passed from one generation to another will be able to contribute effectively to enhancing local adaptive capacity and sustaining a community's livelihood. Sophie Rigg, senior climate advisor at ActionAid believes that the COP27 conference should be an opportunity for leaders to discuss how we can tackle climate change and gender inequality. She states: "There is no getting around when women are in the room they create solutions that are proven to be more sustainable."