Climate change affects women more. What can the state do to intervene? – Prism

Even guaranteeing each community its own well or water pump will allow women to claim their time and options.

Climate change is affecting us all, but certain demographic data more than others. Marginalized communities, and within them, women in particular, feel the discriminatory impacts of climate change more severely.

Although this greater vulnerability is due to a variety of factors, a defining reason remains the limited capacity for adaptation of those who are financially marginalized.

Women who live in rural areas of Pakistan tend to feel the impacts of climate change more aggressively due to their assigned traditional gender roles and responsibilities. Being exclusively responsible for essential household chores makes women highly dependent on the depletion of natural resources such as water and firewood.

Climate change in turn exacerbates competition for limited resources and increases the burden and frustration of successfully completing what would otherwise be mundane household chores.

An unjustified increase in responsibilities, along with economic, social and cultural barriers, leaves women unevenly affected by climate change.

During a 2019 Oxfam study, titled Climate-induced migration in Pakistan, which I am co-author, we discovered that in the coastal districts of Sindh, a growing and poorly managed water crisis forces women to walk an average distance of two kilometers, sometimes several times a day, to collect water from wells and hand pumps scattered

In 2016, UNICEF calculated that women and girls around the world spend 200 million hours, or 22,800 years, every day, collecting water.

Think of the growing opportunities that women sacrifice fighting for access to a basic human right. Young girls, without choice, are forced to give up their education to help with domestic burdens.

Walking longer distances to collect water not only intensifies the workload for women but also exposes them to an increased risk of sexual harassment and abuse.

The World Health Organization has also concluded that women and their children suffer more health problems and nutritional deficiencies than their male counterparts while traveling long distances to collect water.

Read also: From bad harvests to lack of property rights: the struggles of rural Sindhi women

People stand on the roof of their flooded houses caused by heavy rains outside Islamabad on Friday, September 5, 2014. – AP
Camels drink water in Thar whipped by drought— Photo by Hussain Nagri

Many women in Sindh have also complained of severe backaches, headaches and hair loss from the unbearable exercise of carrying heavy metal pots filled with water on their heads. All problems without an inconsequential nature, especially when they are the result of a direct failure of the state.

Along with weak government policies and extreme poverty, climate change is acting as a stress multiplier for everyone. However, in many areas, cultural and social norms still prevent women from possessing real decision-making powers.

Patriarchal restrictions decrease a woman's ability to adapt to climate change, leaving her more susceptible to its impacts and the consequences of disasters induced or exacerbated by climate change.

Multiple studies now confirm that women are the most affected after disasters, including increased exposure to sexual assault and violence. In fact, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature declared that women and children are 14 times more likely to die than men during disasters.

A main reason for this remains the differences in socialization opportunities provided to children, such as the development of swimming skills.

During the 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh, many women refused to leave their homes due to restrictions imposed on female mobility of not being able to leave the house without a relative present. Women, throughout Pakistan, can relate to this.

A direct consequence of climate change is an increase in net migration rates, a phenomenon also recognized in the preamble of the Paris Agreement.

The International Organization for Migration has calculated the overall net migration rate in Pakistan between 2015-2020 at 1.7 migrants per 1,000 people. According to statistics last updated in 2015, women make up 48.9{7be40b84a6a43fc4fae13304fce9a2695859798abfc41afd127b9f8b21c5f9c5} of the migrant population.

A serious shortage of reliable statistics on climate-induced migration in Pakistan remains an obstacle to the introduction of more meaningful policies. However, Pakistan saw 1,800 people displaced due to disasters in 2017.

In addition, according to the Overseas Development Institute, between 2012 and 2018, Pakistan has lost 4,324 people due to disasters, while 11,514,578 have been affected by disasters, either directly or indirectly. With an expected increase in disasters related to climate change and / or exacerbated, these numbers will definitely increase.

Fleeing from climate change

Sindh has been identified as the access point for climate impacts and an untold number of families have already migrated inland, which has led to an unsupervised rural to urban migration.

The rise in sea level not only intensifies the damage caused by floods, but also eliminates livelihoods by invading agricultural land and disrupting breeding conditions in local fisheries.

As climate change continues to distress the two main means of household income, many regions are embroiled by an epidemic of acute malnutrition in both humans and livestock. Climate change-induced migration is an adaptation strategy to escape from a global reality that is uprooting unevenly to those who possibly contributed less to it.

For women, climate-induced migration comes with its own set of exhausting challenges; Whether they emigrate with men or leave them behind, their suffering has no truce.

Those women accustomed to working on agricultural or fishing lands must now secure other livelihoods with their limited skills. Women suffer disproportionately from climate change due to cultural restrictions that prevent them from diversifying their sources of income.

Similarly, many women are not allowed to exercise their inheritance rights or own land, which makes climate change threaten already limited financial security for women.

Alternatively, women who care for their families should now choose between accompanying family men when they emigrate in search of livelihoods, or risk being left alone as sole guardians of children and family property.

This existence trapped for women makes them susceptible to greater exposure to poverty, violence, sexual abuse, exploitation and natural disasters.

See more: Climate change causes tension in the tea gardens of India

Embankment built in Badin to protect the lands from seawater intrusion— Photo by Danial Shah
Boats stranded in the sleet left by high tide on the coast of the Arabian Sea near the town of Siddique Dablo— Photo by Danial Shah

If these two options sound like being caught between a rock and a difficult place, try to relate to those women who do not even have the personal freedom to decide what is best for them.

In many rural areas of Pakistan, most women will never have the authority to decide whether or not they can migrate. The firm control of strict cultural values ​​can prevent the migration of women by labeling it as unethical and as a threat to their highly protected honor.

Some women will automatically lose the possibility of voluntary migration because they are pregnant or their children are too young. Climate change is forcing women to feel insecure at home without offering them the option of choosing security.

Some women, whether by force or by will, undertake seasonal short-term migration during the harvest period together with the whole family.

Throughout this time, entire homes reside in makeshift homes, often in agricultural fields, where women and men work hard during the day, not knowing when the next viable option can be presented to ensure their livelihood.

These exhausted women spend their nights struggling to rest a little in limited privacy, while continuously worrying about defending their families and themselves from the threats of wild animals, snakes and malaria and vectors carrying dengue fever .

An increase in Pakistan's regional temperature is also accompanied by an increase in vector-borne diseases.

The preamble of the National Climate Change Policy, 2012 (NCCP) clarifies that it is intended to provide "an integral framework" for action plans aimed at adapting and mitigating national efforts.

In this search, the third main policy objective set by the NCCP highlights the "focus on gender-sensitive adaptation in favor of the poor," which is followed by a full section devoted to gender and the recognition of women as disproportionately vulnerable. to the impacts of climate change.

Enabling women's choices

Provinces should use the NCCP as a catalyst for the integration problems women experience due to climate change, and emphasize the particularly serious impacts of climate-induced migration on women.

It is pertinent for women to participate in the decision-making and implementation processes to develop gender-sensitive adaptation strategies for the country. The promotion of women's empowerment must also include a specific mandate for those affected by climate change.

After the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) is primarily responsible for formulating and implementing policies that can examine and address the vulnerabilities that involve women in times of disasters.

The PDMA has Gender and Child Protection Cells to help deal with vulnerable segments in times of disasters or crises, but they do not provide assistance for voluntary migration.

Women are no longer exposed to problems only in the event of a disaster, but, in fact, fight the effects of climate change on a daily basis.

Accepting gender differences will be crucial to the success of any adaptation plan implemented in the country. Policies formulated by the government should be channeled to safeguard women by first giving them the option of deciding how they want to address the impacts of climate change, rather than leaving them subject to the decision-making powers of men.

To explore: Women cotton pickers in Pakistan: a history of struggle for rights

A farmer checks his strawberry plants to assess the effect of temperature rise in Charsadda— Photo by Danial Shah
Villagers lead the cattle of the Tharparkar district, affected by drought, in the southern province of Sindh, on March 11, 2014. – AFP

If a woman does not want to migrate, and climate change is inhibiting traditional sources of income, then the state must ensure that she has the opportunity to receive training in a new skill that she can use to win.

Even something as basic as guaranteeing each remote community its own well or water pump will allow women to reclaim their time and options.

The government will benefit from maintaining strong coordination with national and international NGOs already working in the country on issues related to climate change.

The information collected at the grassroots level is necessary for the adjusted policies. The unexpected effects of climate change require the dissemination of awareness in local communities, especially for the most affected women.

The many nuances of climate change and its non-lenient impacts in Pakistan require serious efforts that cannot be replaced by planting one billion trees.

Despite recognizing the differential vulnerabilities women face as a result of climate change, Pakistan's adaptation efforts must adopt a holistic approach to overcome cultural restrictions and increase livelihood opportunities for the implementation of successful adaptation measures and gender sensitive

Climate change has both direct and indirect effects on women, as they remain stuck in a vicious circle of poverty, gender inequality and greater vulnerabilities.

The state has compelling reasons to prioritize the link between climate change and women in their adaptation planning. Not only must it be seen through a legal lens, but the differentiated and inequitable impacts of climate change make the issue moral and ethical.

Are you studying the life of Pakistani women? Share your ideas with us at [email protected]



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