Without a doubt, climate change has obvious, intricate effects on people around the world. But some are more affected than others, and there is no better example than a comparison between an industrialized nation and a developing one. And while we make this comparison, it’s important to mention that we are not talking about a hypothetical situation, or one that could occur years from now, but one that is happening as we speak, and that is fundamentally changing the lives of millions of people for the worse. The impact of our harmful actions towards the environment is more and more visible with each passing day, and beside taking action in slowing down the destructive process of global warming, we are also left with the responsibility of protecting our fellow global citizens from its already present effects. Such measures imply a closer look at those who suffer the most and need immediate assistance.
The different outcomes of climate change are comparable from one state to another, from one social category to another, but the people most affected are individuals in poor, underdeveloped communities, with women and girls being especially impacted by environmental damages that burden their already difficult existence. To better illustrate the situation in which they find themselves on a daily basis in these areas, we have to think about the things we need and do everyday – that we find elementary and most often don’t even give a second thought to – and imagine not having immediate, even daily or weekly, access to. Supplies such as water, food and medicine are essential in order to satisfy our needs and maintain our health, but the poorest communities in places such as Bangladesh or the Philippines (among the most affected countries from 1996 to 2015, according to germanwatch.org) face the cruel reality of limited access to resources essential to their survival.
In this context, women are vulnerable and are more affected than men by the socioeconomic implications of climate change, such as migration patterns, human settlements, food diversity and water resources. In many developing countries, girls and women have to collect water, fuel and food. From the increasing difficulty of daily tasks such as fetching water (droughts limit the water resources, causing women to walk longer distances and carry heavier amounts of water in order to provide enough of it to their families), to the increase of diseases, hunger, and security threats, women have to deal with a series of problems that are caused by the environmental issues. Their living conditions get worse everyday, more of them are forced to leave school and continue to live in the vicious circle of poverty that marks the lives of millions of women in the Third World.
So what does this mean for the rest of us? It means we have a responsibility to lend a helping hand to these communities, to these strong women that carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, and on which future generations depend on. As you read these lines, girls and women are struggling to lift themselves up from poverty, and their goal is further complicated by the consequences of these environmental and humanitarian crises. With the help of the international communities such as the UN, women can become agents of change and use their experience and knowledge in implementing impactful strategies in their areas to better manage the effects of climate change and improve their lives and the ones of their fellow citizens.
As climate-connected disasters exacerbate, we must find ways to help the communities that are at the center of these situations, to find sustainable ways of living that are not as harmful to the environment, to protect, educate and enable the women in the poorest places to lift themselves up and ensure a safer future for their families.
UN Women and UN Environment are collaborating on a programme aimed at promoting women’s entrepreneurship for sustainable energy, while other UN agencies have come together to provide protection services where needed.
The future of the planet is in our hands. The existence of the generations to come depends on the actions that we are responsible for, today. It’s up to us to stand up and make a difference.
This article was brought to you by Daniela Burciu,
a new member of the UN Youth Association of Romania’s Bucharest Branch,
a Political Sciences student specializing in International Relations and European Studies