It’s not too late: Climate change and gender equality

As rain continues to fall and flood waters continue to rise, bringing devastation to so many homes and families across the country, the theme of this year's International Women's Day feels particularly timely. “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” is a call for climate action, for women and by women.

While the connection between climate change and gender equality isn’t always obvious to people, it should be. As UNWomen has noted, recent data shows that there is a vital link between gender, social equity and climate change. Women and girls experience the greatest impacts of the climate crisis, which increases existing gender inequalities and puts women’s lives at risk. As we have recently seen, COVID-19, a different kind of crisis but one we all experienced, deepened existing gender inequalities and increased the burden of care for many women and girls both in Australia and across the globe. In the fight for control over the earth's natural resources, war, conflict and illegal occupations of land continue to displace and destroy people of all genders, not to mention the millions of other species that share the planet with us.

Climate change is not gender neutral, and through the lens of intersectional feminism, clearly "climate change risks are acute for indigenous and Afro-descendent women and girls, older women, LGBTIQ+ people, women and girls with disabilities, migrant women, and those living in rural, remote, conflict and disaster-prone areas."

Sadly, the current flood devastation in Australia follows a long line of environmental disasters that this country has experienced in the last few years. The displacement of people because of the changing climate is not new at all, though it is perhaps only now that many people are realising the situation is already at our front door. Torres Strait Islanders have been fighting to protect their island homes from advancing sea levels for many years. Migration and forced migration are so often imagined as choices, but as we can see on our television screens and in our communities, so many people face impossible decisions about where they can live safely. As many public commentators have recently noted, being a refugee is not an identity, but something that can happen to anyone. In fact, the Institute for Economics and Peace has estimated that at least 1.2 billion people could be displaced by such climate-related events by 2050.

The realities of climate change are sometimes overwhelming. But it isn't too late, and gender equality is a key part of the solution! We don't have to tell you that women are an unstoppable force in leading and driving change in climate adaption, response and solutions. So this #IWD2020, we want to celebrate all the staunch women environmental defenders that are showing up for gender equality while they fight for the survival of everyone on our planet, such as Māori archaeologist and climate activist India Logan-Riley, Samoan Brianna Fruean, National Director of the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network Amelia Telford and Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands, to name just a few. Listen to women activists, share their voices and join their call for climate action today.

First published in edition #106 of The WRAP in 8th March 2022.