Gender equality and sustainability go hand in hand. On Saturday 22 April, the International Gender Champions Secretariat released a brief video for Earth Day on the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment for women and girls. Learn how women and girls face disproportionate harms from the Triple Planetary Crisis of Climate Change, Pollution and Biodiversity loss- and what we can do about it.
On Earth Day 2023, let’s talk about the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment for women and girls.
Women and girls face disproportionate harms from the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss.
Further, women and girls are excluded from environmental decision making due to gender norms and discrimination.
Climate change: As climate change decreases access to water sources, women and girls are exposed to higher risks of violence as they travel farther to collect water. Climate change induced flooding disproportionately harms women and girls. In the 2022 Pakistan floods, hundreds of thousands of pregnant women could not receive health care. Women and children made up 96% of deaths from the 2014 Solomon Island floods.
Pollution: Millions of women and girls die from household pollution from unclean fuels and inefficient stoves each year. Water pollution increases pregnancy risks and deaths during childbirth. Women of colour are often impacted even further by pollution. Inuit women living in the Artic of what is now Canada have 9x higher pollutants in their breast milk than women in the south of Canada.
Biodiversity loss: Indigenous, Afrodescendent, and local community women and girls are especially impacted by biodiversity loss. They often act as stewards and knowledge keepers of biodiversity resources. As ecosystems degrade, women and girls face time poverty, having to travel further and spend more time and money on replanting crops, unpaid caregiving, and obtaining food, water and firewood.
While the situation for women and girls is urgent, there is hope. Women and girls are at the forefront of environmental activism. Including women and girls in leadership results in more environmentally friendly policies and healthier communities. It also reduces resource-driven conflict.
So...what should we do?
- Increase gender- and sex-disaggregated environmental data.
- Prioritise the health and wellbeing needs of women and girls in relation to their environment.
- Include women, girls and diverse communities in leadership and decision-making.
- Support grassroots and community-based initiatives for nature stewardship and climate justice.
- Increase funding for feminist civil society and environmental action.
On Earth Day and every day, remember that gender equality and environmental sustainability go hand in hand.
Human Rights Council. Women, girls and the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, David R. Boyd, 5 January 2023.