The rapidly changing state of the environment is clear – tonnes of plastic pollution, diminishing air quality, threatened marine species, thousands of bushfires and forest fires, flash flooding, and intense drought. The crucial point to note is that these devastating and significant changes are not affecting everyone equally. Some groups are more at risk of facing the direct significant and devastating impacts of climate change. Who? Women.
Women make up the largest proportion of those who will face the harshest effects of the changing environment. 80% of those displaced by climate change will be women. 70% of those living in hunger are women. More women are living in poverty, more are living in rural areas and more are living in the global south – all factors exponentially increasing their risk. Women, therefore, need to be represented and included at the center of change. They are essential decision-makers, grassroots leaders, and community builders. Women have historically been essential and present in maintaining the environment and hence, need to be given opportunities to develop and lead sustainable projects which allow them to build resilience, strength, and solutions for themselves and their surrounding communities.
They are already leading and central to grassroots initiatives and projects which are addressing and mitigating the effects of climate change. They need to be supported, funded, and aided. Environmental solutions need to be derived from the objective of climate justice, to tackle the issues the most vulnerable communities are facing. Solutions and initiatives which aid one group, one region, or which are led by one type of group are not solutions. The projects below are examples of the crucial, significant, and effective action that women are undertaking across the world – to continue protecting the natural environment and fighting the effects of climate change. They need to continue to be supported, included, represented and central to solutions for the present and the future.
Women are leading the restoration of wetlands in the northern region of La Mojana which have been ruined from years of unsustainable over-farming. They are doing essential work to rebuild this ecosystem – one amongst many – which will help to build resilience, protect against environmental hazards, boost employment, and build food security. The women are made up of teams of ecologists, farmers, and conservationists, using their breadth of experiences and knowledge to restore their own areas and reach out to surrounding communities to restore theirs. Their work is supported by the UN development program and the Green Climate Fund. Nearly 4000 women are working to restore the environment which will benefit over 400,000 in the surrounding vulnerable communities.
Climate solutions harnessing wind and solar energy are essential to combatting high air pollution due to nomadic migrants moving to cities in Mongolia. This gender equality-led project aims to locate women-led businesses where 50% ownership is held by women and at least 40% of all employees are women, in order to direct half of all capital to women-led businesses. The project also aims to provide information, knowledge, and services for women entrepreneurs with a wider objective of developing low-carbon growth and development and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
Sustainable agricultural methods are leading in this project, for the rural and more vulnerable communities most of whom are women, where deforestation and overgrazing have almost halved the Argan tree population. The Argan forest in Morocco covers an expanse of 2.5 million hectares and the pressure from unsustainable agriculture and climate change is affecting the life of this reserve and the livelihoods of the communities who depend on it. The project is committed to the planting of 43,000 hectares of Argan tree orchards and focusing on soil conservation and rainwater harvesting methods. This will in turn boost sustainability, strengthen the resilience of this biodiversity, and improve the livelihoods of the rural communities who have a reliance on the environment. Women from these rural communities are essential in leading this project, especially those who are suffering from socio-economic marginalisation.
The wetlands in Uganda are essential for food security, however, climate change and environmental degradation are detrimental to the millions of Ugandans who rely on the wetlands and surrounding ecosystems. This project involves these vulnerable communities, where more than 50% are women, focusing on regenerating the wetlands and improving climate resilience. The initiatives focus on identifying women who are working with or interested in working with water management systems, encouraging women to contribute their knowledge, and deliver the diversification of crops for women in the most vulnerable communities. This project is led by the UN development program, working with the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in Uganda.
Women in rural communities are facing the harsh and negative effects of unsustainable palm oil development and deforestation, which is having devastating environmental effects and affecting their livelihoods. The indigenous Dayak women are an example of this, facing diminished resources and access to materials. Indigenous and rural women account for more than 50% of those who own and use community lands, however, their voices and rights have not been sufficiently accounted for. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are leading a project working with indigenous women and forest-landscape dependent communities to secure tenure rights to their land, necessary for security and stable livelihoods. Similarly, one-fifth of the world’s mangrove forests are in Indonesia, and women are crucial to the management of these. Their food security, livelihood, and economic stability depend on them. These projects aim to improve climate and food security and sustainable management for these threatened indigenous communities.
Climate change and unsustainable practices are threatening food security, livelihoods, equality, and the economic stability of women. These projects are amongst a few that seek to build resilience and implement sustainable management for the long term protection of these women and their environments. Women’s rights and their experiences need to be used when implementing these projects, as they still face high inequality and inaccessibility to decision making and initiatives which directly affect them. They need to be centered and focused on, in order to arrive at real solutions that can combat the effects of climate change and promote climate justice and gender equality. They are those facing the harshest and destructive impacts and simultaneously those who are leading in the protecting and preserving of the environment. Who? Women.