In Focus: Climate action by, and for, women

Aminata Traore works in the greenhouse of Sidibe Argo-Techniques in Katibougou Village, outside Bamako, Mali on November 3, 2013. Sidibe Argo-Techniques is growing watermelons, sweet peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables.   Photo: World Bank/Dominic Chavez
Photo: World Bank/Dominic Chavez

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The Issue

Climate change is making our world more dangerous. Catastrophic storms, of increased frequency and strength, are destroying lives, homes and businesses. Severe droughts are stifling rural livelihoods. Sea level rise have put low-lying areas and island nations at risk. An additional 250,000 climate-related deaths per year are expected between 2030 and 2050 from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress.

A changing climate affects everyone, but it’s the world’s poorest and those in vulnerable situations, especially women and girls, who bear the brunt of environmental, economic and social shocks. Often, women and girls are the last to eat or be rescued; they face greater health and safety risks as water and sanitation systems become compromised; and they take on increased domestic and care work as resources dwindle.

Through their experiences as early adopters of many new agricultural techniques, first responders in crises, entrepreneurs of green energy and decision-makers at home, women offer valuable insights and solutions into better managing the climate and its risks. Yet, their contribution is often overlooked in humanitarian and climate action; their practical needs forgotten. Building a sustainable future entails harnessing the knowledge, skills and leadership of women in climate action.

UN Women at COP23

As the annual Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) convenes this year from 6-17 November in Bonn, Germany, UN Women will advocate for incorporating gender equality and women’s empowerment in climate change discourse and actions.

Last year at COP22, the Parties requested a gender action plan to support the implementation of gender-related decisions and mandates. UN Women has contributed towards the gender action plan, and will lead, co-organize and engage in a number of events at COP 23 to increase the visibility of women in climate action.

Photo essay: Climate change is a women’s issue

Photo: Jaipal Singh/EPA

The planet is under threat. From human-caused greenhouse gas emissions to the overexploitation of the earth’s natural resources, unsustainable production and consumption patterns pose a risk to all of humanity. As early adopters of new agricultural techniques, first responders in crises, entrepreneurs of green energy, or decision-makers at home, women are agents of change who must equally be part of the solution towards a sustainable future. Learn more about the topic and how UN Women and its partners are paving the way towards change»


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Top stories

Varanisese Maisamoa’s insights were critical in helping UN Women adapt its Markets for Change project to provide humanitarian support to market vendors impacted by Cyclone Winston, which devastated Fiji in 2016. Photo: UN Women/Murray Lloyd.

In the words of Varanisese Maisamoa: “We want to empower our market vendors to be climate change resilient”
Varanisese Maisamoa,President of the Rakiraki Market Vendors Association,has worked with UN Women’s existing Markets for Change project in the wake of Cyclone Winston to ensure the market’s reconstruction features a cyclone resistant and gender responsive design.

Guelsa Chivodze went back to school at age 30 after being married off at 17 years old. Photo: UN Women/Josina Nhantumbo

Rural women tackle drought-affected Mozambique’s rise in child marriage
More than 2 million people across Mozambique, have been affected by severe drought. For Mozambican women and girls, the drought has meant increased work burden and earlier marriages, leading to lost childhood, education and opportunities.

Dilruba Haider.

Expert’s take: When building climate resilience, women’s needs cannot be an afterthought
Dilruba Haider, a Programme Specialist on Disaster Risk Reduction, Climate Change and Humanitarian Actions, with UN Women Bangladesh Country Office, emphasizes that efforts towards climate resilience will truly bear fruit once we start addressing the needs and priorities of women.

Zilha Kurešević, in her strawberry farm in Samac, Bosnia and Herzegovina. UN Women worked with local municipality of Samac to improve gender responsive budgeting. As a result, Kuresevic received a grant from the government to purchase drip irrigation system and strawberry seeds. Photo: UN Women/Rena Effendi

Across the Western Balkans, rural women are influencing local budgets and shaping progress
As a result of changing climate, floods and drought are common in the Western Balkans, where a UN Women supported initiative on gender-responsive budgeting is creating agricultural subsidies for women farmers, giving them the skills and resources they need to cultivate their land and influence municipal decisions.

Victoria Tauli Corpuz. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

Take five: “The dominant economic paradigms are at odds with the rights of indigenous peoples”
Victoria Tauli Corpuz, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and former Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, speaks about engaging indigenous women in climate action.

Video: Women, oceans and conservation

The world’s oceans are in crisis. Climate change has thrown marine ecosystems out of balance, as have pollution and ocean acidification. UN Women works to address women’s and girl’s vulnerabilities to climate change and empowers them to lead sustainable development efforts.

Join the conversation

Join the conversation for the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties using the hashtag #COP23. Follow @UN_Women on Twitter for the latest on women and climate action!

See our In Focus packages on women and climate change from previous years: 2016, 2015