“We will all be affected by climate change.” The truth is that some will face the impacts of this process much more than others. The consequences caused by climate change cut across race, gender, and social class. And it is women and girls who are the most vulnerable group to the effects of climate change, with Black and Indigenous women being even more exposed.
Indigenous and traditional women are on the front lines, protecting the Amazon and precious water resources while facing the direct impacts of environmental destruction and climate change. In a meeting to discuss how climate change impacts their lives, Indigenous women reported the extinction of animals and various native fruits, the loss of entire fields, the outbreak of unknown diseases, the high incidence of fires, and changes in their traditional way of life, in addition to the rise in temperature.
Edilena Krikati, coordinator of the Coordination of Organizations and Associations of the Indigenous Peoples of Maranhão (COAPIMA), shared:
“We women are the first to feel and observe climate-related impacts and changes in our daily lives because we have a special relationship with nature and territory. We are also the ones who save the seeds and pass them and other knowledge to new generations – including the different ways of doing territorial protection. We need to adapt more to nature and not intervene so much. [We must] stop deforestation, changing landscapes, building dams, and building roads. And we don’t realize how bad this is for our own existence. We, Indigenous people, get everything we need from nature to eat, to live, and to be there. If this is missing, we no longer exist because our relationship [with nature] is a whole, not in parts.”
Women are affected by climate change in ways that include cultural and social vulnerabilities. For example, in situations of environmental disasters, especially in developing and resource-rich countries, women suffer more from food insecurity. This is because in many situations women are responsible for managing their households and taking care of the children. It also becomes even more dangerous to walk alone in the street – which restricts the search for food during climate-related disasters such as flooding. And because of the patriarchal context in which societies have been shaped, to this day, women are at a disadvantage when it comes to building financial resources and acquiring quality education, compared to men.
Climate justice represents a human view of the problem of climate change, recognizing that the groups most vulnerable to the impacts of environmental disasters are generally the least responsible for their causes. It is essential that climate justice is achieved with gender equality, because a sustainable future, as desired by world leaders, depends on it.
All over the world, women are showing how their unique knowledge and skills can help make the response to climate change more effective and sustainable. Therefore, it is important to remember that women are not only victims of climate change but are also protagonists in solving the fight against this crisis. Women, especially Indigenous and Black and brown women, must be present in decision-making spaces, both at local and regional levels and at national and global levels. This means mobilizing feminist groups so that more delegations to the UN Conferences on Climate have women on their teams. Amazon Watch supports women leaders on the front lines of the Amazon protection to have the logistical, financial, and technical support they need to also attend climate events to influence global change. Diversity, not just of women in general, but of people and groups that are extremely affected by climate change (such as island nations and Indigenous communities), is key to fair and inclusive climate change mitigation and adaptation policies.
The formulation and implementation of environmental public policies and the fight against climate change must, therefore, start from a paradigm of climate justice linked to the realization of human rights. The full satisfaction of the right to a balanced and healthy environment will only become a reality when there is an arrangement of policies that also seek to promote access, for example, to adequate housing, economic sustainability, and food security for women and their families.
Because when the barriers to women’s leadership are reduced, they transform entire communities.